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