Park benches at select locations in Boston are getting a 21st century solar-powered upgrade.

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab spin-off firm called Changing Environments has installed several solar-powered outdoor charging-station benches called Soofas. Each bench has up to two USB ports, but don't forget to BYOC (bring your own cable).

On top of letting visitors recharge their devices, these benches will also collect location-based information using on-board sensors including noise, temperature, and air pollution levels. Once collated, the Soofas will upload this environmental data through Verizon's 4G LTE network to a website for anyone to view.

Coming to a park near you

The city of Boston will deploy its first dozen high-tech benches next week at green spaces including Titus Sparrow Park, Boston Common, and the Rose Kennedy Greenway. Elsewhere there are Soofas set up at the campuses of Babson College and MIT.

The Boston Parks Department is also withholding one more Soofa it will erect at a location of the internet community's choosing. To lend their own suggestions the City agency asks residents to pin their own favorite spot on its website or tweet the location to @newurbanmechs by July 11.

In the future, Changing Environments plans to create benches with inductive charging elements so devices require no cable to charge. The MIT spinoff also plans to bring Soofas to other cities including San Jose, California, and New York.

Power up at the beach

While New Yorkers won't be able to reap the benefits of solar-powered Soofas quite yet, AT&T has set up several free solar-charging mobile stations at beaches and parks around the five boroughs.

The locations include Coney Island and Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, South Beach and Midland Beach in Staten Island, Orchard Beach in the Bronx, and Rockaway Beach in Queens. Along with the six beaches, the solar stations are situated at eight parks around the city with five stations in Central Park.

Just in time for the Fourth of July weekend, AT&T and the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation say the mobile charging stations will stay in place throughout the summer.

  • Read all about the Apple Watch while you charge up at a Soofa

Via The Verge