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Solar Powered Benches Installed in Boston Parks

July 3, 2014 By Karen Henry

maker-faire-energy-manageThe City of Boston announced that some of its area parks are piloting park benches that play double-duty as solar-powered outdoor charging stations. The pilot program is being made possible through a partnership with the MIT Media Lab spin-off firm, Changing Environments.

In addition to providing a place to charge cell phones, the “Soofa,” as the bench is termed, also collects and shares location-based information like air quality and noise level data.

The three co-founders of Changing Environments, the creators of Soofa, are from Germany, where solar power is already popular, according to an article in Businessweek. Soofas are one way the trio is hoping to reshape US public opinion about the acceptance of solar.

The Soofa debuted in June at the White House Maker Faire in Washington, DC, where select innovators and entrepreneurs gathered to encourage development of new American ideas.

The Soofa will provide more seating space and will be able to charge two phones at a time, building on the functionality of the first solar-powered seat by Changing Environments, which was successfully piloted in Boston in 2013 in a partnership between the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, the MIT Media Lab and the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Soofas are also being piloted at Babson College and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This is not the first US city to deploy solar-powered charging stations. Last year, AT&T deployed 25 solar-powered charging stations in outdoor spaces through New York City’s five boroughs as part of a pilot project aimed at meeting the growing power needs of smartphone and tablet-wielding consumers.

Photo via White House Flickr photo stream.



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