The future is looking brighter for solar energy at the University of Miami, with a solar-powered charging station and bench set to come to campus soon. The technology will allow two people at a time to sit and charge their smartphones and other small devices, during the day and night.
The university will be one of the first 100 users of the new technology, called a Soofa, a venture-backed startup out of MIT. And the company’s founders say Miami is the perfect place for it.
“We are excited about the prospect of getting into the market in a sunny and nice region where there’s basically no winter,” says Soofa CEO and cofounder Sandra Richter. “This will showcase the great potential of the bench.”
The Soofa was one of the innovations recently on display in Wynwood at a gathering of urban tech inventors:
Soofas work by collecting power through a 30-watt solar panel and transmitting it through USB ports. Behind the scenes, Soofas collect information about air quality, temperature, noise levels, and other data, which is shared on the product's website. Because the bench also has an interior battery, people can continue to charge devices at night, long after the sun sets.
Richter says UM expressed interest in obtaining a Soofa late last year, when the company was running a limited pilot program in Boston. The university will start with one bench — in a "prominent place" — though the student council has expressed interest in bringing more Soofas to campus down the line. The company is rolling out more than 100 Soofas across the nation.
“Urban dwellers tend to be young professionals or students always on the move and very connected to their peers and the internet,” Richter says. “When they’re out socializing or drinking coffee, they don’t want to go sit inside just to charge their phone.”