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Solar-Powered Park Bench Charges Phones

Posted by Christina B. Farnsworth

Jul 21, 2014 7:42:00 AM

“Go outside and play,” may have a whole new meaning. And soon, we may have a new term—"Soofa potato"—for the people who loiter on solar-powered park benches freely recharging their telephones and tablets.

team picture.jpg

The Soofa: my urban hub not only powers our toys but also shares location-based information like air quality and noise levels with its built-in sensors. When in need of charging, one can search for and find a Soofa in which to plug in.

Three women—Jutta Friedrichs, Sandra Richter and Nan Zhao (shown above, left to right)—founded Changing Environments, a MIT Media Lab spin-off, that develops what they call urban furniture. The creators of the smart urban furniture, Soofa, share one vision: “Getting you out of the homes and into a new, smarter and more sustainable city.” After all, most of us live in urban environments.

The first benches have been installed in and around Boston. Cisco funded the first benches. Cisco shares Changing Environment’s interest in expanding the “Internet of Everything” movement into the city.

Changing Environments Inc. is a Verizon Innovation Program partner and uses Verizon’s 4G LTE network to wirelessly connect to the internet and upload location-based environmental information.

After Boston, the team plans to expand the network of Soofas to build a smart energy infrastructure that collects urban data and informs citizens about their environment. “Soofa is the first step into smart urban furniture. The possibilities to update the city for the mobile generation are endless and long overdue,” says Richter.

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