“Your cell phone doesn’t just make phone calls, why should our benches just be seats?” said Mayor Walsh.
Man, I love the mayor’s logic. So simple, yet so profound. Let’s take ordinary, everyday objects and make them extraordinary. Such has been the hallmark of his short-lived and effective career at the helm of Boston.
During his latest dip in the innovation pool, Mayor Walsh has announced solar powered, cell phone-charging urban benches, called Soofa, are to be implemented in Boston parks. Not only do they harness the power of the sun to juice up your mobile device, but according to Mayor Walsh’s office a single bench “also collects and shares location-based information like air quality and noise level data.”
Continued Mayor 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.”
Over the next week, Soofas will call Titus Sparrow Park in the South End, the Boston Common, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway home. But in keeping aligned with his goal for municipal transparency, and his tendency to crowdsource ideas from the Boston public, he’s soliciting advice on where else to deploy the benches.
Simply check out this map, drop a pin in one of Boston’s green spaces, and voila; you’ve submitted an idea. You have until July 11 to drop some knowledge on the mayor’s office.
The Soofas come courtesy of the MIT Media Lab spinoff Changing Environments. They’ll look to build upon the popularity of solar powered charging stations already, such as those offered by Street Charge and Sol Power LLC.
The MIT Media Lab also brought us the seat-e, a similar piece of urban furniture that offers solar powered charging but without the same level of comfort as the Soofa.
“We’re delighted to continue the Greenway’s partnership with New Urban Mechanics and the MIT Media Lab,” said Jesse Brackenbury, Executive Director of the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. “The Soofa will allow visitors and their phones to enjoy the sun on the Greenway.”
Also doing some crowdsourcing is Changing Environments, which wants your help in naming each individual Soofa. You can submit monikers to them via Twitter using their handle @mysoofa or on their website here.
“Soofa is the first step into Smart Urban Furniture. The possibilities to update the city for the mobile generation are endless and long overdue,” added Sandra Richter, Co-founder and CEO of the young startup. “So are more female-lead startups which is why we hope to be a roll-model for women all over the world to found cool companies like Nan Zhao, Jutta Friedrichs and I did.”
Soofas are also being piloted at Babson College and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.