Smart Solar Benches Are Appearing In Boston’s Parks

By Adriano Pilloni | Energy, Urban Design

Smart, Sustainable Innovations

Innovation is a process through which we solve a problem or meet market needs, and so innovation generates social benefits. By understanding people’s needs and problems we can develop the best possible solutions and continue to reach milestones.

Go green”, an expression that highlights the growing demand for more sustainable products, is a trend that innovators can’t ignore if they want to meet people’s expectations and make their products more attractive. The following infographic, from HH Global Marketing Services, shows how customers are sensitive to the CO2 emissions issue.

CO2 Consumer Stats

CO2 Consumer Stats. Image via HH Global Marketing Services.

Other leading innovation trends are linked with the opportunities provided by the widespread adoption of smartphones (1.75 billion users worldwide) and by the cloud’s advantages. Furthermore, the rising interest around the internet of things (IoT), a neologism referring to the Internet’s extension to the world of objects, is no coincidence and is driving the development of many global innovations.

Soofa, The Solar-Powered Bench

All these elements have been well combined by the three women who founded Changing Environments, an MIT’s Media Lab spin-off, when they developed Soofa.


Soofa and its founders, Jutta Friedrichs, Sandra Richter, and Nan Zhao. Image via Yahoo Tech.

Soofa, visible in the image above, is a smart solar bench that sustainably solves the outdoor charging problem that comes along with using devices.

The smart solar bench is also equipped with sensors that enable the collection of location-based information about surrounding air quality and the noise levels. Then, it uses the internet to send this data to the cloud and make the real-time information available on Soofa’s website.

This project has been highly endorsed by Boston’s Mayor Martin J. Walsh who appreciates, as reported by the Boston Globe article, how this urban furniture is sustainable and provides a useful service.

Boston’s parks are the first venues benefiting from the “green smart benches”, and the installation of the first smart solar benches will be funded by Cisco Systems with no cost for the city. It’s also possible to submit bench name suggestions by completing a form on the website.

In an Yahoo Tech interview Sandra Richter, one of the inventors, said they want to make cities updated for our generation. She also explained the need they wanted to solve: “One trait we have is we run around with our phones all the time, and they die every five minutes. So for us it’s really important to be charged up all the time and be connected to each other.”

Thanks to the voice their work is gaining, it’s not difficult to image that many other cities will adopt Soofa and, hopefully this innovation can inspire others to find ways to improve cities’ sustainability and quality of life.

Check out the video of Mayor M. J. Walsh speaking with Sandra Richter about the product.

Smart solar benches are coming to Boston. Image via Soofa.

About The Author

Adriano Pilloni
Adriano, 25 years old, is a Master Graduate in Environmental Economics and Development from Rome Three University (Italy). During his education he developed a deep knowledge on Economics and a keen interest on Economic Theory with particular regard to energy markets, sustainability, environmental and agricultural issues. He has been proactive during his university time doing many projects and being elected by the students as Advisor of the Economics Dept. of his University. With two other students he developed a project on Food Sustainability which has been selected in the top 30 of the international Barilla contest "BCFN YES! 2013". He did the 2014 European edition of Extreme Blue, IBM's premier internship program for both graduate and undergraduate students. Now he is working as Junior Power and Gas Analyst at GDF SUEZ Italy.