'Smart benches' are here

A number of parks in the Boston area of the United States are to receive solar-powered smart benches, courtesy of Changing Environments, an MIT Media Lab spin-off company co-founded by three women from Germany.

Dubbed ‘Soofa’, the benches sport a solar panel and a pair of charging points for smartphones (or similar devices), and also monitor environmental data.

These benches offer mobile devices the same charging speed as the chargers you use at home. They contain an integrated battery which stores unused energy.

  They also have sensors that monitor the usage, surrounding 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.

The Soofa benches will be placed on Titus Sparrow Park, the Boston Common, the Rose Kennedy Greenway and other locations. The city of Boston is inviting residents to decide by placing a pin on an online map, or by tweeting or e-mailing their preferred spot. Residents are also given the opportunity to name the benches by visiting the Soofa website.

“Your cellphone doesn’t just make phone calls, why should our benches just be seats?” asked Martin Walsh, the Mayor of Boston. “We are fortunate to have talented entrepreneurs in Boston thinking creatively about sustainability.”

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