Jul 02, 2014

Soofa Develops Smart Urban Furniture to Educate the Public About Environmental Issues

Green Tech
2 min
Though it’s name sounds like a goofy way of saying ‘sofa,’ a Soofa could potentially change the way citizens interact with their ci...

Though it’s name sounds like a goofy way of saying ‘sofa,’ a Soofa could potentially change the way citizens interact with their city.

A Soofa is essentially a solar-powered smart bench that, at its most basic, provides citizens with free outdoor device charging. However, it’s much more than that. Soofa also provides its users with location-based information such as air quality, weather, and noise level by uploading data to its website, Soofa.co. It’s accomplishing this task by partnering with Verizon and utilizing its 4G LTE network.

Using the website’s built in map, users can track the usage of each Soofa and view totals of how many hours of solar charging were provided by the unit.

This innovative “smart urban furniture” is a project of Changing Environments, a spin-off of the MIT Media Lab.

Founders Jutta Friedrichs, Sandra Richter, and Nan Zhao, are all the leaders in their respective fields and with Soofa, have a simple mission: “help cities, campuses, corporations and resorts to update their urban context for the mobile generation.” In effect, they are appropriately dedicated to “changing environments.”

That mission is already very much underway. Currently, the available Soofa benches are distributed throughout Boston and Cambridge, thanks to support from Cisco.

In a feature for ABC’s Good Morning America, Soofa CEO and Co-founder Sandra Richter sat down with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

“I also think it’s a way for us to educate the public on the environment and all the initiatives that we have,” Mayor Walsh said. “If they get into the habit of checking the air quality and the other things we can do on this, it will help us with what we’re trying to do as far as having sustainable communities.”

Richter expressed a similar sentiment, hoping the Soofas would help bring solar energy to the forefront of people’s minds by placing it literally right in front of them.  “It’s one of the first times we actually bring [solar energy] down to the ground and say, ‘There’s the sun, and it hits this solar panel, and juice comes out for my phone,’ which is pretty cool.”

Soofas can be requested via the Soofa.co website, though the team asks that people bear with them as more Soofas roll out.

Mayor Walsh is quick to point out his excitement to have Soofas in Boston as well as its overall importance, saying “we’ll always have to innovate in public spaces.”

With Soofa already ahead of the curve—and that’s not even mentioning their use of 3D printed materials for the units—it will be exciting to see where they take their smart urban furniture next. 

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