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.
From the beginning our mission has been to create smarter, more social, and more sustainable cities. As we look back on 2016 and reflect on where we’ve come since this time last year, we wanted to share our successes and challenges, and look ahead to what’s coming in 2017.
Today Soofa announced the launch of the Soofa Sign with the City of Boston and the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics. Mayor Martin J. Walsh is the first in the country to pilot this new technology which provides a new platform for the Mayor and the City to connect with residents and visitors. The Soofa Sign is the latest product in Soofa's smart urban furniture ecosystem that improves the quality of life for citizens while generating data for city leaders to make more informed decisions.
Free public wifi, the most ambitious downtown development project in the Hudson Valley, 100% renewable energy, cohesive marketing and storytelling; these are just some of the things the City is doing to compete for the future. Check out this exclusive interview with New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson and Luiz Aragon, Commissioner of Development to learn more.
How do smaller sized cities innovate? The Town of Newmarket, Ontario (with a population of just over 85,000 people) is a perfect example of how to do it. They are also our second Canadian city and the first in Ontario. Learn more about our collaboration and see what else Newmarket is doing to be a leader in civic innovation and to improve the quality of life for residents and visitors.
We are big proponents of making innovative projects happen in all cities, big or small, dense or rural. Parkland County is an amazing example of how a rural county can innovate successfully. At a population of just 12 people per square mile, it's about as rural as you can get! We did a spotlight with Barb Scully to learn more about how her and her team use technology to improve the quality of life for everyone in the county.
On June 7th, we officially launched in Canada with the help of the City of Edmonton. The City kicked off its Environment Week by showcasing its new Soofa Benches to the public, the press, and city leaders. Learn more!
Since March 2016, we've been monitoring the usage of Cambridge's Soofa Bench network. The City's 16 benches suprassed the 4000 devices charged, 1000 total hours of charge milestones. Keep in mind that this is before summer made its way to the Boston area! Take a look at some highlights from these exciting milestones.
In 2014, Soofa officially launched through a partnership with the New Urban Mechanics in Boston Mayor Marty Walsh's Office. In 2015, we began shipping nationally. Now, in 2016, we've shipped over 150 Soofa Benches to 16 states and 5 countries. Are you joining us?
With so many potential options available to make your city or space more attractive and inviting, how do you know where to start? We've simplified the process by analyzing 5 strategies ranging from placemaking to focusing on marketing existing strengths.
Among all things sustainability in the Town of Ashland, MA is the Soofa Bench. See what Phillip Williams says about how his bench helps strengthen the Town's commitment to sustainability and how it has become a great educational tool for children.
Meet Jeff Rosalsky, Executive Director of the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC) in Pennsylvania. Jeff is one of our early adopters and this week we're featuring him in our Spotlight Series. Read more about Jeff and PEEC, and get the inside scoop into why he has a Soofa Bench in front of his main building.
How busy was your bench during a beautiful, sunny weekend? How many hours of charge has your network of benches provided over its lifetime? Which bench is the most popular? Soofa Atlas lets you answer all these questions and more. Here's a run down of the top 5 features provided by Atlas.
And some lessons learned for how cities can best leverage their young talent and build a culture of innovation.
Green Mountain Power donated a Soofa Bench to the City of Rutland, VT, home to the company's Energy Innovation Center. We spoke with Betsy Bloomer, Director of the Center, to learn why Green Mountain Power selected Soofa as the perfect symbol for energy innovation.
See why the Soofa Bench "has been a great success as kids use it constantly and love it — at times there is a line."
Sunny Isles Beach recently installed 10 Soofa Benches in its parks and in front of its government offices. We sat down with the City's CIO, Derrick Arias, to learn why the City chose to be an early adopter.
Our Director of Strategic Partnerships, Ed Krafcik, was invited to join the National Recreation and Parks Association editorial advisory board for its publication, Parks and Recreation Magazine. Ed will join a group of leading parks department directors, academic thought leaders, and industry innovators. The Association's goal is to leverage the advisory board to learn about what's next for the parks and recreation industry - the latest innovations, newest products, and examples of best practices.
See the full board here.
Have an innovative idea for parks? Feel free to reach out to Ed to talk more: firstname.lastname@example.org
What inspired you to take on your role as Strategy Coordinator at Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP)?
I started my career with the Free Library in 2005 and worked as an Adult/Teen Librarian at a number of branches throughout the city. In 2013, while at the South Philadelphia Branch, it was announced the library had partnered with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to build a new facility at that location that would seek to integrate health and library services, as well as a recreation center, under one roof. With this impending closure it just so happened I was presented with the opportunity to join the library’s newly created Strategic Initiatives Department as Strategy Coordinator, a role that would allow me to gain new experiences and help position the library as a leading organization in the field.
What do you like most about it?
Having spent the better part of my Free Library career working in branch libraries throughout the city, I had a strong understanding of the daily activities and workloads associated with providing direct services to the public. On the other hand, my perspective was very much limited to my immediate work location and surrounding community. What’s great about my current role – and what I enjoy most – is the scope and diversity of the department’s work. We have to see the whole landscape of Free Library activities. In addition to ensuring the objectives of the library’s strategic plan are being met, the department is also tasked with innovation and the development of pilot programming. This is how our work with Soofa came about! In addition, and weaved throughout all we do, is a push to become a data driven organization and to better demonstrate the impact of our services.
Tell us about FLP? What do you love about it? What is one thing everyone should know about it?
The Free Library is composed of 60 locations citywide, including Parkway Central Library, three large regional libraries, 49 neighborhood libraries, three technology Hot Spots, the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Regional Research and Operations Center, and The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Our reach extends into every community here in Philadelphia and what makes the organization so great is not only the people we serve, but our staff who are delivering these services each and every day. For instance our Literacy Enrichment Afterschool Program (LEAP) provides free, afterschool homework assistance to 3,400 students a day; we are the largest provider of free public WiFi in the city; nearly 50,000 Philadelphians participate each year in over 2,300 free programs; our new Culinary Literacy Center hosted more than 400 free programs for eaters of all interests and tastes; and we host more than 1,400 participants each month at our free ESL classes throughout the system. So, what’s the one thing everyone should know about the Free Library? Our name says it all. It’s FREE! Free programing! Free books to check out! Free ebooks and databases online! The list goes on and on and it’s all accessible to anyone with a library card.
If you have a free afternoon in FLP or Philadelphia at large, what do you like to do?
My Saturdays tend to be fairly open, and since I live in the South Philadelphia neighborhood, I like to wander around its famous Italian Market to shop for produce and other goodies. There’re a ton of gems throughout the city, so other favorite visits include Brickbat Books, La Colombe for coffee, record shopping at Beautiful World Syndicate, watching the world go by at the Singing Fountain on Passyunk Avenue, and catching up with friends at our local, Fountain Porter.
Why did you choose Soofa? What does it mean for you and for Philadelphia?
Beyond the duality of being both a bench and charging station, I was immediately drawn to the design of the product and potential as support for place-making initiatives. As mentioned previously, the Free Library is the largest provider of public WiFi in the city and for many of our users, their only source of internet or access to a computer. It’s not uncommon to see individuals logging on to WiFi outside our buildings before and after opening hours or sitting in cars, on our steps, or along the sidewalk to connect. Clearly, there was a need for upgraded seating, and what better way than by introducing the Soofa bench to our Cecil B. Moore and Lawncrest Libraries? We’ve started with three benches and hope to introduce more at other locations throughout the city.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome to launch your Soofa Bench? How did you progress past this?
As with most public libraries throughout the country, available funding can often be in flux. We knew the benches would be positively received in the communities where they were placed and put to good use. It was just a matter of securing financial support, which we did! Since our three benches are being used heavily, we hope to make the case for their value to the public and find additional funds for additional benches.
What was the experience like when you told community members about their new bench?
We actually soft-launched the benches and let the communities find them on their own. Almost immediately all were seeing usage, from adults during the day to kids after school, and their popularity spread through the neighborhood via word of mouth. The best feedback we received was from an individual at our Cecil B. Moore Library. He had recently had the power to his home shut off and was using the benches each morning to recharge his family’s phones. What a powerful image and one that highlights the positive effects of Soofa within a community!
What do the residents in Philadelphia like the most about Soofa?
I think people are first drawn to the Soofa by its design, the pop of color and something beyond the norm. Of course, once they figure out the bench also serves as a charging station, and one that is solar powered, no less, it becomes something more. I would like to believe a sense of ownership takes place among users. As Philadelphia is a large, urban environment, we often struggle with graffiti and/or defacement of property. Interestingly, the benches all remain undisturbed, something of a testament to the power community pride!
If you had one wish to improve FLP or Philadelphia, what would it be?
This is such an exciting and vibrant time to be living in Philadelphia, and especially, working at the Free Library. We’re in the midst of our 21st Century Libraries Initiative, Building Inspiration, a project that will renovate and expand our Parkway Central Library and restore and modernize neighborhood libraries across the city. We’ve also embarked on an ambitious campaign, Read! by 4th, whose goal is to increase the number of children reading at grade level by the time they enter 4th grade. But to succeed on all fronts, we need to maximize the number of Free Library of Philadelphia card holders. So that’s my wish: a card in every hand! (And Soofa on every corner!)
Want to highlight your civic engagement in the Soofa Spotlight?
Contact Oliver Madden - Oliver@soofa.co