With more wearable gadgets being one of the biggest technology predictions of 2015, it is great to see a possible solution to power supply be announced today.
A group of German developers from Hahn-Schickard-Gesellschaft Institute of Micromachining and Information Technology have come up with a fabulous idea to use the human gait to generate power by placing energy harvesting devices in our shoes. I was really fascinated to read on the BBC News website about energy can be harvested from human motion over breakfast this morning (and not just because it was news about shoes!), and instantly thought of loads of getting-outdoors relevant applications for it.
There are two different devices that help create ‘shoe power’. A shock harvester generates power when the heel strikes the ground (when you take a step), and a swing harvester produces power when the foot is swinging (as you move your foot forward through the air before putting it down to take another step). As you walk or run, the stacks of magnets move past coils of wire, changing the magnetic field and creating a voltage, or charge, within the wire. This charge can then be used to power electronics embedded in the shoe.
It is early days for this new tech. Right now there isn’t enough power generated from the small devices to charge a smartphone, but it is enough to power small sensors and transmitters, opening up a range of new applications. It will be possible to monitor speed, distance, temperature and the like, for example, which could make it handy for health and fitness tracking.
One possible use (which was the basis for the development) would be a self-lacing shoe aimed at the elderly (a bit of a nod to those sneakers in Back to the Future, perhaps). This shoe would detect when a foot was placed into it and lace up, and would loosen again when required.
The low power output is due to how small the devices need to be to fit on or in a normal trainer – but the developers have already said that future applications could be far greater, suggesting that the tech could lead to wearables that never need to be plugged in again.
Just think of the possibilities… We might be able to create enough power when hiking or running to keep a phone, music player, camera, or GPS charged. I would definitely be interested in a pair of hiking boots that meant I never needed to worry about battery life again! It’ll be very interesting to see what every day uses the inventors come up with.
Check out the full article in the Journal of Smart Materials and Structures and let me know what you would use it for…