Soofa signs hit local streets at the end of June, providing an eco-friendly, community-centered alternative to billboards and bulletins. The three screens are located outside Somerville’s Innovation Hub (SomerNova) and will display news and events from throughout the community, created by the community.
Think of Soofa like a social media feed for the street, Marketing and Customer Success Manager Samantha Ward says—anyone can sign up to use it and create posts to be displayed on the solar-powered signs. In other locations, the signs have been used by local artists to showcase their work and by small businesses to advertise. Passersby can stop by the signs and learn about an upcoming event or something new going on in their community.
“The purpose of Soofa is to make communities more connected to each other and to make the experience of walking around the neighborhood more serendipitous,” Ward says.
The top 75 percent of the screen is dedicated to this “neighborhood news feed,” and the bottom 25 percent runs a schedule of local events.
It’s free to sign up for and submit posts to Soofa, though Soofa Talk account holders can pay a fee for their posts to run more frequently, like sponsored content on social media.
All content is subject to the Soofa community standards and “reviewed by a human,” Ward says. Political ads are not allowed on the Soofa signs.
Soofa originated at MIT, where Soofa co-founders Sandra Richter and Jutta Friedrichs developed the original product, solar-powered park benches that doubled as phone chargers. The Soofa signs have been installed in several Greater Boston neighborhoods, including Fenway, East Cambridge, and Allston. The expansion to Somerville comes as part of a partnership with SomerNova and Rafi Properties, as well as the Somerville Urban Lab, which encourages innovation “on city streets and in public and private spaces, both benefiting and receiving benefits from urban life,” according to the City of Somerville website.
Ed Krafcik, the vice president of city development at Soofa, says Soofa plans to add an additional sign this month and would like to expand to other spots in the city, including possibly Union Square or Assembly Row. Krafcik says hopes the Soofa signs will generate the attention and content necessary to be a relevant, engaging information source for the community.
“Our hope is that the signs are embraced by many different stakeholders,” Krafcik says. “We hope everyone walking by the sign that has something interesting to say will post it.”