Solar Powered Smart Bench

The days of simply using a bench to sit down for a quick minute are gone, at least in several Boston area parks. Solar Powered “Soofa” Smart Benches give you a place to sit, while also allowing you the opportunity to charge small gadgets using a USB. Smart benches include 2 USB ports and a built-in solar panel. Using Verizon’s 4G LTE network, anyone can connect their mobile device to the internet using the bench. When your battery gets low, you can simply sit down and rest for a bit while it charges for free and you check out the news on your phone.

solar powered smart bench Soofa

photo by Changing Environments Inc.

Developed by Changing Environments, a derivative of the MIT Media Lab, the solar benches are designed with a modern look to attract attention. Created by three women, Julie Friedrichs, Nan Zhao, and Sandra Richter, the smart bench is intended to encourage people to get out of the house into a more sustainable and smarter city. Ultimately, it encourages a shared social experience.

Of course, the ability to charge your phone for free simply by sitting on a park bench is quite impressive in itself, but that is not all a smart bench is able to do. The benches use Verizon’s network to upload location based information to the Internet. This includes current noise level data, air quality, and environmental data. In addition, the website will keep track of how many people have taken advantage of the bench for charging, the average number of users daily, and how many hours of solar charging it has provided.

solar powered smart bench creators

photo by Isabel Leon

By visiting the website,, you can access previously unavailable information about the area around the park bench. For example, if you want to run down to the park and read a book while catching a little sun, you could view the noise levels at different parks to determine the quietest spot to head to. There is no longer any reason to head out to the park to study in the great outdoors, only to find that the park is overrun with children playing loudly.

The first wave of solar powered smart benches were placed in several Boston area parks, including the Boston Common, Titus Sparrow Park in the South End, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Over time, smart benches will be introduced throughout the country. They will be placed in green areas, including parks, children’s outdoor playgrounds, and athletic fields.

solar powered smart bench install

photo by Changing Environments Inc.

There is little doubt that the innovative solar powered smart benches will have a positive impact on the communities they are in. As the result of no longer having to worry about running out of power, people can spend more time outdoors checking their email, watching a video, or reading the news. In addition, parents can give their children the opportunity to burn some of their excess energy at the playground, while they catch up with friends on Facebook or answer work emails.

At Changing Environments, their goal is to develop creative products designed to promote sustainability, while keeping the current generation’s primary needs in mind. The smart bench is just one of the products they have created that meet these guidelines. It will be amazing to see what they come up with next!


Solar Powered Smart Bench
was last modified: September 23rd, 2017 by Brian Peterson

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