Here’s one of the first sightings in the wild of a 32-inch color epaper display being used for public information.
An MIT Media Lab spinoff called Soofa has started installing public information displays in Boston, running off nothing but solar power and updated using a 3G M2M wireless connection.
Developed by Soofa, and running on Eink displays and underlying technology developed by the Slovenian firm Visionect, the signs provide real-time information on local events and city services at Boston’s pedestrian epicenter, Samuel Adams Park, which is located outside of Faneuil Hall.
The sign is a companion to a Visionect-powered wayfinding sign unveiled on City Hall Plaza this summer. The new Soofa sign – not clear how many are out there – went up in late September.
Soofa says its signs are designed to deliver community content, and will show a mix of municipal information, transit updates, advertising for businesses operating within a general proximity of the installed sign, and citizens’ input.
“Innovation is fast to market when you have the right partners in place who work side by side. With Visionect we can develop a robust and sustainable solution with limitless possibilities on applications,” says Sandra Richter, the start-up’s CEO.
It’s the second product for Soofa, which has solar-powered public benches in the parks of some 20 cities. the benches double as smartphone charging stations, with little USB charging ports integrated with the solar arrays on the bench.
The next market for the signs is nearby Cambridge, home to MIT and Harvard. The company then hopes to expand into other markets.
Having seen already dead or hurting smart screens on the streets of New York last week – two of the first three I saw were black or had error messages – it’s clear, yet again, that putting complicated, finicky and sensitive display technology out in the public is a big technical challenge.
These Soofa units certainly have less visual flash and sizzle about them, but they also go in with four anchor bolts and that’s it, whereas typical “smart cities” stations involves a lot of infrastructure. I like the physical design.
That said, the displays are not all that large, relatively speaking, and don’t support motion graphics. They’re digital posters.