E-Paper Display Totem Firm Soofa Says US Installed Base Tripled In 2021

March 21, 2022 by Dave Haynes

Cambridge, MA-based Soofa seems to getting some traction with its distinct and somewhat more genuine take on smart city digital displays – with 41 cities across 15 U.S. states now using the solar-powered, large format e-paper totems. The company says its U.S. footprint tripled in 2021.

“We’ve had rapid growth over the past year as cities look for ways to increase communication with their constituents as well as to deploy sustainable technology in their communities,” says Jason Young, CEO of Soofa, in a press release announcing several upgrades. “City communication has become even more vital during the pandemic. It’s important that we continue to innovate and to enhance our platform to meet the evolving needs of our city partners to help inform and enrich their communities.”

The great majority of the smart city displays being marketed and installed on city sidewalks and pedestrian plazas exist for advertising purposes, and are bankrolled, deployed and maintained by media companies. The large format, outdoor-rated LCDs used by media companies are in hardened enclosures that may include free WiFi and IoT sensors, and may have things like interactive directories and hyperlocal community information. But they exist to show ads, and smart is a selling feature that can, at least in theory, counteract citizen opposition to what they may regard as yet more advertising clutter. 

Soofa, which came out of MIT’s famed Media lab, can do booked advertising and make that its core reason for being, but local governments are using these much more, or entirely, as tools for  hyperlocal and real-time information. The displays are powered by a solar array at the top of the totems, meaning they can be placed based on where they make the most sense, as opposed to where power can be brought to them. So the costs of putting them in are lower and the only operating costs are connectivity, and monitoring and updating them. The trade-off is that e-paper displays are monochromatic and don’t support motion graphics.

Soofa says upgrades to its Signs include:

The company also notes that because its e-paper supplier is E-Ink, the screens are “dark sky-approved” by the International Dark Sky Association, a recognized authority on light pollution.  

I did a podcast with Soofa in early 2021 …

Leave a comment