Earlier this month, I was excited to introduce our community and media to our new smart bench that will charge mobile devices using only the power that the sun provides. Newmarket is the first municipality in Ontario to have this smart furniture, called a Soofa Bench, which is now located at our Riverwalk Commons.

The Soofa Bench is the brainchild of three female entrepreneurs out of MIT Media Lab and Harvard University and was profiled at President Barak Obama’s inaugural White House Maker Faire in June 2014. The Wall Street Journal referred to the Bench as one of the “six wonders of the Maker Faire.” And now, thanks to the innovative and progressive minds in Newmarket, we have one here in our own backyard.

Looking ahead, our Bench will very shortly have the capability to track analytics and share the information back with the Town through a secure mobile network. We’ll be looking at things like how often the Bench is used, the foot traffic in the area and the amount of charging time the Bench provides. We’ll get a good snapshot of how our community feels about it and we’ll use that information to plan for the future.

As part of this, Newmarket is now the first Canadian municipality to join the Soofa Beta Cities Network. Through the network, we will be connected with cities like Boston, LA, New York City and Austin. We’ll work together to share information and will advise Soofa on future product development to help solve real issues for cities and towns, big and small.

Newmarket’s focus on leading-edge innovation is very quickly becoming our stamp and contribution. It will remain our legacy as we move forward in an age and generation that cares deeply about the Internet of Things, technology, smart solutions to real-life problems and environmental sustainability.

And perhaps even more crucial than our focus on innovation and technology is our commitment to protecting our environment during a time of climate change and global warming. The solar panel on the Soofa Bench adds to our more than 2,700 solar panels on several of our other facilities. More than 1,900 were just installed at our largest facility – the Magna Centre.

In June, our Council approved Newmarket’s ambitious Community Energy Plan that takes a future-focused approach to conserving energy, reducing greenhouse gases, finding efficiencies in energy consumption for both homes and business and keeping energy dollars in our community. Newmarket is one of the first municipalities in Ontario to have this type of plan.

We’re actively pursuing green infrastructure like Low Impact Development to manage our stormwater runoff in a natural and environmentally sustainable way. And we are committed to making decisions that keep the needs of both our community and our environment top of mind.

Newmarket’s partnership with organizations like Soofa is important now more than ever, as we work together to ‘innovate Newmarket’ for the benefit of our residents and our environment.

The Town of Newmarket has invested significant effort in the revitalization of our downtown and Riverwalk Commons and the introduction of the Soofa Bench is yet another key milestone in this evolution. We look forward to seeing how this Bench is used by our community, but we suspect it will be as loved as our internationally acclaimed HollisWealth Story Pod, and will fit perfectly in our space at Newmarket’s Riverwalk Commons.