No longer should we have to beg a block’s worth of bartenders to let us charge our dead phones. What if USB outlets were treated like public property instead?
Thanks to a trio of hardware designers and engineers who generated the idea at the MIT Media Lab, Boston is now turning to cute benches that can charge mobile devices. With 10 already installed in parks across the city in a pilot project, the solar-powered “Soofas” mark a new milestone in smart urban furniture.
“My first reaction was that at least in some respects the ‘digital divide’ idea was collapsing,” says Erkan Saka, an assistant professor of communications at Bilgi University in Istanbul. “At least in terms of connecting the web, all citizens in Turkey are finding ways to connect.”
The shape of the umbrella was also inspired by nature. “The power of solar energy inspired us to design this synthetic cloud,” Widdershoven says. The form is aerodynamic, so the umbrella won’t blow over in strong winds, and the fabric is waterproof, so it can last as long as possible.