Government Life Hacks

Park benches are typically pedestrian affairs, but they can be redesigned to offer greater practicality. We’ve already seen ideas such as the Water Bench, which enables outdoor seating to double as a water reservoir in drought-affected areas. Now Boston-based Soofa is turning urban furniture into solar-powered information centers and charge points for cities’ public spaces.

As well as offering a place to sit down in parks and city streets, Soofas are equipped with a box featuring solar panels and USB sockets for charging smartphones. This enables residents to keep their phone battery topped up when they’re out of the house or office, as well as giving passersby more incentive to sit and enjoy the view for a while. According to MIT Media Lab’s Changing Environments project, which developed the benches, sensors will also be added that monitor environmental metrics such as noise levels, air quality and crowdedness. That means users will be able to log onto the Soofa website to see if the park they plan to head to is peaceful or busy, if the bench is being used or if there are any free USB outlets.

There are currently 6 Soofas installed in Boston, with 4 more planned in the next few weeks. However, the team already has around 100 ready to go as and when local authorities are willing to invest. Are there other pieces of street furniture that could benefit from being equipped with smart technology?