‘Soofas’ Come to Boston: Cell-Charging Benches Are Wired for Success

‘Soofas’ Come to Boston Cell-Charging Benches Are Wired for SuccessYou might say that Changing Environments, Inc., a cutting edge start-up under the helm of Sandra Richter, Co-founder and CEO, is a bench player — but only in the most positive way.

The company has designed an innovative bench which will make its debut in several Boston parks ad locations this summer.

Through a partnership with a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab spinoff, Changing Environments is set to roll out solar-powered benches that allow users to charge their cell phones.

The benches have a USB outlet, though it’s up to the visitor to bring his or her own cable to plug in the phone.

Interestingly, the benches are configured and wired to also collect and share a range of data, including location-based information, as well as air quality and noise-level data.

The high-tech benches — named “Soofas” — will be deployed in green spaces this month, including in Titus Sparrow Park in the South End, the Boston Common, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

The Soofa was highlighted in early July at the White House Maker Faire in Washington, D.C., a gathering of innovators and entrepreneurs.

The high tech bench was also featured at the O’Reilly Solid conference in San Francisco in May. The conference is devoted to the current convergence of hardware + software. It focuses on trends in robotics, Maker DIY, the “Internet of Things,” wearables, smart grid, industrial internet, advanced manufacturing, and frictionless supply chain issues.

In the meantime, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, thinks the benches will be a hit.

“Your cell phone doesn’t just make phone calls, why should our benches just be seats?” said Walsh. “We are fortunate to have talented entrepreneurs and makers in Boston thinking creatively about sustainability and the next generation of amenities for our residents.”

“Soofa is the first step into Smart Urban Furniture. The possibilities to update the city for the mobile generation are endless and long overdue,” said Richter. “So are more female-lead startups which is why we hope to be a role-model for women all over the world to found cool companies like Nan Zhao, Jutta Friedrichs and I did.”

More than half of the world’s population lives in cities. Our lifestyle is mobile. We move, we travel, we share,” Richter explained. “Our generation is online anytime, anywhere, eager to connect to others in the city all over the world. All we need is a charged smart phone, an Internet connection and the right space to work, play and relax. Our vision is to create those spaces for the mobile generation. We are starting with a bench.”