ATL311 Pioneers Civic Use of Soofa Signs To Engage Residents In Real-Time


ATL311 Pioneers Civic Use of Soofa Signs To Engage Residents In Real-Time

After being selected as an early adopter of the Soofa Sign in 2017, the City of Atlanta has now deployed Soofa Signs in its greatest neighborhoods and uses the robust network to expand the reach of its 311 communications.

Soofa signs are a great tool for ATL311 because they give us yet another channel for sharing information with our customers. The signs allow us to reach more people and let them know about the important services we provide, and they do it in an engaging and proactive way.
— Rocky Atkins | Executive Director, Office of Customer Service, City of Atlanta

The ATL311 social media team uses Soofa Talk to simply and quickly upload content in real-time to reach citizens where they are. 

As part of the early adopter program, the City of Atlanta receives airtime on the Soofa Signs. The ATL311 team uses that airtime to inform citizens about things like how to report a streetlight being out, the grass cutting schedule, and all 9 ways 311 can be reached. The main goal for ATL311 is to inform people "why we are here, what we do and that we want to help."

"Soofa Talk is one of the easiest dashboards I have used. In just a few clicks your content is live on any Soofa sign you choose. All I do is take a graphic that I posted to our other social media sites, resize it and then upload it to Soofa Talk. The process is self explanatory and takes less than a minute," says Abigail Johns, ATL311 Communications Specialist. 


ATL311 focuses on delivering exceptional customer service and finding new, creative ways to engage its citizens. The Soofa Sign provides the flexibility for both. 

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Having Soofa signs as a new communication channel has expanded our customer base and outreach. We are able to get important and informative information out to the public in a way that our social media channels cannot do. It has also allowed us another way to engage with our customers by encouraging them to go out, locate and tweet us a picture of themselves with the Soofa sign!
— Myesha Good | Customer Service Delivery Manager, Office of Customer Service, City of Atlanta

ATL311 is a best practice example for how cities can maximize their use of airtime on the Soofa Sign. 

Not only does ATL311 deliver the most important information at the right time to its customers, it also engages its staff in creating content and having fun doing so on the Soofa Sign network. In the same way it encourages its customers to bridge the physical and digital world, the team often gets out and takes fun photos to show off its finished work up on the signs in the public right of way. 


Community feedback is essential to the success of Soofa Sign installations across the City. By bridging the physical and digital, ATL311 and Soofa are able to get valuable community input and support.

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Curious to learn more about how the City of Atlanta 311 team is pioneering a valuable use of the City's Soofa Sign airtime? Feel free to reach out to our team anytime. 


Las Vegas: City of the Future

Las Vegas: City of the Future

The City of Las Vegas partnered with Soofa to build community and enhance neighborhood experience with digital signage. 

The first phase of Soofa Signs are strategically located along the Downtown Loop, a free shuttle service for locals and visitors. The Signs share important information about what's happening in the neighborhood in real-time: 

  • Next bus arrival times

  • Community events

  • Local business advertisements

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The City deployed Soofa Signs to solve the problem of not being able to deliver real-time bus arrival information at every stop along the Downtown Loop. The Signs solve this problem while also providing the City an important new platform to reach and engage locals and visitors alike. 

Fully solar powered and wireless, the Soofa Signs fit in seamlessly to the City of Las Vegas' clean energy strategy. 


Soofa CEO Sandra Richter welcomed the Soofa Sign to Downtown Las Vegas with Mayor Carolyn Goodman.

Las Vegas was selected as a Soofa early adopter because of the city's vision for creating a vibrant, livable downtown and willingness to test new technology that benefits citizens.


"Las Vegas is the perfect place to test out exciting new technology like Soofa."

- Mayor Goodman, City of Las Vegas


The Soofa Sign was featured as part of the City of Las Vegas' booth at CES and was selected by Engadget as a finalist for Best Vision of the Future. 

"Smart cities of tomorrow will run on information, with various pieces of connected urban infrastructure all sharing data amongst themselves. But what sharing information amongst the citizenry? That's where the Soofa Sign, a community bulletin board for the 21st century, comes in."

- Engadget

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Content shared on the Soofa Sign ranges from beautiful photography from local photographers to advertisements for local events and things you typically don't see on billboards, like poems.

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We believe that billboards should be given back to people. Content displayed outdoors in neighborhoods needs to reflect the uniqueness of the place. Do you feel the same? 

Love post: Valentine's Day @Soofa

Love post: Valentine's Day @Soofa

Today is Valentine's Day. In Spain, everyone gives their friends a book. In Germany you would even be lucky if you get a rose, and in the States girls are spoiled with candy, dinners and jewelry - hopefully. At Soofa, we make love posts and where better to start than in our own community at Soofa. We have a Soofa Sign at our office entrance. So a week ago, we posted an invite to make Valentine's posts and today we got some cool content on the sign! Here are our favorites. 

Live in Atlanta, Las Vegas Downtown or Boston? You can post your Love Post too at !

Much Soofa Love


Happy Valentine's Day from Soofa 

Also, we share fun things we did over the weekend with the team, let the spring begin so we have fun things to share... :D


Viva Las Vegas


Viva Las Vegas

What comes to mind when you think about signage in Las Vegas? Do you think of something big, bright, and flashy? Do you imagine it telling you about an upcoming show at a nearby hotel or a special deal at a club or casino down the street? Do you think of it as advertising entertainment for out of town visitors? Do you think of it serving as a tool that helps build a more livable community?

By now you’ve likely envisioned a picture of gaudy neon signs along the Las Vegas strip, which is understandable. For so long many of us have seen, experienced, or thought about Las Vegas as an escape from reality for a few days, a world of make-believe and over-indulgence, and these types of signs are representative of that world. But for an ever increasing number of people, Las Vegas is a place they call home and accordingly the way they are communicated to outdoors needs to change.

Thanks in large part to the vision and efforts of numerous stakeholders and community builders, Las Vegas is transforming its image and its level of livability. Business leaders like Tony Hsieh of Zappos have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the historic, old downtown. Partnerships between the public and private sector continue to grow and diversify, enhancing neighborhoods like the Arts District. Real estate developers and landowners are repurposing and redeveloping buildings and parcels into mixed use residential spaces that cater to the needs of residents desiring to live, work, and play in them. City officials, led by the innovative vision of Mayor Goodman, are driving forward-thinking policies like creating an innovation district and interweaving smart city technologies throughout Old Downtown. The story of Las Vegas as a home, a community, and a livable town, has been widely reported.

 Soofa's CEO, Sandra Richter, Las Vegas' Director of IT, Michael Lee Sherwood and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.

Soofa's CEO, Sandra Richter, Las Vegas' Director of IT, Michael Lee Sherwood and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman.

Soofa partnered with the City of Las Vegas in January 2018 to help amplify this major cultural shift. Soofa Signs have been installed across old downtown, from the Fremont Street Experience to the Container Park and in the Arts District. The Signs, located at stops along the Downtown Loop, inform people what’s going on nearby, from sharing the latest community events and happenings to displaying the arrival time of the next bus.

As the transformation continues for downtown Las Vegas from being unsafe and nearly forgotten, to a vibrant community where people want to raise families, an important question about the future of the built environment arises: how do you reconcile the design and image of the physical landscape and the experience of the Las Vegas strip that for so long has defined the city - outlandish and over stimulating, where every business is in an endless competition with its neighbor to win the next passerby’s attention - with the needs of residents who wake up every morning in their homes ready to kick off their 9-5 workday? How do you ensure that the old downtown doesn’t simply become another extension of the strip?

The answer to this question starts by looking at the often overlooked aspects of urban living: the sidewalks, the signage, the planting, the design of the storefronts. All of these elements must be designed carefully and purposefully to work in concert with each other to create the feeling of a welcoming community - a home.

 The Soofa Sign along Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas.

The Soofa Sign along Fremont Street in Downtown Las Vegas.

The Soofa Sign is a departure from the perception of Las Vegas signage as big, bright, and flashy. The Sign is a beautiful solar powered, electronic paper display unlike anything in the world. It shares important community information in 16 shades of grey, as opposed to blinding full color, light polluting LCD screens and neon. The Soofa Sign is sleek and elegantly designed, it is something that both serves as an icon in the neighborhood and a place to get information you trust and a place to meet up with friends and neighbors before hopping on the next bus.

The content created for and posted on the Sign uses a design language that connects with a pedestrian walking down the sidewalk on their way to work, looking for a place to eat lunch, or meeting friends for a drink in the evening. The way the Sign engages people is not by being louder than what it is next to in terms of color and design or more provocative, rather it does so by sharing what people care about, healthy community content.

We define healthy community content as something you want to see when you’re walking home from work or going for an early morning stroll on the weekend; it’s a digitized version of the flyer you see when you’re waiting for you coffee telling you about an upcoming food truck festival or art walk. For downtown Las Vegas and communities across the country, the Soofa Sign is the bulletin board you want to read and the place you go for information about the coolest thing happening near you in the moment you’re there.

Our early adopter partner installations will continue through June of 2018. We are looking for more communities like Las Vegas who are seeking to create a new identity or evolve the current one to successfully attract new residents and bring in new businesses. We believe that good signage is a very important element of building a neighborhood people call home. It tells people what’s going on, engages and challenges them to get involved, and ultimately it is a tool that brings people together.


Making Cold Cool.

Making Cold Cool.

Every year, the harsh reality of winter sets in, and over the coming months much of the United States bundles up. With shorter days, plummeting temperatures and cloudy skies many of us have the urge to burrow under a blanket, but inevitably cabin fever sets in and we force ourselves to venture out. The cold has a unique way of bringing people together, there is a twisted sense of solidarity knowing that others are freezing too.

Mark Twain famously said, "everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it," however communities are increasingly developing programming for 4 seasons. Ignoring the long arctic months, other than the brief holiday season, is not sustainable socially or economically. With Soofa’s sensor enabled products, we’re able to help cities calculate the ROI on their winter efforts.

Cold weather and happiness experts, the Danes, embrace hygge, a word that has recently entered the English lexicon. Hygge is the concept of creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. Whether it be the glow of a candle, a smile from a stranger or a cup of hot cider, we’ve come to love this togetherness, enjoyment and coziness and have put together a list of our 8 favorite hygge inducing activities.

  1. SnowGlobe Music Festival - An outdoor music festival in South Lake Tahoe and California's biggest NYE event.

2. Little Box Sauna

A mobile sauna in Bloomington, MN with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

3. Washington DC Snowball Fight Association - a loosely organized Snowball Fight Association that tries to hold one giant snowball fight each winter.

4. Red Bull Crashed Ice - “The fastest sport on skates” ice skaters racing down luges and over jumps while suited up in hockey gear.

5. Frozen Turkey Bowling - Self explanatory and part of Icebox Days in International Falls, MN.

6. Ugly Sweater Runs

The most festive 5Ks of the season, all about having fun and breaking out your favorite ugly Christmas sweater.

7. Ice Castles - Every winter, the Utah-based company Ice Castles selects a handful of cities for its team of “icicle farmers” to erect its massive, surreal ice worlds.

8. Frostival - a weekend of games and activities during the deepest, darkest part of winter in Fargo, ND.

Worldwide authority on enlivening cities and building great public spaces, Danish architect Jan Gehl notes that activities like these have expanded the season of “good” weather from six to ten months saying, “cultures and climates differ all over the world, but people are the same. They will gather in public if you give them a good place to do it.”

And remember, there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.

Curious to learn how two business improvement districts on opposite coasts are using our benches and data?

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Straight from Colorado Springs to Atlanta.

Straight from Colorado Springs to Atlanta.

Fresh off the plane from Colorado Springs last Thursday, Soofa organized the latest edition of the Smart City Workshop series hosted by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the City of Atlanta’s SmartATL team.

The workshop focused on what content students were excited about posting on the ten Soofa Signs being installed across Atlanta over the coming weeks.

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Participants were encouraged to think about their neighborhoods and identify locations where they thought a Sign belonged. Over 50 students pulled inspiration from magazines, existing analog bulletin boards and the internet.

The creative content ranged from campus activities to lost dog postings, public safety messages to that morning’s viral memes and transit information to weather forecasts.

Finishing up the day, attendees created accounts in Soofa Talk, our web-based content management system, where they were able to effortlessly upload their content and see it live on the Sign installed at Ponce City Market.

Georgia Tech’s Center for Urban Innovation supports research that thinks globally, acts locally, and encourages researchers, students, and civic leaders to find innovative approaches to shaping cities and we’re thrilled to partner with them on a number of initiatives.

How would the students on your campus put a Soofa Sign to use? Uploading content is as easy as posting to Snapchat with built in moderation tools.

We’d love to connect to learn about opportunities at your institution. Email us directly to learn more. 

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A look into the Prince George's County Parks Innovation Task Force

A look into the Prince George's County Parks Innovation Task Force

Anytime there is an opportunity to test out new technology and innovate, we want to be first. When we see something novel and valuable for improving the way we operate and provide benefits back to our community, we always start off with what our main goal is for testing it and then work backwards to figure out how to make it happen.
— Roslyn Johnson, Deputy Director, Facility Operations, Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation

How does government innovate? What are some best practices to engage staff to think differently and challenge the status quo in an actionable way?

The Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation, Innovation Taskforce has built and refined a staff-driven formula to bring new ideas to life.

We first met the Innovation Task Force team at the NRPA Innovation Lab in Boston, MA in 2016, which focused on how parks and recreation agencies benefit from using technology and data.

As a six time winner of the National Recreation and Park Association’s (NRPA) national gold medal for excellence in parks and recreation, Prince George’s County always wants to be at the forefront of the parks and recreation industry by testing new technology and executing on big ideas to improve its parks for its community.

We were impressed with this commitment to continuous improvement, both for internal operations and for the park user experience. What’s more, the Innovation Task Force doesn’t just talk about innovation, they organize and align 14 divisions on a routine basis to collaboratively bring projects from ideation through to execution.

As Roslyn Johnson explains, “the Task Force has empowered our staff to think differently about things and also feel confident that they can bring them to the table and make them happen.”


The Prince George’s Innovation Task Force brings new, forward looking projects to life while minimizing the overall risk to the Department of Parks and Recreation and engaging staff of all levels and ages

The Task Force was first designed four years ago as an initiative intended to retain more millennial aged staff. This idea manifested itself into a cross functional group that now seeks input from all generations of park staff, not only millennials, to produce new ideas that are both innovative and sound in terms of their business cases - effectively reducing risk and catalyzing innovation department-wide.

Since its early days, the Task Force has evolved into an engine for driving change and important new projects agency wide. It now has representatives from all fourteen divisions in the department. It is now sourcing contributions from staff who have been with the agency for one to 35 years. Through a collaborative and concentrated effort on making innovation a habit, the task force has figured out how to say yes to growth and learning, creativity and sustainability and organizational progression.

We know that in order to maintain and surpass our standards and remain relative to the communities we serve, we must be innovative.
— Innovative Program Initiative Playbook

In addition to deploying Soofa technology across the Prince George’s County park system, the Innovation Task force has designed and executed a number of highly impactful and beneficial programs and projects.

One in particular that was selected and put into action focused on using rain cisterns to cut down on total water use for irrigation and lessen the county expenditure per year to irrigate.

The original video made by the staff team, named “Quick Connect” describes the project vision and actionable goals in detail.

The outcomes from the implementation of the cisterns are noteworthy to say the least. The cisterns are projected to capture 989,027 gallons of rainwater in one year at four different locations, saving the county $123,651 total. In percentage terms, this is a 57% cost savings on the total dollar amount that would have been spent on irrigating the four locations without the cisterns in place.


Staff members are fully supported by the department to take their ideas from concept to reality through mentorship and a collaborative workspace

Here's an excerpt from a conversation we had with Stewart Seal, a staff member whose idea was selected:

"About three years ago I was walking my dogs in the wood," says Stewart. "We came upon a large tree that had recently been blown down. The top of the tree had a large branch at an angle that looked like a neck of the Loch Ness Monster. I keep that thought in back of my mind for some time and when the Innovative Project Initiative opened up I decided to submit an idea that would use found material like downed trees and vegetation to create artwork from natural materials found on the trails and in the woods. The program became Art on the Trails: Recycle, Reuse and Decay."

"I was assigned a mentor Edith Michel. We spent quite a bit of time discussing the project and in particular establishing benchmarks, goals and objectives for the program. Edith was tremendously helpful developing these items. The Task Force was very helpful with marketing, providing funding, networking with other divisions i.e. Maintenance & Development. Area Operations etc. We are about to restart the program with a major carving at Lane Manor Park."


The Innovation Task Force partnered with Soofa to gain new insight into park use and provide a much needed 21st century amenity for park users

The team’s interest in a smart parks pilot project with us stemmed from being able to measure pedestrian activity in numerous locations in the county’s park system, ranging from trails and playgrounds to a new museum and a beautiful lakefront location. In addition to Soofa technology solving the problem of not having park use numbers, the Innovation Task Force sought out the opportunity to be an early adopter to co-create a product tailored to meet its specific needs.

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We hosted the entire Innovation Task Force at our office for a brainstorming session before bolts were even in the ground in the summer of 2016.

During the working session, we all brainstormed about how our technology can help with things like identifying anomalies in park activity - two potential uses for this was applying anomaly detection to be able to identify pop up events and unprogrammed, community driven happenings in the parks, and for optimizing security and park patrols by knowing if after hours use is happening. Having the group together and brainstorming brought up an entirely new idea for what was possible.


Setting goals early and refining over time led to the success of the first phase of the smart parks pilot project


The main goals of our work together were set long before the first bolts went into the ground. These included things like knowing park use in near real-time to be able to match maintenance schedules with actual usage rates to optimize the maintenance crews' time, measuring the success of events and programming by analyzing relative attendance numbers, and evaluating the success of capital improvement projects by seeing how people use the parks before and after construction.

After the Bench and Core Pro units were installed and data on park activity was being gathered, Soofa and the Innovation Task Force began hosting regular focus groups to track the project against its original goals and determine new ones. The process of hosting focus groups was also important to gain the buy in of numerous divisions within the department.

One group in particular, the team responsible for leading sponsorship and advertising, recognized a tremendous opportunity to be able to advance the original goals of the project while minimizing the total capital spending required to do so. After deciding to add a backrest to the Soofa Bench Pro, the sponsorship team is now selling the advertising space to local and regional businesses and organizations, priced according to the popularity of the particular location.

The goal is to use the revenue generated from these sponsorships initially to fund additional benches across the county park system and once the capital spend is recouped, to generate revenue for the department to use to improve its parks and fund new programs and events.


The Innovation Task Force shares its three key pieces of advice for other cities wanting to be innovative and take risks

For government agencies, it can sometimes be challenging to take on something new, especially when that something new is being an early adopter and research and development partner with a startup.

The insight Prince George’s County shared with us echoes much of what we have learned from our other early adopter cities, parks departments, and other public sector partners, and we believe is helpful for all government agencies considering being early adopters of new technology. We have distilled the following three pieces of advice given to other agencies by the Innovation Task Force.

  • Make sure the company you are going to partner with is able to give you a point of contact that you can reach out to anytime when an issue arises or you have a question. Personalization is key, especially when you are taking the risk of being an early adopter.

  • Get to know the leadership of the company, learn what their long term vision is and make sure it aligns with your goals.

  • Be open to sharing best practices with other agencies who are also customers of the company you’re working with.  


Is your organization working on something everyone show know about and can learn from? We'd love to hear about it. 

The community's favorite content from the Soofa Sign in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA


The community's favorite content from the Soofa Sign in Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA

We're engaging our community with beautiful art and unique content. We wanted to share some of our favorite pieces to date. 

Just around the corner from our office, Kendall Square is the ideal testbed for our newly launched 42” Soofa Sign, the world’s first digital community bulletin board.

A former industrial district with a storied past, Kendall Square is now an internationally recognized innovation hub propelled by the imagination and ingenuity of the 50,000+ people that show up to work here each day. Curiosity, openness and collaboration are prevalent in every lab, startup and yes, even the public spaces. These are characteristics we hold dear and do our best to foster.


Since 1964, the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) has focused on implementing imaginative and creative initiatives, working tirelessly to achieve social equity and a balanced economic ecosystem. With thousands of tourists, students and commuters finding their way to and through Kendall Square each day, part of CRA’s effort is to provide clear messaging.

Our team collaborates closely with CRA to test new features, communication and engagement strategies. With other options available to deliver information to the public, Tom Evans, executive director of CRA, tells GovTech Magazine one of the reasons the CRA partnered with Soofa is because solar powered electronic paper is an “interesting new format we want to explore.”

As an early adopter of our technology, our relationship with the CRA is highly collaborative where we work together to co develop our technology to best meet the needs of the Kendall Square neighborhood.

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The Sign in Kendall is strategically positioned in front of the outbound T-stop. Giving commuters transit information in real-time is a key feature of the Sign with the ability to show site specific arrivals and departures of the red line subway. Along with train schedules, we are curating content featuring local artists, memes we love and neighborhood happenings. Easy to install using just 4 bolts and completely self-contained with solar power and wireless connectivity, the Sign offers a flexible solution that can grow with your spaces and evolve as your neighborhood changes over time.

Over the coming months, we will have dozens of Signs across Boston, Cambridge, Atlanta and others to be announced. The Sign functions as a single unit as well as a network, linked together through our cloud-based content management system called Soofa Talk.

Check out some of our favorite, creative content that's been displayed on the sign over the past few months.

Find your next great hire for your business

Local startups are excited about the potential of the Soofa Sign to help them attract great talent from the MIT community. Hiring doesn't stop at just startups though - do you have a small business and have a critical role to fill, do you have a restaurant and need more wait staff or dedicated chefs? Our sign is here to help. In just a few clicks your job post will land on the sign or signs you want in your neighborhood. 

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Engage people in creative new ways by bridging digital and physical worlds

The term public engagement is hot right now, but the definition is loose and measuring it is hard. We're spending countless hours on site in Kendall testing different types of content and counting how many people stop, how many take action, and ask them why. Thus far, the internet high five has been one of the most successful - hundreds of people have given the sign a high five. 


Curate beautiful art campaigns that make people stop and look 

A wedding photo captured by a drone? Would you stop and do a double take if you saw this image on our sign in your neighborhood? 

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Our vision is to give individuals a voice in their corner of the city... Is your band playing a gig? Looking for a roommate? Or do you need to hire a few teammates? We’re here to help you shine.


Tech Innovations In Parks: Notes From Our Presentation At Greater & Greener

Tech Innovations In Parks: Notes From Our Presentation At Greater & Greener

Smarter parks are responsive parks; they let us know when and how they’re being used, what’s working well, and where there are opportunities to improve

Last month, we spoke on the Tech Innovations In Parks panel at the City Parks Alliance Greater and Greener Conference in Minneapolis. We were thrilled to share the stage with Los Angeles Recreation and Parks, Denver Parks and Recreation, and the Land Art Generator. The panel was moderated by our good friends at the National Recreation and Park Association, with whom we’ve partnered on events like the Boston Innovation Lab and collaborated on articles examining the role technology plays in parks.

The Tech Innovations In Parks conversation was wide ranging and discussed best practices for how to implement new technology, both hardware and software, to update outdoor environments to meet the expectations of hyper-connected people today and improve internal department operations. Ultimately, the goal of testing and using the latest technology available is to continually enhance the user experience of park visitors on a daily basis. The full presentation slides are available on the Greater and Greener website.

At Soofa we think about parks that benefit from technology and data analytics as smart parks; these are parks that respond to the needs of people and communities in the present and at the same time inform those who are planning, designing, and managing them what’s working well and what needs to be improved.

In our presentation at Greater and Greener we shared our research showing just how valuable parks are and offered thoughts on new ways to measure this value and maximize it, all while maintaining a focus on improving the experience of the communities served.

 Meet the  Soofa Bench . Solar powered USB charging for the public, sensor inside to measure park activity happening nearby. 

Meet the Soofa Bench. Solar powered USB charging for the public, sensor inside to measure park activity happening nearby. 

 Graph illustrating increase in pedestrian activity (red) on the day of the Boston Marathon. Average day pedestrian traffic is shown in blue. 

Graph illustrating increase in pedestrian activity (red) on the day of the Boston Marathon. Average day pedestrian traffic is shown in blue. 


Every dollar spent on parks returns 20 dollars to the economy 

The importance of parks is measurable and smart parks provide data back showing just how valuable they are. Our Smart Parks white paper shows that for every dollar spent on parks, 20 dollars are returned back to the economy.

These returns are made up of things like increases in property values adjacent to parks and public spaces, more spending by tourists drawn to neighborhoods because of noteworthy and attractive parks, and decreases in overall healthcare spending in communities where there are an abundance of opportunities for healthy, preventative physical activities to take place outdoors (i.e. biking on the 100s of miles of trails in and around Minneapolis or jogging along the Esplanade or through the Fens in Boston).

Knowing that parks provide such a substantial economic return is only the beginning; contemporary tools that keep track of how parks are being used offer park managers a new way to measure economic returns, in the moment. Armed with this insight, park managers can maximize returns by adjusting strategies in real-time as opposed to looking through a retrospective lens at the end of a season or even over multiple years for how a park or park network performed and was used by people. Not only is this methodology incredibly tedious and expensive, it is also prone to inaccuracies because of an inevitable lack of data. 



Real-time pedestrian activity measurement provides a new way to evaluate the success of capital improvement spending, programming strategies, and community based events

We focus on providing a better way of measuring park usage with solar powered, human-centered public infrastructure like park benches that charge phones and count pedestrian passerby. The connection with people, providing a clear public amenity like free phone charging in the case of Soofa, is the key to the success and sustainability of the smart parks movement - advancements in technology and data analytics applied to public spaces are most effective when there is a real, authentic relationship created between these new tools and people.

It’s all about gaining and maintaining the public’s trust. The industry can collect as much data as it would like using the latest, cutting-edge technology, but if the public doesn’t feel a benefit, or worse, if there is a feeling of privacy being infringed upon to gather data, and if agencies aren’t able to justify the expense back to elected officials, taxpayers, foundations, or donors, spending capital and operating dollars to test new ideas and products won’t happen.


Our partner cities and organizations help co-create our products and public space data analytics tools

Over the last year we have been working with leading parks and recreation agencies nationwide to continually improve and refine the way we analyze the data we collect on park activity. Our partners include the Park District of Oak Park, IL, Prince George’s County Parks, MD, Washington, D.C. Parks and Recreation, Miami, FL Parks and Recreation, and dozens more.

Some of the uses and data stories we are helping our partners craft and tell include:

  • Capturing data in one park with multiple sensors to see where people enter and exit, where they dwell the longest, and to understand how the park gets used on different days and during all seasons.

  • Analyzing usage rates of many parks within the same city to see which is the busiest and by how much over the others.

  • Monitoring the attendance at temporary pop up events; seeing when people tend to come, how long they stay, and what types of marketing and advertising gets people to come in the first place.

  • Telling the story to elected officials, foundations, sponsors, and the public about the value that parks provide back to the community - using data that shows exactly how much use parks get and why spending more money on them is justified.


Ready to transform your parks? Connect with us to learn more about what it’s like to be a Soofa Smart Parks Partner


Las Cruces, NM is using Soofa Pro data to transform its downtown public spaces


Las Cruces, NM is using Soofa Pro data to transform its downtown public spaces

 Dots represent relative pedestrian activity levels within about a 150 foot radius of each bench and core location. They do not represent actual people in space, but instead are designed to illustrate general patterns of downtown activity. 

Dots represent relative pedestrian activity levels within about a 150 foot radius of each bench and core location. They do not represent actual people in space, but instead are designed to illustrate general patterns of downtown activity. 

Animation reveals downtown activity levels in Las Cruces at key intersections along Main Street

By visualizing a 24 hour period we can see patterns of pedestrian activity emerge. July 20th was a Thursday; the downtown is most active during lunch and the early afternoon, then foot traffic tapers off in the early evening. 

While this is only a very small sample size, a moment in time, it does highlight one of the key goals that the City of Las Cruces has in working with Soofa. The goal is to understand activity levels downtown, particularly after 5pm, to ultimately test strategies that generate more economic activity in the evening hours.

One example of how this goal will be achieved is that the baseline data collected by our sensors will be used to evaluate the impact new businesses opening downtown have on overall pedestrian activity - and to share with businesses to convince them to stay open later. They currently close on the early side for fear of not having enough customers to justify the added cost of remaining open. 

What happens in one location downtown influences activity levels elsewhere; measuring the ripple effect and more

The team from the City of Las Cruces not only wants to know what happens at one location or in one moment in time, but also how certain activities or new developments have a ripple effect across the entire downtown core.

For example, one ripple effect the data will provide novel insight into how events and shows at the Rio Grande Theater (pictured above) draw in people before the show and to what extent they stick around after. 

Looking at data over time shows the success of events based on relative attendance and activity scores

The line graph above shows activity downtown over the course of July. Each line shows the pedestrian activity around strategically placed benches and cores. This type of data visualization allows the City of Las Cruces to look back on the month of July and correlate spikes in activity with the events that occurred those days as well as with variables like weather and holidays (note the dip on July 4th). 


A Midsummer Launch

A Midsummer Launch

We raised some money 🙌🏽 and we're about to launch a new product 🙏🏽 the 42" Soofa Sign, so we threw a party... 

In a few short weeks we’ll be bolting Signs into the ground and bringing them online for our first pilot projects around Boston and we wanted to find some time to let loose. With the launch of the Sign, we’ll be entering a new phase with a fresh set of offerings for a wider range of consumers.

With its soaring 35 foot ceilings, the Multicultural Arts Center, around the corner from our office in Cambridge was the ideal venue for the menagerie of silk dancers, live logo wall and Keytar Bear. Fueling the party with seasonal cocktails, fresh lemonade and DJ Knife on the 1s and 2s, the team and our guests had a great time. It won't be our last party or launch for that matter, so stay tuned!

Also, Ben gave us the gift of a very own Soofa Song.  

Modernizing public transit: how the technology ecosystem approach enhances ridership experience


Modernizing public transit: how the technology ecosystem approach enhances ridership experience

When we look at the built environments in our cities we see a quilt-like patchwork of many different and diverse neighborhoods and associated architectural styles, parks and public spaces, infrastructure elements, public transportation networks, and, or course, people.

At Soofa we integrate technology into each one of these components of the city to improve the quality of life and experience for residents and visitors. Ultimately, our technology not only provides function for each particular space in and component of the city, but also connects each element in a multi-beneficial manner; this is what we mean when we say technology ecosystem.

As an example, data gathered from a Soofa Bench in a park showing how busy it is and when people come can inform what type of content should go on the Soofa Sign at a nearby plaza adjacent to a popular main street to drive more traffic to the events hosted in the park. Knowing how people use the city and being able to communicate with them in a meaningful way is the true power of a unified ecosystem approach to making smarter, more livable and lovable cities. 

In the same way that we applied this ecosystem vision to make smarter parks and smarter downtown cores we are now deploying our technology to make smarter, more dynamic, and user friendly transit to improve the user experience for riders. 

Introducing The Soofa Sign For Transit

The Soofa Sign is solar powered, just like the Soofa Bench, and is wirelessly connected meaning content is uploaded from a web based content management system you control from your phone or office. Real time transit information is displayed on the sign using local transit system APIs and is paired with healthy community content like local events and unique offerings happening nearby, important community meetings residents are invited to attend, and wayfinding information to improve multi-modal transportation use and walkability across neighborhoods and cities.

The Soofa Sign Brings Real Time Transit Arrival Information Anywhere Under The Sun

In Porter Square, Cambridge, MA, the Soofa Sign informs commuters when the next bus, subway, and commuter rail is coming. Instead of having to go all the way down inside the station to find out when the next subway or train arrives, riders now know what to expect and can make plans accordingly. 

As one transit rider explained to us, "this is great, now I don't have to run downstairs to the station just to find out I missed my train."

Paired Together, The Soofa Bench And Soofa Sign Deliver Insights For Transit Agencies Like Never Before

Bring Sustainable Charging And Pedestrian Counting Sensors To Your Transit Stops

With the Soofa Bench Pro, transit agencies can now measure pedestrian traffic levels at and near stops and stations, assisting in fleet management and route optimization. Soofa Pro sensor data compliments existing data sets that may be disconnected and complicated to sync up, like GPS on buses and ticket readers on the same buses that don't talk to each other in an intuitive way. 


Sync Soofa Sensor Data With Transit Ridership Numbers

Pedestrian traffic data is visualized to the right from seven different locations along a downtown core. From this we see the busiest day of the week is Saturday on average and pedestrian activity is sporadic throughout the weekdays. This data can be cross referenced with transit rider data like bus ticket data to see when and where more people ride the bus and how this correlates with actual activity on the sidewalks and use of the downtown space overall. 


Is Your Community Actively Planning To Update Its Transit System? 

See If You Are Eligible To Participate In Soofa's National Roll Out of Transit Displays This September.


How Las Cruces, NM is using Soofa Pro data to justify the expense of a public WiFi network


How Las Cruces, NM is using Soofa Pro data to justify the expense of a public WiFi network

When faced with a nearly $400,000 capital expenditure to provide free public WiFi to residents and visitors, the City of Las Cruces paused and asked the important question, how many people actually spend time downtown? The City partnered with Soofa to measure pedestrian traffic and analyze the patterns of use. Learn more about how the City is transforming Soofa data into information to help make key strategic decisions. 


Soofa Spotlight: Portage, MI


Soofa Spotlight: Portage, MI

How does Portage, a small, lively city of just under 50,000 residents in Southwest Michigan improve quality of life, attract visitors, and engage its community - making it a natural place to move? By having the desire to be first to test new technologies and follow through on making sure they are successfully implemented and used by the public.


NYC's Internet of Things Guidelines: how Soofa's Highbridge Park deployment helped shape them


NYC's Internet of Things Guidelines: how Soofa's Highbridge Park deployment helped shape them

Written to help cities deploy internet of things technologies in a responsible manner, the City of New York's Internet Of Things Guidelines were published late last year and have been adopted by cities across the globe. Soofa's smart parks deployment with the New York City Parks Department was the first project to follow the guidelines, and helped inform their structure. 


Top 5 Uses of Soofa Pro Data


Top 5 Uses of Soofa Pro Data

  1. Get reliable and accurate baseline data on park use - without counting by hand

  2. Measure the success of events and programming strategies

  3. Make better decisions for capital improvement projects

See the full list >>


How and why the Park District of Oak Park, IL is using Soofa Pro Data


How and why the Park District of Oak Park, IL is using Soofa Pro Data

The Park District of Oak Park is one of Soofa's first early adopters of the Soofa Pro sensor, which measures pedestrian traffic in outdoor public spaces. This case study shares insights into the project, data visualizations, lessons learned, and next steps to maximize the value of Soofa Pro data to the Park District's operations. 


A First Look At Soofa Data

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A First Look At Soofa Data

Since launching the Soofa Beta Cities network in May of 2016, we have been developing Soofa Pro, the sensor embedded version of the Soofa Bench and Soofa Core. Our sensor measures pedestrian activity in public spaces and we provide this data in an easy to use monthly report as well as through raw data exports and an API. In this post we detail the analytic tools available and how they are currently being used by our beta partners like NYC Parks, the Park District of Oak Park, IL, and many more. 

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