Edmonton installs solar-powered benches that charge smartphones

The City of Edmonton is setting up two solar-powered charging benches, known as Soofa benches. June 7, 2016. Credit: City of Edmonton

No one likes their phone battery dying while out and about and now people in the Edmonton core can take advantage of solar-powered public benches — as long as you’re carrying a charge cord.

The City of Edmonton is setting up two solar-powered charging benches, known as Soofa benches.

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The benches can charge mobile devices and have environmental monitoring equipment inside. The benches are free to use, and are equipped with USB ports. The benches use sunlight to power the outlets, and stores energy so it can even be used at night.

One will be placed at Churchill Square (named “Winston” by staff at the Kids in the Hall Bistro), while the other bench will go in the Muttart Conservatory courtyard (dubbed “Soofia”).

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Urban development company Soofa is a startup from the MIT Media Lab (an interdisciplinary research laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology). The company has also developed a smart sign intended to be used to display information in parks and at bus stops.

The smart bench was launched in Boston and now can be found in 12 U.S. states and five other countries. Edmonton is the first Canadian city to install the benches.

“As a proven leader in promoting and acting on sustainability and innovation initiatives that directly benefit its citizens, Edmonton is the perfect home for our solar-powered smart benches,” said Sandra Richter, co-founder and CEO of Soofa.

The city revealed the benches during Environment Week, saying they “align well with the city’s environmental goals.”

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“These benches provide a visible and tangible solar-power experience for citizens,” Mark Brostrom, Edmonton’s director of city environmental strategies, said.

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