The Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics is installing Soofa Signs’ digital outdoor media platform across the city, enabling communities to post feedback.
The City of Boston is installing neighbourhood newsfeeds across a number of diverse communities as part of the Beta Blocks project, run by the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics.
Screens will be located in Codman Square, Chinatown, and Lower Allson, enabling community members to be more involved in how new urban technologies should be used in their neighbourhoods.
MIT start-up Soofa has partnered with research organisation, the Engagement [email protected] College and architecture, urban design, and research firm, Supernormal, for the project. It was chosen as the first tech start-up to be evaluated through the Beta Blocks process.
Typically, community members in cities around the world don’t get to be a part of the important conversations that decide how and why technologies are procured and installed. Beta Blocks seeks to change this by inviting community members to share their perspectives.
Soofa Signs claims to be the first digital outdoor media platform that is open for the general public to post to. They are located in highly walkable locations and are designed to be seen everyday by locals and visitors alike, so the content is always fresh and relevant.
Tech Explorers are members of the community appointed by Beta Blocks who are responsible for gathering input and providing feedback. “These tech explorers are helping us determine the best locations for our signs as well as work closely to inform our content strategy and gain insights from neighbours and visitors to the neighbourhood as they walk by the signs,” explained a Soofa spokesperson, who added that citizens can post their comments through Soofa Talk and Soofa moderates the content.
“We are also rolling out templates to make it easier for people to post who may not have a ton of design experience.
“Some of the most popular things we see people post are announcements about neighbourhood events like farmers markets and street fairs, as well as advertisements for upcoming community meetings and ways to get more engaged in the neighbourhood. Many artists also use our signs to share their work and musicians frequently share song or album releases, and upcoming shows nearby."
“Some of the most popular things we see people post are announcements about neighbourhood events like farmers markets and street fairs, as well as advertisements for upcoming community meetings"
Having already partnered with community leaders and local businesses in some of Boston’s most active and engaged neighbourhoods, including Fenway, Ashmont, Allston, and Seaport, Soofa said it knows how valuable community input and support is in the development of smart city technology.
“We’re thrilled to have been invited to work with the tight-knit communities from Codman Square, Chinatown, and Lower Allston. These neighbourhoods are such unique and inspiring places,” said Dan Schwartz, director of government affairs, Soofa
“They are filled with families that have been residents for decades, new residents, and many visitors stopping by for an event.”
Soofa’s partnership goes back to its launch out of MIT in 2014 with the wi-fi-enabled Soofa smart bench. It worked closely with the Office of New Urban Mechanics to deploy the solar-powered benches across the city and placed its first sign in Faneuil Hall and later in neighbourhoods such as Fenway, Allston, and Ashmont through a pilot agreement. It has installed other signs in locations such as Seaport and Kendall Square through partnerships with real estate developers.
Signs are funded through local advertising and sponsored content. The Soofa Sign is currently deployed in over two dozen neighbourhoods in Boston and Atlanta and they will be appearing in Miami-Dade County later this year after winning the City of Tomorrow Challenge sponsored by Ford Motor Company.
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