It a great and sunny day and you decide to head outdoors for some alone time with your tablet or phone. But alas, in just a few short hours your device's battery gives you its dying cry. Time to head home and plug in? That might no longer be necessary if Soofa's solar-powered benches become a public fixture just like, well, non solar-powered benches.
It sounds simple and practical enough. The bench harnesses the power of the sun and stores up those much desired voltages, just in time for the next person to charge his or her mobile device, hopefully without consuming it all up for the next one in line. Easy, convenient, and will most definitely be a magnet for gadget lovers, not to mention one or two charging socket hoggers.
The charging station feature alone would probably be enough to make this bench interesting, but it doesn't stop there. The bench also has sensors that can collect noise levels, air quality, and weather data. Cue privacy concerns. The thing about the data collected by these benches is that they will be uploaded to Soofa's website for everyone to see. You might wonder why, but there's a practical use for that, aside from research numbers. Planning a trip to your favorite Soofa spot but unsure whether it's currently occupied or if the weather is good enough? Just visit Soofa.co to check it out.
Soofa is the brainchild of Changing Environments, a startup spin off from MIT Media Labs. Currently, the only benches being installed are in Boston and in Cambridge Massachusetts. There is no data feeding into the website just yet, but once everything has been set up, the website will show data such as the number of devices charged, the number of people who visited, how much power was supplied for the day, and some other bits and piece of information that may or may not be of use to run of the mill mobile users.
You might wonder what the entire purpose of Soofa is. It turns out it's a social one as much as it is a technological one. Co-founder Jutta Friedrichs says that computers have imprisoned users inside their houses, connected only by Internet tubes. It is high time to get them back out in the sun, interacting with flesh and blood humans. And if Starbucks is any indication, what better way to coax them out than by providing free charging in places where humans normally converge.