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.
At Soofa, we measure success in a variety of ways: from metrics like the number of states and cities in which we’ve installed to the growth of our partner network, the number of data points we’ve collected from the sensors in our benches (62 million and counting), to the stories we hear from our clients observing people of all ages and backgrounds share in the love of our products.
Below are a few highlights that illustrate just how busy, productive, and, at times, excitingly challenging of a year it was.
International Growth and Expansion of the Soofa Network
In 2016 we more than tripled our U.S. presence with our smart benches now installed in 23 states and over 50 cities. In June we officially launched in Canada with the City of Edmonton and have since expanded to cities and universities in multiple provinces. More than 35,000 people charged on a Soofa Bench for a cumulative total of nearly 13,500 hours in 2016. Our busiest bench is right here at home in Cambridge, it provided nearly 2,000 hours of sustainable charging in the last nine months alone.
We also shared our vision for smart cities on the international stage during 2016. Our co-founder and CEO, Sandra Richter, spoke on a panel in Dubai for Expo 2020, we co-hosted a workshop with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Tech+Innovation at Smart Cities Week in D.C. and met with cities from across the U.S. with our partner Current, by GE during a civic innovation workshop, and showcased our technology in the NYC Pavilion at the Smart City World Congress in Barcelona.
Extensive Data Product Development and Addition of Innovative Partners
In March we released Smart Parks, our first white paper which analyzed the return on investment that parks provide cities and people. In May we launched Soofa Atlas Pro, our open space analytics toolkit which enables cities to measure the return on park investment and more, and announced the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation as our first smart parks beta partner. Since then we have added more than a dozen cities and organizations to our network of beta partners. We’re excited to continue co-developing our sensor platform with our current partners and look forward to welcoming many more in 2017. I’d encourage you to read this Gov Tech article to learn more about how our data is being used.
We also helped shape IoT guidelines and data privacy policies with the City of New York as well as the City of Charlotte. We know the value that data can bring to citizens in terms of improving the quality of city living by informing better design and planning decisions, and giving citizens new insights into their cities; however, this value can only be realized if the data is collected in a transparent and honest way. We look forward to helping more cities navigate the complicated IoT landscape and shape their data privacy guidelines in 2017.
Early Adopter Program for Citizen Engagement Platform Launched Successfully
Our collaborations with cities around the world give us a unique opportunity to learn directly from mayors and city managers as well as council members and department directors about the challenges they face everyday. In 2016 we heard time and time again that the ability to communicate with citizens and visitors was always a top priority. So we designed, developed, and launched the Soofa Sign, the first of its kind solar powered outdoor communication platform which gives city leaders a means of communicating in a brand new way to their constituents. The Soofa Sign uses electronic paper, made possible through our partnership with fellow MIT company, E-Ink.
We couldn’t be more excited that Boston and Cambridge are the first two cities to install our sign since both cities were first to pilot the Soofa Bench two years ago. In early 2017 we will be announcing three more cities nationwide who will be next to install.
Grew Our Team and We’re Recognized by Government Leaders
We are excited to have added many new faces to our team to accelerate our product development and work to solve problems facing our clients even faster. As we plan for large scale deployments of the Soofa Sign this coming year, we are thrilled that Tim Piccirilli, former head of U.S. strategy for American Tower joined our team. Tim will be responsible for partnering with strategic cities, helping them work through all the necessary steps to install Soofa Signs to achieve the greatest impact for citizens and visitors as well as receive the maximum benefit to the cities themselves.
Our team shares the common vision of improving cities through technology. We know that sometimes brand new technology can be challenging for cities to install and support. Change is hard in a traditionally risk averse environment like local government. That said, we were honored to be recognized for our commitment to working with local government by Engaging Local Government Leaders (ELGL). We were awarded as one of the top 10 best companies serving local government in 2016.
Our Big Goals As We Look Ahead to 2017
This will be a transformative year for us. As we will be deepening and expanding our relationships with our clients using the Soofa Bench and Soofa Atlas Pro, we will also be working with some familiar and many new clients to introduce the Soofa Sign to the world. Our vision remains the same, only this year it is further reinforced by our experiences and network of amazing partners; as we set out to do back in 2014, we will continue to do in 2017 which is to create smarter, more social, and more sustainable cities where people are put first. We believe that by following this mission we will be able to create together with the most innovative cities in the world truly responsive cities unlike anything that exists today.
We hope you'll join us.