Whilst traversing the bustling city streets and parks you might stumble upon the "Soofa" bench, this urban furniture is way beyond the popular park bench. The Soofa allows pedestrians to not only take a rest but with its solar powered table they can also sustainably charge their phone while resting their Converses’. But the smart part is that this bench collects data on how many people come to the area. Now city planners can finally analyze public space use in their community and use this data to benefit citizens like design better parks with facilities that are really needed and wanted by the people, from optimizing operations to better managing public events.
Even better the data collected is anonymous so there is no invasion of privacy. How would you prefer your city monitoring public space or events performance? While you are relaxing on a bench, chatting with a friend, maybe just taking in the sights and sounds, OR by having clipboard shoved in your face asking you tons of questions?
Look around, there could be a Soofa near you, they don’t just inhabit NYC, they are cropping up all over the place, 65 cities across 5 countries no less.
In South Korea, their first smart city, Songdo, was built from scratch using IoT and big data to raise the quality of life. Songdo's own Central Park utilizes tidal and solar power, with sustainable irrigation systems, free Wi-Fi is available to all from many poles also equipped with CCTV and siren bells to offer emergency assistance to its visitors. All this data is fed into a central command center operating 24 hours a day and already they have saved a life. A lone jogger suffered a heart attack in the park at dawn and managed to hit a nearby siren bell before collapsing, alerting officials who could quickly assess the situation and get an ambulance to the precise location within minutes.
In the 80’s Starship built their city on rock and roll, but today's cities are being built on bits and bytes. I find it exciting how data can be used by city officials to start to better understand how their open public spaces are being used which will then lead to better designs improving these spaces for all. It is said that urban green spaces are the lungs of the cites so let’s take a deep breath and get to work.