Soofa is a solar-powered bench that provides people with free outdoor charging and location-based information, such as air quality and noise level, by uploading environmental sensor data to soofa.co. This smart urban furniture is developed by soofa, an MIT Media Lab spin-off.

WASHINGTON, DC - Today Soofa unveiled the Soofa Bench, their solar-powered bench, at the White House Maker Faire in Washington, DC, where select innovators and entrepreneurs have been gathered in an effort to encourage the development and exchange of new ideas for technological innovation in America. This “smart urban furniture” is designed to attract citizens with its modern flair and built-in power supply, encouraging a shared social experience. The integrated computer will also double as a collection center for location-based urban data, such as air quality and noise level.

The creators behind the Soofa bench are three women who share one vision: getting people out of their homes and into a smarter and more sustainable city. “We want to connect people to their city with smart technologies,” says Nan Zhao, co-founder of soofa and PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab.

With the support of the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics, the team is installing the first dozen benches over the course of the next month in and around Boston. The benches will provide city dwellers with solar energy to charge their electronic devices in parks, at playgrounds, and on sports fields. These first units are funded by Cisco, which shares the team’s interest in expanding the “Internet of Everything” movement into the city.

Soofa is a Verizon Innovation Program partner and uses Verizon’s 4G LTE network to connect wirelessly to the internet and upload location-based environmental information. On soofa.co, citizens can access previously invisible information about their city and look up where to find a Soofa.

Each Soofa has a name; Hedy was unveiled at the White House today. For the Boston installation, the team invites the public to name a bench by visiting soofa.co. The final selection will be chosen on July 1, 2014. “We want to reactivate the city and create a new shared social experience. Computers took people off the streets,” notes Jutta Friedrichs, co-founder and designer of the smart urban furniture. “We envision Soofas acting as magnets that invite people to enjoy the outdoors while reading the news, sharing a video, or catching up on email without fear of running out of power.”

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,” states Sandra Richter, co-founder and CEO of the young startup. “We’re also overdue to see more female-led startups, which is why we hope to be a role model for women all over the world who want to found cool companies.”

 

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