Solar Powered 'Soofa' Smart Benches Will Charge Your Phone

How these high tech park benches are transforming the city.

ByABC News
July 1, 2014, 1:35 PM

— -- The Soofa is so much more than a seat.

A dozen of the solar-powered park benches, which charge smartphones and download environmental data, are being installed this month around Boston.

The wicked smart benches are the brainchild of three female innovators who created Changing Environment, a spin-off of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"It started as a research project and turned into something people really want," co-founder and CEO Sandra Richter told ABC News. "It seems people are always juiced out on their phones."

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At first glance, the Soofa looks like a typical park bench. However, what distinguishes it is a simple charging station that uses solar power to charge up to two smartphones at a time. The benches also connect to Verizon's 4G LTE network wirelessly and are able to collect data on the environment and noise levels.

Visitors to the Soofa website will then be able to see metrics, including how frequently each Soofa is used, its environment and the number of hours of solar power provided.

The first Soofas in Boston are being funded by Cisco at no cost to the city. Richter said Changing Environment is in talks to bring the Soofa to other cities around the United States.

"We want a smart, sustainable, social place," she said. "We definitely see this as the first step of smart, urban furniture."