New Solar-Powered Charging Stations Installed
Oak Park, Illinois, August 4, 2016 - Taking some time to recharge on a park bench is about to take on a whole new meaning in Oak Park. Currently a spot to sit and relax, several park benches will also soon become a place to charge your cell phone. On Thursday, the Park District of Oak Park installed a solar-powered charging unit, called a “Soofa Core,” adjacent to park benches in Scoville Park. Requiring only a USB cable, the Soofa in provides a free public charging station and is the first of four devices like it to be piloted in parks in Oak Park.
The devices, developed by Cambridge start-up Soofa, also keep track of how many people visit the parks by counting wi-fi enabled devices. The charging devices and sensors won’t be able to gather any personal information, but they will help the Park District better understand overall park use patterns. This data will help staff optimize daily park maintenance and offer valuable information about the level of activity taking place in parks to assist with permitting, grant applications, and long-range planning.
“Technology and smartphones have become part of our day-to-day lives. With this new Soofa equipment, it only takes 4 bolts in the ground and a little sunlight to provide a new service to park users as well as new data to help the Park District better serve the community,” said Bobbi Nance, Senior Manager of Strategy & Innovation for the Park District of Oak Park.
Oak Park is the first community in Illinois to incorporate Soofa technology. As part of the Park District pilot program, the agency is installing a charging station next to benches in Scoville Park, Lindberg Park, Taylor Park, and Mills Park with all expected to be up and running by August 12. Staff will work with Soofa to provide feedback about the equipment and will benefit from lessons learned in other communities as well. Based on their use by park visitors and the results of the initial pilot, the Park District could expand the program in the future or add other Soofa technology that pairs the solar-powered charging stations with different functionality like public wi-fi or environmental monitoring.
"From a community that really loves its parks to an innovative leadership team and staff, the Park District of Oak Park has everything we look for in a beta city partner. We are thrilled to work together with the District during this pilot phase to help create smarter parks for the community to enjoy," said Sandra Richter, Soofa CEO.
The Soofa Cores are the latest of several environmentally-friendly efforts implemented by the Park District this summer including the recent opening of the Austin Gardens Environmental Education Center incorporating solar panels, rain water harvesting, and geothermal technology and the addition of a cistern to capture and reuse splash pad water for athletic field irrigation in Longfellow Park.
“I am thrilled with this addition to our park system. The Park District of Oak Park constantly strives to find ways to protect our environment and serve our residents in the most innovative ways possible,” said Jan Arnold, Executive Director of the Park District of Oak Park.
Founded by a team of female engineers and designers from MIT and Harvard, Soofa is committed to reinventing overlooked but ubiquitous city infrastructure. The company's flagship product, the Soofa Bench, was piloted with the City of Boston in 2014. Based on the product's success, over 150 Soofa Benches as well as Soofa Core standalone charging hubs have been installed by innovative early adopters in 18 U.S. states, 2 Canadian provinces and 5 countries.
Now that park users will have the ability to extend the battery life of their mobile devices, the Park District is holding a #SpotTheSoofa smartphone scavenger hunt to celebrate the new installations from August 12-22. To learn more and take part in this free event, visit www.pdop.org/SpotTheSoofa.
To learn more about the Park District of Oak Park’s Soofa pilot project and other agency pilot programs, please visit www.pdop.org/innovation.
For more information about Soofa, please visit www.soofa.co.
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