City of Boston Puts People First in the Evaluation of New Urban Technology

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Beta Blocks sets a new precedent for citizen-centric oversight of the latest urban tech.

Soofa partnered with the Engagement Lab @ Emerson College and Supernormal to temporarily install a dozen Soofa Signs across diverse Boston communities: Codman Square, Chinatown, and Lower Allston as part of Beta Blocks

Earlier this year, Soofa was chosen as the first tech startup to be evaluated through the Beta Blocks process, developed with the City of Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics.

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Soofa is the neighborhood news feed that connects a community with screens everyone can see and anyone can use. Soofa Signs are the first digital outdoor media platform open for the general public to post to. They are located in highly walkable locations in the three chosen Beta Blocks neighborhoods, designed to be seen everyday by locals and visitors alike, so the content is always fresh, relevant, and inspiring. They let people uncover something new about their neighborhood everyday and provide a new platform for community conversations to happen. 

Typically, community members in cities around the world don’t get to be a part of the important conversations that decide how and why technologies are procured and installed.

Beta Blocks seeks to change this by inviting community members to share their perspectives on how new urban technologies should be used in their neighborhoods. Their feedback is then shared with Soofa and the City. Throughout 2019, Beta Blocks will gather input from residents and communities to help ensure that new technologies make life better for people in Boston. 

“Beta Blocks explores the public value of technology in Boston, working directly with communities, the city of Boston, and technology companies like Soofa with community-based values”

John Harlow, Project Manager, Beta Blocks

Having already partnered with community leaders and local businesses in some of Boston’s most active and engaged neighborhoods, including Fenway, Ashmont, Allston, and Seaport, Soofa knows how valuable community input and support is in the development of smart city technology. 

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The newest neighborhoods to adopt Soofa Signs —Codman Square, Chinatown, and Lower Allston—are hoping to use neighborhood news feeds to highlight events and the culture of their tight-knit communities. 

“We’re thrilled to have been invited to collaborate work with the tight-knit communities from Codman Square, Chinatown, and Lower Allston. These neighborhoods are such unique and inspiring places. They are filled with families that have been residents for decades, home to new residents, and many visitors stopping by for an event or enjoying a local businesses latest special. We look forward to seeing how residents, visitors, and businesses will benefit from using Soofa Signs, and are excited to co-develop our technology through their input and feedback.”

Dan Schwartz, Director of Government Affairs, Soofa

 
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Sandra Richter