Editor’s note: this is a guest post by Ryan Sides.
By now, we’ve all grown accustomed to packing our charger with us at all times. Maybe we stash multiple chargers in the locations we frequent most or shamelessly proposition cashiers, restaurant servers and total strangers into letting us “plug in” for a second. We know it’s insane, but we also know there’s just nothing worse than leaving the house with a dying phone, or the grand-daddy of unfortunate situations, a dead phone that you actually need to use. Perhaps it’s this very phenomenon that’s prompted a recent trend in stationary outdoor furniture or “Urban Furniture” that’s taking hold in Boston as a functional solution to all of your phone charging woes.
To be fair, there have been a few conscious efforts in making charging less of a hassle before urban furniture. Take credit card lock-and-keyed phone charging stations for example. You may have already seen them in bars and clubs. Essentially, it’s an electronic cubby where, after swiping a credit card, you’re given access to one of six or seven charging ports and charged a flat rate to charge your device. Once charged, you simply swipe the same card again to remove your phone in a simple process of collateral. These stations are a hit with amusement parks, airports, and even standalone rentals at special events. They’re also gaining traction in select McDonald’s and Starbucks locations, in the form of Duracel Power Mats around the country.
However, some Boston-area parks will be taking things one step further with the introduction of “Soofa’s.” These solar-powered benches will be distributed to various locations around the city and will not only charge your phone and other mobile devices, but will also provide location-based information like noise levels, temperature, air pollution levels and alerts. All of this information will be transmitted over the Verizon network to the Soofa Website, allowing users to select a charging location in their most optimal environment.. Whether you’re working, reading, catching up on social media or simply reflecting for a moment you needn’t worry about putting a strain on your battery life.
The ingenious and surefire designs of the Soofa come courtesy of of Changing Environments, a development company comprised of three native Bostonian women, two of whom are MIT affiliates and the other a Harvard Grad specializing in art, design and the public domain. In other words, these installments aren’t just functional, they’re aesthetically pleasing too.
Soofas actually made their debut at the White House’s first ever “Make Faire” for the “National Day of Making,” and have since seen a few prototypes rolled out last winter. Expanding their reach beyond Boston, Changing Environments has set their sights on San Jose, California, and New York City as potential Soofa sites. One major component of the Soofa is their hefty pricetag, $3000, which is a significantly more expensive piece of furniture than a traditional bench. However, participating cities have the option of paying in monthly installments for a sustainable energy and data source that benefits their citizens.