Phone-Charging Benches Offer Power In Public Spaces

Seat-e is a piece of smart solar-powered urban architecture with multiple functions

It’s hard to get excited about new park benches, but those at the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway in Boston are a pair of solar-powered seats that can charge your cellphone, connect to the internet, and provide ambient lighting at night. Known as the “seat-e,” the benches have proven a hit with the locals, even if many of them struggled to figure out what the benches were for at first.

Designed by a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and two colleagues as part of a broader program to embed consumer-usable technology into public places, the benches recently provided a total of eight hours charge time for 32 phones over a three-day period. This seems to be proof that the team from MIT have hit on a first world problem that people are keen to resolve.

“Absolutely I would use it if my phone was dying,” said Heather Campisano, a city employee.

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Sandra Richter, a visiting scientist at the MIT Media Lab, and her fellow designers are working on a smartphone app that will help city-dwellers locate a nearby seat-e. Later versions are also expected to include sensors that can measure air quality, and know when someone is sitting on them.

To make the benches as user-friendly as possible, the word “seat-e” has been written across one side, and the top has written instructions with an arrow leading to the charge point, as well as a scannable barcode for more information. The installations are part of a new wave of urban architecture that is equipped with a lot of “smart” features, and while there will be a learning curve for residents, it’s likely to be a lesson that reaps substantial rewards.

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Seat-e

Sources: The Boston Globe

Images: Seat-e

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