The average American spends five hours on their mobile device per day—and outdoor recreation is suffering for it. Per one survey, more than half of Americans polled reported spending under five hours outdoors per week. There’s already a market for outdoor smart tech, and now some public parks are determined to get people back outside by becoming more tech-friendly. Dozens of cities across the country have brought public spaces into the modern age with everything from free Wi-Fi to device charging stations. Here are some of the more notable smart tech features being integrated into public parks today.
Smart lighting has taken the smart home tech world by storm, so it’s only natural that it would find its way into the public sector, too. One of the most popular trends among cities looking to revamp public areas is the use of smart lights.
For example, the local government in Yuma, AZ, is working with an Internet of Things (IoT) company to turn streetlights into smart, energy-efficient beacons to light up the whole city and make public areas safer after dark.
Public Wi-Fi is an increasingly sought-after feature for public parks. With access to high-speed internet, locals are much more likely to visit parks and plan activities outside. The above mentioned Yuma lighting initiative pulls double duty; Wi-Fi nodes attached to light poles will create hotspots in public areas, bringing accessible connectivity to an area where internet costs close to $50 per month. San Francisco is also ahead of the curve when it comes to smart tech; the city provides free Wi-Fi access to select public parks and areas.
One of the more eye-catching innovations to modern parks is the smart bench. Soofa, an IoT company based out of Cambridge, MA, invented a bench that is solar powered, can charge phones (or other USB devices), and collects environmental data.
Boston teamed up with Soofa in 2014 to bring smart benches to its public parks, and others, like Austin, have followed suit.
Another visually appealing feature for parks today is the interactive kiosk. The Port of San Diego commissioned IKE Smart City to create 30 smart kiosk stations for waterfront visitors, equipped with local updates, weather alerts, educational info, and more.
Informational kiosks or signage help visitors (especially younger, digital-native visitors) engage with their location in a more familiar, tech-driven way. They’re a great way for parks to hybridize tech with the outdoor experience.
Tech doesn’t always have to be front and center to improve outdoor experiences. Environmental sensors that track things like weather and crowd density give city planners insight into public spaces and allow them to better adjust and design parks.
Chicago is one city working with these sensors, creating what’s termed the “Array of Things.” The sensor rollout started with a few downtown locations but has since expanded to dozens of public areas throughout the metro area.
Smart technology already has a big impact in the home and now, with all of these modern updates, it’s an exciting time to watch smart technology developments in commercial applications as well.