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Solar-powered smart benches to appear in Boston parks


July 2, 2014

The Soofa bench is the creation of Changing Environments, an MIT Media Lab spin-off company (Photo: Soofa)

The Soofa bench is the creation of Changing Environments, an MIT Media Lab spin-off company (Photo: Soofa)

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A number of parks in the Boston area shall soon receive solar-powered smart benches, courtesy of Changing Environments, an MIT Media Lab spin-off company. Dubbed Soofa, the benches sport a solar panel, a pair of charging points for smartphones (or similar devices), and they monitor environmental data such as local air quality and noise pollution.

The Soofa benches will be placed in Titus Sparrow Park, the Boston Common, the Rose Kennedy Greenway, and one more location that's yet to be selected. The City of Boston is inviting residents to decide by placing a pin on an online map, or by tweeting or emailing their preferred spot. Residents are also given the opportunity to name the benches by visiting the Soofa website.

"Your cell phone doesn’t just make phone calls, why should our benches just be seats?" said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. "We are fortunate to have talented entrepreneurs and makers in Boston thinking creatively about sustainability and the next generation of amenities for our residents."

A Changing Environments representative informed Gizmag that the benches offer mobile devices the same charging speed as at home, and that they contain an integrated battery which stores unused energy.

The smart benches sport a number of sensors which monitor statistics such as usage, air quality, and sound levels. This information is then sent to the project using a mobile internet connection.

Once the system is fully operational, the data collected by the benches will be made available on the Soofa website, including the number of hours of solar charging, number of people who have used the service, the local air quality, and the local noise pollution level.

Source: Soofa

About the Author
Adam Williams Adam scours the globe from his home in North Wales in order to bring the best of innovative architecture and sustainable design to the pages of Gizmag. Most of his spare time is spent dabbling in music, tinkering with old Macintosh computers and trying to keep his even older VW bus on the road. All articles by Adam Williams

I think this is a great idea. One can enjoy the outdoors and not worry about ones phone going dead. Hopefully the glass covering the solar panel is tough enough to endure those who think destroying things is their right.


This previous Gizmag article has a better idea. The solar panel is out of easy reach, provides some useful shade, and doesn't occupy space on the bench.



It will be waste of tax payer dollar even if a penny was spent on this idiocy. 1. charging time is measured in hours, not minute. one shouldn't seat on park bench for hours. 2. bench has to be bench first. wasting a space of a bench is disrespectful to a bench. 3. most smartphone is not visible in bright sun light where exactly is you will want your solar panels.

too many "bright" kids with nothing better to do than thinking about something to do. that's call waste of money and talent. give'em a shovel and dig a hole and that would have accomplished more.

Jonathan Kim
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