City parks will soon include smart benches, helping parkgoers stay connected while enjoying green space.
The city of Boston is installing smart benches in some of its parks to enable residents to plug in and charge up their devices while enjoying the city’s green spaces.
The smart benches, called Soofa, are equipped with solar panels and charging points that accommodate up to two devices at a time. The benches were invented by Changing Environments, a MIT Media Lab spin-off firm and a Verizon Innovation Program. According to the city government, the first few units are funded by Cisco Systems.
Aside from being charging stations, the solar-powered smart benches also measure air quality and noise levels in their close proximity and share the data through the Soofa website.
In a press release, Mayor Martin J. Walsh said,
Your cell phone doesn’t just make phone calls, why should our benches just be seats? We are fortunate to have talented entrepreneurs and makers in Boston thinking creatively about sustainability and the next generation of amenities for our residents.
The smart benches will be installed in various locations in Boston and Cambridge, including Titus Sparrow Park in the South End, the Boston Common, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Residents are also encouraged to recommend a location for the smart benches. They can submit their recommendations online by visiting bit.ly/bosbench or tweeting their recommendations to @newurbanmechs by July 11th.
The innovative bench was presented recently at the White House Maker Faire in Washington.
The installation of smart benches in Boston isn’t the first time that ordinary structures have been revamped to track environmental factors and pedestrian happenings.
A researcher from Delft University of Technology has been working on creating a smart umbrella with sensors that can crowdsource weather data. Starting July, the city of Chicago is installing smart street lamps equipped with sensors that will measure foot traffic, as well as air quality, noise levels and the wind. The high-tech street lamps will be able to help city officials by providing information on air pollution and pedestrian traffic.