These solar-powered signs across Boston collect data from your phone

2024-03-28 / News / 3371 Sees / 0 Comments

Electronic, solar-powered signs have popped up all across the Boston area. Soofa signs are like a public bulletin, with up-to-date weather alerts and news on a paper-white display.

The signs also collect cell phone data from unsuspecting pedestrians.

Cambridge-based Soofa addressed the data collection Tuesday, after Brookline News initially reported on the sensor technology. Soofa clarified that no identifying information is collected, but said a person walking by the sign with a Wi-Fi-enabled device will be part of pedestrian trend trackers made available to municipalities.

What data do Soofa signs collect?

The sign collects a device’s unique address, which is encrypted before it’s sent back to Soofa, the company said. Soofa described the collection as “passive.”


“Recognizing the sensitivity surrounding data collection and privacy, Soofa has consistently maintained and prioritized transparency regarding our processes,” they said in a statement.

Soofa said that municipalities use the data collected to record pedestrian traffic flows to help with planning and development. The company said the data is not shared with a third party, just with the municipality. 

“In short, Soofa utilizes sensors in our kiosks to help cities optimize the use of their public spaces and better understand the volume of foot traffic in key areas of their city,” the company said. 

Where are the signs located?

There are dozens of Soofa signs in Brookline, but the digital bulletins are also in Watertown, Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, Everett, Malden, Chelsea, Revere, Winthrop, Framingham, Springfield, Haverhill, New Bedford, and Dedham, according to the company’s website.

Soofa, launched at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology a decade ago, is also in more than a dozen other states.



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