Park benches in Boston offer more than a place to sit

July 15
Soofa is bringing solar-powered benches to parks in Boston areas. Courtesy Photo of Soofa.
Soofa is bringing solar-powered benches to parks in Boston area. Courtesy Photo of Changing Environments.

Park benches in  Boston are not just for sitting around. Changing Environments, a spin off of MIT Media Lab, has launched Soofa in a few locations across the city.

“Your cell phone doesn’t just make phone calls,” Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement. “Why should our benches just be seats?”

What is Soofa?

Soofa is a solar-powered bench. The $3,000 bench has a box with a built-in solar panel and two USB ports that allow you to charge your phone, according to Yahoo Tech. But the company is not supplying charging cords so bring your own.

Soofas are benches with a solar panel on top that can charge users’ phones. Courtesy photo of Changing Environments.
Soofas are benches with a solar panel on top that can charge smartphones. Courtesy photo of Changing Environments.

Where can I find Soofa? 

So far, 10 benches have been installed at various locations in Boston, said Kris Carter, program director at Boston’s s Office of New Urban Mechanics. Four benches are located within Boston Parks Systems, four on college campus in the Boston and Cambridge area, and two in private parks. Two more will be installed later this month, Carter said.

The first benches were paid for by Cisco Systems Inc.

On the company’s Web site, Soofa provides information about the local weather, noise level, and air quality in the area around its benches.

How practical are they?

Sara Morrison from Boston.com tried out the new benches herself. Although sitting on the bench wasn’t a pleasant experience on a hot and humid morning, Morrison wrote, she was able to charge her iPhone in 10 minutes. She couldn’t get her iPad to charge, but the co-founder of Changing Environments Sandra Richter said Soofas will be able to do that in their next iteration.

“We want to make cities updated for our generation,” Richter told Yahoo Tech recently. “One trait we have is we run around with our phones all the time, and they die every five minutes. So for us it’s really important to be charged up all the time and be connected to each other.”

What’s next?

“This is definitely following a trend,” Carter told The Washington Post. “Not only are you seeing city structures becoming more sustainable, such as implementing solar panels on trashcans, but you are also seeing city structures have new uses for people. Soofa is a great example of this trend.”

After Boston, Yahoo Tech reported, the next wave of Soofas will be seen in New York and San Jose, Calif. soon.

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