Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Boston Trying Out Solar-Powered "Smart Benches" In Parks

samzenpus posted about 2 months ago | from the hot-seat dept.

Power 119

An anonymous reader writes Through a partnership with a MIT Media Lab spinoff, Changing Environments, Boston has announced that it will install solar-powered benches in several of its parks that allow you to charge your cell phone. The bench has a USB outlet, and also collects and shares a wide range of data, including location-based information, as well as air quality and noise-levels. "Your cell phone doesn't just make phone calls, why should our benches just be seats?" said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. "We are fortunate to have talented entrepreneurs and makers in Boston thinking creatively about sustainability and the next generation of amenities for our residents."

cancel ×

119 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Interesting... (-1, Flamebait)

djupedal (584558) | about 2 months ago | (#47350867)

Boston apparently has no potholes that need to be repaired and they have surplus transit money to spend on curbside campsites....other cities can learn.

Re:Interesting... (4, Informative)

Hotawa Hawk-eye (976755) | about 2 months ago | (#47350923)

From the article, "City officials said the first units in Boston will be funded by Cisco Systems, a leader in development of smart city solutions, at no cost to the city."

As for why Boston got them first, rather than other cities around the country, my guess would be because they're a local product. "The high-tech benches were invented by MIT Media Lab spinoff Changing Environments, a Verizon Innovation Program."

But ugly as hell (5, Insightful)

mcrbids (148650) | about 2 months ago | (#47351267)

So, you have this boxy thing mounted in the middle of the park bench. The promo photo has two attractive people awkwardly trying to look chic sitting next to something about he size of an old-school VCR bolted to the middle of the bench. Of course, you'd naturally stick your 32 oz triple malt latte on it, and any 9 year old with angry daddy issues will beat it with the nearest rock. Meanwhile, it provides no shade at all.

Great idea, utter failure in implementation. Instead:

1) Put the solar panel (even if small) on a pole OUT OF THE WAY so it lets you sit on the !@# seat, and provides at least a modicum of shade. Better yet, made the overhead cover the length of the bench so the shade is usable and you get some protection from light rain.

2) Put the USB charge port under the seat. This provides automatic protection from accidental strikes and also doesn't provide an automatic target for 9 year olds with angry daddy issues.

As it sits now, it's practically a show case example of some bad engineering product a la Dilbert.

Re:But ugly as hell (3, Interesting)

ChadL (880878) | about 2 months ago | (#47351559)

It looks suspiciously like the smaller armrests placed in the middle of benches in order to prevent the homeless from being able to sleep on the benches, rather then just a poor design decision; but I don't really know what the thought process behind the decision was. I agree with you, a poor design that is also ugly.

Re:But ugly as hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47352425)

Saw an article on Digg the other day about design "enhancements" to park benches etc. that were done specifically do deter the homeless. The size and location of this solar panel could be very deliberate.

Re:But ugly as hell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47353017)

This will reach the new public, who will be told to call a toll free number or to go to a book store and get the book.

Re:But ugly as hell (2, Insightful)

nospam007 (722110) | about 2 months ago | (#47353025)

"So, you have this boxy thing mounted in the middle of the park bench."

Sit down for free, pay with the data from your phone.

Re:But ugly as hell (1)

spitzak (4019) | about 2 months ago | (#47353407)

You may not have been paying attention, but ALL public benches in all cities, worldwide, are getting middle armrests or other dividers to prevent homeless from sleeping on them.

Re:Interesting... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47350931)

I can tell you are a Tea Partier, with no concept of what investing some money wisely can produce over the long term. You can shove that tri-corner hat right up your ass.

Re:Interesting... (1)

CaptainLard (1902452) | about 2 months ago | (#47350973)

I can tell you are a Tea Partier, ...

Nahh, hes probably just a garden variety /.er who didn't RTFA in a desperate rush to get his knee jerk reaction in as a first post. (for closure, another commenter already pointed out this is not funded by the city)

Re:Interesting... (1)

just_a_monkey (1004343) | about 2 months ago | (#47351521)

Maybe not the initial cost, but who pays for maintenance and repairs? And maintenance and repairs ten years from now? And replacements, when they start breaking in a few months?

Re:Interesting... (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 2 months ago | (#47351629)

Maintenance and repair will be a city services guy throwing it in the back of a truck and taking it to a landfill.

Re:Interesting... (1)

CaptainLard (1902452) | about 2 months ago | (#47351851)

Try and make a joke and look what happens. Anyways....

Hopefully the city will pay for maintenance in 10 years. Because that will mean that the program was a huge success and is highly useful to it's residents. The program will probably have lived through more than one administration so theres a slightly smaller chance that the 10 year life was sustained entirely by cronyism. Or if you prefer, private industry will take over once they see how successful it is and all the risk has been mitigated by the city. They can charge what seems like a shockingly high rate upon introduction (see: privatized toll roads at rush hour) AND mine data. Either way, good for those who came up with the idea.

And if they all start breaking in a few months they probably won't be replaced. Instead they will be redesigned or cancelled. (leaving the door wide open for a flood of naysayerisim with that last sentence. Your welcome!)

Re:Interesting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47352597)

Right, and why now put a coin operation unit on it so they can make revenue like the parking meters.

Re:Interesting... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47351461)

Most Slashderpsters are just as stupid and arrogant as a teabagger, so no need to assume that about the poster.

Re:Interesting... (0)

mi (197448) | about 2 months ago | (#47350947)

Boston apparently has no potholes that need to be repaired and they have surplus transit money to spend on curbside campsites....other cities can learn.

Your sarcasm may be closer to target, than you realized: MBTA fees are going up (again) tomorrow [mbta.com] .

"The bench has a USB outlet, and also collects and shares a wide range of data, including location-based information, as well as air quality and noise-levels"

But what wouldn't a benevolent progressive government pay for the ability to collect more data? Especially from the phones voluntarily plugged-in by unsuspecting residents?

Re:Interesting... (2)

by (1706743) (1706744) | about 2 months ago | (#47351041)

But what wouldn't a benevolent progressive government pay for the ability to collect more data? Especially from the phones voluntarily plugged-in by unsuspecting residents?

From TFA:

The benches also connect wirelessly, using Verizon’s network, to the Internet to upload location-based environmental information, such as air quality and noise-level data.

I don't think they're trying to upload data through your phone without your knowledge, I believe the "cell phone charging" and "connects to the cell network" are unrelated, aside from the fact that both are supposedly powered via the solar panels.

Re:Interesting... (1)

mi (197448) | about 2 months ago | (#47351155)

I don't think they're trying to upload data through your phone without your knowledge

That would've been a relatively small problem and is not, what I meant. My suspicion is, they may try to collect data from the plugged-in phone. Call-logs, pictures, locations you've visited — all those things, police now need a warrant for [washingtontimes.com] — unless express consent by plugging your phone into their socket.

What data can be collected may depend on your device's model and settings, but apparata for extracting information from (uncooperative) phones exist, and police are already using them [go.com] .

and noise-level data

This too seems like a euphemism for recording conversations held by people resting on the "smart bench". Hardly unheard of [thefreelibrary.com] either... Sure, the self-identified "Liberals" of Boston would not approve of such snooping. But, if it is presented as merely "monitoring noise levels", then it is Ok.

Re:Interesting... (1)

Kremmy (793693) | about 2 months ago | (#47351365)

Stay safe. [int3.cc]

Re:Interesting... (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 2 months ago | (#47352297)

they may try to collect data from the plugged-in phone. Call-logs, pictures, locations you've visited

If they wanted to get data from your phone, wouldn't it be easier to just download it over the network while you're walking down the street ?

Re:Interesting... (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | about 2 months ago | (#47351049)

Plugging in constitutes consent. I wonder how hard it would be to add my own circuit, so it reprograms your phone or downloads all your pics?

Re:Interesting... (2)

durrr (1316311) | about 2 months ago | (#47353273)

If a public bench have a fleshlight attached, would you put your dick into it?
No?
Well, then don't put your USB into the digital equivalent.

i did this (4, Interesting)

ganjadude (952775) | about 2 months ago | (#47350883)

i did this in my backyard. except with a bar. I build a bar that had a canopy, on the canopy i attached a few panels, enough to power the lighting, a small stereo and a handful of USB chargers build into the bar itself. I dont have a large backup battery yet so its really only useful during the day time right now, however this makes perfect sense to do in parks, small scale solar is great for isolated outdoor areas

Re:i did this (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 2 months ago | (#47352031)

i did this in my backyard. except with a bar. I build a bar that had a canopy, on the canopy i attached a few panels, enough to power the lighting, a small stereo and a handful of USB chargers build into the bar itself. I dont have a large backup battery yet so its really only useful during the day time right now, however this makes perfect sense to do in parks, small scale solar is great for isolated outdoor areas

Florida has had solar-powered benches for ages.

On a typical summer day, they can sear unprotected flesh to medium-well done in under 5 minutes!

Re:i did this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47352513)

I did this with a shed at a friend's place, mainly so it had light at night and had power for a high effeciency dorm fridge (24 watts on average.) For USB charging, I stuck some marine-grade USB chargers on the wall [1]. A couple panels went on the roof, two deep-cycle batteries (about 300 or so amp-hours), a 300 watt PSW inverter provided enough 120VAC for the LED lights and the fridge, a no-name eBay MPPT controller [2] for the charger, and I put in a number of fuses to be on the safe side (including a catastrophic one in case of a short.) I could have just used a receptacle with USB ports, but I wanted GFCI protection at the outlet (which protected the lights as well.)

I would definitely do this on outbuildings. It isn't cheap, especially if you buy name brands, but once you put it in place (assuming things are installed right), it tends to work for years with little to no upkeep. The only thing that may need replacing are batteries every 5-10 years [3]. You can't run an air conditioner or electric heater from this type of setup, but it is good enough to keep lights on if need be.

[1]: Caveat: Need to have true 12 volt power with proper gauge wires or else voltage loss will not allow devices to charge, as the 12 volt to 5 volt is a DC-DC converter with no smart voltage regulation.

[2]: Caveat emptor with no-name model of charge controllers, but one of the sellers who shows the charge controller taken apart with the inductors in plain view has a decent product.

[3]: It does help if the batteries (must be AGM for safety reasons) are stashed in their own ventilated compartment with a thermostat to cut fans off when the temperature gets below 50 degrees (10 degrees C.)

Someone put gum in the outlets. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47350887)

Considering how much trouble cities seem to have maintaining a bench made of wood I question how long these are going to last. Honestly I give them a month before they're all broken or vandalized.

Re:Someone put gum in the outlets. (2)

Hodr (219920) | about 2 months ago | (#47350925)

or 3 days before all of the panels have been removed and sold by young entrepreneurs.

Re: Someone put gum in the outlets. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47351097)

Quick question for anyone, on the topic of vandalism: If someone theoretically poured water or Coke or something into a USB slot, what would happen? What are the worst possible forms of sabotage to expect to USB ports?

And yeah, are there any reasons why this won't be vandalized?

Re: Someone put gum in the outlets. (2, Informative)

Salgat (1098063) | about 2 months ago | (#47351715)

Waterproof connectors exist, and as far as shorting 5V to ground, it just needs a built in current limiter so that it won't drive enough current to damage anything.

Re: Someone put gum in the outlets. (2)

ChadL (880878) | about 2 months ago | (#47351751)

Liquids aren't hard to defend against, all it has are two wires with +5 volts and ground and a resistor across another two lines to tell the device its a dumb charging terminal (that doesn't need to be asked to draw more power). Some simple epoxy around the wires and a current limiter (common in just about every usb setup anyway) will take care of conductive liquids (by preventing them from doing damage to the electronics with the limit until the liquid drains out of the port).
Chewing gum stuffed into the USB port is likely the most common and hardest to solve problem there. I presume they would have designed the contacts to be resistant to chemicals that dissolve gum to allow cleaning, but still not going to be pretty.
Other then that, its a big metal box, assuming the solar panel is covered in suitably tough plexiglass I don't see too much in the way of likely damage (but I'm not a vandal, who likely have more experience in how to cause problems that aren't easy to fix).

Re: Someone put gum in the outlets. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47352093)

If there's an application that screams "wireless charging" than this is it. Even current limited, the electrons flowing through any liquid will corrode the contacts in no time. Gums will block the ports. Vandals will drive current into the port or short it out. Someone will put up similar devices with root-and-infect-your-phone embedded systems inside them (better use a condom or a USB cable with internally shorted data wires).

Re: Someone put gum in the outlets. (1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 2 months ago | (#47352385)

Some simple epoxy around the wires and a current limiter (common in just about every usb setup anyway) will take care of conductive liquids (by preventing them from doing damage to the electronics with the limit until the liquid drains out of the port).

If you want to damage the electronics, carry a stun gun and zap the port. Or carry a portable battery powered inverter and stuff 120VAC into the system. Conductive liquids aren't going to damage the electronics, they already have current limiting. But simple salt water will turn copper conductors into green goo pretty well.

Chewing gum stuffed into the USB port is likely the most common and hardest to solve problem there.

Superglue. One quick squirt with a dollar store tube. And if someone comes along right behind you and plugs in before it sets, that's even more fun.

but I'm not a vandal

We can tell.

Re: Someone put gum in the outlets. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47352497)

umm spray paint ?

Re: Someone put gum in the outlets. (1)

twocows (1216842) | about 2 months ago | (#47352603)

That reminds me of this [krebsonsecurity.com] post by Brian Krebs. How hard would these things be to set up with some nefarious device that installs a Trojan on any phone that connects? I imagine a well-crafted overlay panel wouldn't be too hard to put on one of these things, or they could come by at night and just install it internally. Sounds too dangerous to me, I think they're going to find this is more trouble than it's worth.

Re: Someone put gum in the outlets. (1)

rnturn (11092) | about 2 months ago | (#47353541)

Forget liquids, though those could be a problem. Call me pessimistic but I predict that within weeks of rolling these out, each bench will have inoperable USB ports because the little plastic tabs in the connectors will be broken off. (Does anyone make a USB port with the internal tab made out of something more durable like nylon?) After a year, these could just be ordinary benches with some decorative but unusable electronics attached to them.

but you can still grind on them right? (1)

goombah99 (560566) | about 2 months ago | (#47351807)

skateboarding can be a crime

how long before (1)

apcullen (2504324) | about 2 months ago | (#47350893)

how long before the NSA hacks these into spy-benches?

Re:how long before (0)

mi (197448) | about 2 months ago | (#47350965)

how long before the NSA hacks these into spy-benches?

What makes you think, they aren't from day one? The write-up talks about "collecting and sharing data", and TFA says:

The benches also connect wirelessly, using Verizon’s network, to the Internet to upload location-based environmental information, such as air quality and noise-level data. City officials said the first units in Boston will be funded by Cisco Systems, a leader in development of smart city solutions, at no cost to the city.

Khm... At no cost to the city?

Re:how long before (2)

bobdehnhardt (18286) | about 2 months ago | (#47350977)

NSA, or someone with (even) fewer scruples. It's only a matter of time before people start getting free malware with their charge.

Re:how long before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47350979)

What makes you think that wasn't an off the shelf feature?

Re:how long before (1)

ameline (771895) | about 2 months ago | (#47351473)

People are going to have to be smart (I know, it'll never happen) and use charge-only cables with the data lines physically disconnected.

Then you'll have to trust whoever makes those.

Re:how long before (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | about 2 months ago | (#47352295)

People are going to have to be smart (I know, it'll never happen) and use charge-only cables with the data lines physically disconnected.

It is the data lines that convey the information to the device that it is on a charger and may draw whatever current it needs. This is one of the biggest headaches of USB charging, when a company uses one method of signalling "charger" and another uses a different one. E.g., a resistor to ground or +5 on one of the data lines vs. a resistor of a certain value vs. a resistor of a different value.

Then there are oddball companies who decide they won't charge at all via USB unless they can negotiate a current from an active host (Sony, you know who you are), or won't charge if they CAN negotiate with the active host (Galaxy Tab3).

Then you'll have to trust whoever makes those.

It's pretty trivial to modify a standard USB cable to lose data connectivity. Every cable I've pulled apart, the power is red and black. Don't cut the red or black wires. Do cut the others. Then see if your device still charges before you take it to the bench to charge it there.

What will be interesting to see is if anyone comes up with a USB plug that has a 5 Ohm resistor attached between power and ground. Plug it in at dusk and the solar powered battery should be dead by the morning. (Use a cheap/dead USB stick for the connector.)

Re:how long before (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | about 2 months ago | (#47352537)

You do realize that most phones use them to for simple communication of how many ma the charger can provide. Sure newer designs do not require that but I don't see apple changing anytime soon. Several companies make "condoms" that allow and even adapt those signals yet stay safe.

Re:how long before (2)

Dishwasha (125561) | about 2 months ago | (#47351511)

Didn't you RTFA? They were built by Cisco.

Re:how long before (1)

apcullen (2504324) | about 2 months ago | (#47352119)

Didn't you RTFA? They were built by Cisco.

RTFA?... but isn't this slashdot?

Re:how long before (2)

Minwee (522556) | about 2 months ago | (#47351885)

Who did _you_ think was paying for them?

Also, did you know that you can charge your phone faster by enabling debug mode over USB? I read that on a flyer taped to one of those new benches in Boston...

Spike (1)

atheos (192468) | about 2 months ago | (#47350895)

Will these be with or with spikes?

"also collects and shares a wide range of data" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47350899)

That'd better not be from my phone...

Re:"also collects and shares a wide range of data" (0)

mi (197448) | about 2 months ago | (#47350975)

That'd better not be from my phone...

By plugging it in, you've agreed to the EULA...

Re:"also collects and shares a wide range of data" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47351159)

Nah. But is does have a "sniffer" to collect biometric data as you sit on it.

Does it also detect urine levels? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47350909)

Remember, this is a bench in a public park, aka the public toilet for local bums and winos.

Re:Does it also detect urine levels? (1)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about 2 months ago | (#47350949)

No, see, they'll follow the roll-out of the smart benches with the roll-out of Smart Bums, who for a nominal fee can tell you the weather, give you information about wind speed and direction with their natural stench, and even data on light levels (if it's dark, they'll be there, if not they won't).

Re:Does it also detect urine levels? (1)

bigfinger76 (2923613) | about 2 months ago | (#47350991)

Bad mod. Sorry!

Cities looking for bench obstacles (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47350951)

Cities are putting all kinds of things in the middle of benches to prevent the homeless from sleeping upon them. But free WiFi! Shiny shiny.

Re:Cities looking for bench obstacles (-1, Flamebait)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 2 months ago | (#47351037)

Except rather than expend the time and energy to get a job, these folks spend the time and energy to find ways to thwart these devices.

Someone who lived out there told me in Seattle they have/had benches with seat dividers of different heights so the homeless can't just slap a board on top and go to sleep. These folks who don't want to exert too much effort at a job found the time, energy and resources to fashion blocks which will make the benches level.

Apparently leeching off others is preferable to using the same energy to find work.

Re:Cities looking for bench obstacles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47351387)

I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that getting a job while homeless takes more energy than finding out how to level an uneven surface by adding random bits of whatever.

Re:Cities looking for bench obstacles (4, Insightful)

Kremmy (793693) | about 2 months ago | (#47351435)

When you're resorting to sleeping on benches, there's not a lot of people willing to hire you.
Or let you take a shower.
Or clean your clothes.
And people talk about you like you have a choice in the matter.
They put spikes and dividers on the benches so you can't sleep.
Have you ever tried to find a job when you haven't slept comfortably for god knows how long, haven't had a solid meal, haven't been able to clean yourself up?
Have you ever once, for a moment, stepped outside of your privilege and thought about what it actually means to be in that position, and what it honestly takes to get out it?
Take a nap.

Re:Cities looking for bench obstacles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47351995)

"stepped outside of your privilege and thought about what it actually means to be in that position, and what it honestly takes to get out it?"

Maybe you should ask Chris Gardner [wikipedia.org] , Michael Oher [wikipedia.org] or David Letterman.

Re:Cities looking for bench obstacles (3, Insightful)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 2 months ago | (#47352289)

Then you get welfare, and go to the homeless shelter. Duh! Free money and an address where you can receive mail, shower, sleep, etc. Homeless people who *want* to get better can get better. I know because I did it.

Re:Cities looking for bench obstacles (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 months ago | (#47352359)

Homeless shelter means rules. No booze, no drugs. Crazy people who get in fights are not welcome.

In other words, not employable for many more reasons than a clean change of clothes.

Re:Cities looking for bench obstacles (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 2 months ago | (#47352565)

Well, you can play that game all night. The mental asylums were all closed from ACLU lawsuits because it's cruel to imprison people who have committed no crime. Where do we put the crazies? Mental asylums? No way, they were all closed down!

Re:Cities looking for bench obstacles (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 months ago | (#47352979)

Well, the ACLU was cruel by throwing all the crazies out of their warm asylum beds and make them fend for themselves in Boston parks in winter.

Re:Cities looking for bench obstacles (2)

Sentrion (964745) | about 2 months ago | (#47352173)

I guess I don't understand how sleeping on a public bench is leaching off others when the bench is made available to anyone who wants to use it. Homeless people have to sleep somewhere, and if you don't provide accessible sleeping areas, humans are going to do what humans do naturally. And it's a bit presumptuous to talk about homeless people getting a job. Many homeless people have jobs, but the pay often isn't enough to afford a place to live. This is a problem created by urban fascism, such as city ordinances that prohibit new homes being built that are less then x,xxx square feet, zoning restrictions that prohibit small affordable apartment buildings from being constructed, or economic restrictions such as outlawing subletting. In many cities it can cost $10k to $20k just in permit fees and mandatory professional services before construction on a new home can even begin. Some homeless are lucky enough to own a car to sleep in, but cities crack down on this as. Police routinely drive homeless out from under bridges as well.

In the 1960's we declared war on poverty. Today we are raging war on the poor. The powers that be hate homelessness, not out of concern for the well-being of others, but because the existence of homelessness suggests that there is a problem, something fundamentally wrong with our economic and political systems. They have poured massive resources into programs and campaigns to convince the population that we have freedom of enterprise, that the invisible hand of the free market will correct any problems of supply or demand, that wages paid are always fair, that hard work is enough to earn a living and secure a retirement, that labor unions are communist surrogates, and that state intervention on behalf of the poor or working class will always result in disaster, while subsidies, tax cuts, and special protections for private businesses will trickle down to benefit all of us. The perpetual and growing phenomenon of homelessness suggests that we need to re-open our mental institutions, fund our community mental health programs, government jobs in areas where the private sector is not hiring, job training programs where needed, and worker protections that keep qualified individuals from getting jobs, such as employers checking credit reports to make judgments on employee reliability, or excluding candidates with arrest records but no convictions.

Homelessness also exposes the unfair way in which the market for housing is manipulated to boost profits for landlords and developers at the expense of citizens with little or no financial leverage. At the urban level cities are run like fascist corporations rather than communities of residents, with city officials spending lavishly to cater to private businesses that imply that their ventures will directly or indirectly increase tax revenue in the area in which they operate.

Re:Cities looking for bench obstacles (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 2 months ago | (#47352409)

I guess I don't understand how sleeping on a public bench is leaching off others when the bench is made available to anyone who wants to use it.

I imagine it's hard to use a public bench when somebody else is sleeping on it.

Until the first fattie. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47350955)

Simultaneously blotting out available sunlight and cracking the surface of the solar cells.

which bench is it? (1)

Mr Krinkle (112489) | about 2 months ago | (#47350971)

So which bench is it?
The one picture clearly has a giant solar panel lump, and plug, taking up a seat on the bench.
The other picture is just a bench, with a square underneath it?
Why wouldn't they have put a roof height solar panel? The big goofy thing on the bench is just asking to be used for a soda and food to get spilled on..
AS well as takes away from it being a bench..
Once it's had a few lunches and soda's spilled on it, I doubt the panel will be very efficient...

Yeah, confusing pics (1)

Radical Moderate (563286) | about 2 months ago | (#47351043)

The first pic seems to be a solar bench that hasn't actually had the solar part installed yet, why the hell would they use that to illustrate the story? And newspapers wonder why they're struggling....

Interesting idea, but these things will disappear about 10 minutes after Cisco gets tired of throwing money at them.

Re:Yeah, confusing pics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47351451)

If the batteries and such are on the ground, it might be that they disappear right after installed for the copper wiring in the bench, not to mention the battery and charge controller. The batteries would get sold, the battery acid is an essential chemical for meth, and any copper is an added bonus. The panels, if they could be retrieved, are also a few bucks at a fence, and even if the individual cells are broken out, those can be still sold.

On the other hand, the reason why stuff on a phone pole doesn't disappear is that it is out of reach, and meth-heads tend not to carry ladders around. So, mounting the solar panels, batteries, and battery charger on an awning overhanging a bench makes more sense, especially if the USB port is designed to be vandal resistant.

I assume the designers are aware of this... hopefully.

Re:which bench is it? (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 2 months ago | (#47351125)

A roof would have been a much better design. I'm not sure how many people who forget to charge their phones will remember to bring a USB charger to use while they wait for the bus. There will probably be an increase of lost phones on those benches too.

Um, yeah (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 2 months ago | (#47351023)

You're going to stick your USB *where* again?

A Boston public park bench USB port?

I'm not sure which kingdom of virii would be more nasty - animal, or electronic.

Do they have USB condoms?

Re:Um, yeah (2)

wizzy403 (303479) | about 2 months ago | (#47351289)

Actually, yes they do!

http://int3.cc/products/usbcon... [int3.cc]

A few other places make similar products. Blocks the data pins and just leaves the charging pins bare.

Re:Um, yeah (2)

fnj (64210) | about 2 months ago | (#47351381)

Do they have USB condoms?

I was about to say if they don't, they should, suggesting all you need is to have ground and VCC connected and D+ and D- left open - but that's not the way it works! You might get 100 mA that way, or you might get nothing, but you'll never get the full 1/2 amp or the extended 1.8 amps that way. You need enough smarts in your "condom" to negotiate the current.

But all is not lost. I second what the AC suggests: LockedUSB [lockedusb.com] . They have done the work and produced a neat little package, and it's worth the reduced price for what it does.

Re:Um, yeah (1)

itzly (3699663) | about 2 months ago | (#47352435)

Instead of worrying about the benches, wouldn't it be smarter to make a phone that doesn't send important information to any random charger ?

USB firewall (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47351025)

I wouldn't trust those park bench USB ports to not do something malicious to my phone (such as download data or install spyware). If I were ever to use one, I'd make sure to use the LockedUSB "firewall" which enables rapid charging while blocking the data lines. http://www.lockedusb.com

Re:USB firewall (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 2 months ago | (#47351657)

...or, I'll just keep plugging my phone in at numerous public places that offer free charging, thus leaving me free to leave my tinfoil at at home.

Re:USB firewall (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47351805)

Not everything is a conspiracy, idiot

http://www.zagg.com/community/blog/usb-charger-malware-iphone/

Re:USB firewall (1)

mythosaz (572040) | about 2 months ago | (#47352221)

Didn't say it was a conspiracy.

The risk/reward ratio on caring a "USB condom" for the rest of my life is greatly in favor of just plugging in my phone without paranoia at airports and coffee shops.

USB Dead Drop (1)

nullchar (446050) | about 2 months ago | (#47351051)

Sounds like the perfect place to install some nearby dead drops [wikipedia.org] .

Solar Freaking Benches (1)

OberonBob (903510) | about 2 months ago | (#47351091)

Solar Freaking Benches

If you're worried about being tracked/viruses... (3, Interesting)

Torp (199297) | about 2 months ago | (#47351101)

... just use a cheap USB cable from a cheap charger that only has the GND and 5V wires to save costs :)
No data exchange will be possible.
Might still be good to disinfect it after each use.

Re:If you're worried about being tracked/viruses.. (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | about 2 months ago | (#47351959)

You will wait quite a while to get a charge that way. The devices negotiate the charging current over the data lines. The default is either zero or 100 mA. Best to buy a purpose-made USB data isolator that negotiates a good rate with a built-in microcontroller, but doesn't connect the phone to the charger data lines.

You can build one using a few resistors. See Adafruit's MintyBoost.

Re:If you're worried about being tracked/viruses.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47351987)

Until the same tactic as a credit card skimmer is used.

dismal state of batteries (1)

Wycliffe (116160) | about 2 months ago | (#47351161)

I couldn't help but read this article and think about the dismal state of batteries if being able to charge
your cellphone in the park is necessary. I want a SMARTphone that I can be on all day and never goes
dead as long as I charge it every night. The old non-smartphones could go a week between charges,
now most cellphones can't even last a full day so things like randomly located 3rd party "charging ports"
are considered a useful feature. Battery life is hurting innovation. We need to work to fix this.

Re:dismal state of batteries (1)

Voyager529 (1363959) | about 2 months ago | (#47351767)

www.zerolemon.com

If you have a compatible phone (predominantly Samsung, though a handful of LG units are also in the mix), this solves the problem. It does keep your phone from being anorexically thin, but I personally don't mind the extra heft. I generally get between 2 and 3 days out of a charge. This past weekend it lasted an entire ten hour drive as a GPS Nav courtesy of Waze (meaning GPS receiver and screen on the entire time, both notorious power suckers), through areas with spotty cell reception. They support NFC and come with a case.

I'm not affiliated with them in any way besides being a super happy customer. It single handedly determined whether I was going to replace my recently-broken HTC One with a One M8 or a Note 3. It was a no-brainer.

USB ports will be jammed full of god knows what (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47351191)

from god knows where within the first 24 hours. Chewing gum, keystroke loggers, the sky is the limit!

Homeless Bait (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about 2 months ago | (#47351233)

There is an outside power outlet at my local grocery store meant to be used for maintenance tools. The homeless direct each other to the power outlet and it creates an unintended consequence. It increases the presence of chronic drunks and addicts as well as the mentally ill and those who can not get employment due to criminal records. It doesn't make shoppers feel safe at all and is a negative for the business as well. It does mean that some sort of charging stations need to be placed near the homeless camps. It might make a good church project if a power source and a can of beans could be maintained near the camps. As a general rule one can find the homeless in wooded areas very close to a grocery store that sells beer, wine etc.. If it is a 24 hour store they like it even better.

Re:Homeless Bait (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 months ago | (#47351353)

What you are looking for is the return of "shanty towns" and your city has laws specifically banning them to make sure the homeless can not be in one spit with even a ramshackle roof over their heads.

Re:Homeless Bait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47352995)

The first person who is able to make a locking power outlet (as in one that when the key is turned, no power goes to the switch) will make a mint. Locking covers get kicked off. So, the only thing one can do is switch the complete circuit off at the breaker inside.

A neighbor of mine learned this the hard way when he found a Nissan Leaf in his driveway plugged into his outdoor circuit, and that the car couldn't be moved by the police or towing company because there was not a notice that the driveway was a towaway zone. Even though the locking cover on his porch light was smashed and the vehicle plugged into it during SXSW weekend.

Germany is laughing at you Boston (1)

Dishwasha (125561) | about 2 months ago | (#47351251)

see title

Boston has solar powered trash cans, too. (2)

oneiros27 (46144) | about 2 months ago | (#47351255)

Okay, technically, they're trash compactors, so that they don't have to go and empty them as often:

http://www.cityofboston.gov/pu... [cityofboston.gov]

That seems to make more sense to me than a 'solar powered bench' which looks to me to be two seats as the whole middle of it's taken up by a box. (which might be the point -- it'd be less comfortable for a homeless person to sleep on it)

I've seen other solar "urban furniture" that made more sense to me -- things like bus stops w/ solar panels in the roof (to power lighting, up-to-date bus info ... and sometimes advertising).

I've seen other 'solar phone charging stations' that make more sense to me than having it take up 1/4 of a bench:

http://inhabitat.com/nyc/solar... [inhabitat.com]

http://www.gizmag.com/street-c... [gizmag.com]

http://bostinno.streetwise.co/... [streetwise.co]

Smart new trend in solar energy (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about 2 months ago | (#47351309)

Putting solar panels into things that are usually shaded by other things.

Why not make a roof for the bench out of solar panels instead?

Re:Smart new trend in solar energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47351379)

See the comment about blocking the homeless from sleeping on them.

Overselling it... (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 2 months ago | (#47351331)

"We are fortunate to have talented entrepreneurs and makers in Boston thinking creatively about sustainability and the next generation of amenities for our residents."

Oh dear god, any high school student can make a bench "solar powered".

Re:Overselling it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47353511)

This is more of the usual fluffed-up crap that comes out of the upper floors of the MIT Media Lab. The real innovation comes out of the bottom floor, and other labs around MIT campus, but there's a high barrier of entry to understanding and appreciating those projects so they don't get the same kind of press.

Re:Overselling it... (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about 2 months ago | (#47353765)

yes, slap a solar panel charged usb port on anything and it becomes "smart" and "sustainable" and "next generation"

Coming to a park near you, the Smart and Sustainable Porta-Potty and the Smart and Sustainable Hot Dog Stand

Maybe because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47351341)

They will be stolen like gold plated dog feces?

This is a security nightmare waiting to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47351765)

People don't understand how USB works and the security implications of connecting devices they can't and shouldn't trust.

Park benches? (1)

PPH (736903) | about 2 months ago | (#47352151)

Finally, a new definition for hobo power [urbandictionary.com]

Re:Park benches? (2)

NemoinSpace (1118137) | about 2 months ago | (#47352673)

Aqualung will be pleased.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?