Piezoelectric power is something we cover quite often. Designers and inventors are always coming up with new ways to harvest the energy of our steps, whether from embedded devices in our shoes or in the floors and sidewalks we walk upon. It just seems like the kinetic energy from our everyday movements is low-hanging fruit for power generation.
A new Kickstarter project is the first personal kinetic energy harvester that we've seen that seems completely ready for commercialization. The SolePower is a removable insert that fits into almost any shoe (obviously flip flops would be a problem) and charges a connected battery when a user walks.
To user puts the SolePower into their shoe in place of the regular insole and then threads the wire up through the laces where it's affixed to the rechargeable battery which can be worn around the ankle or on top of the shoe. As the user walks, runs, skips, what have you, the battery charges and can then be used to charge your smartphone or other gadgets.
The company, which is made up of former Carnegie Mellon students, states that in testing it took two-and-a-half to five miles of walking to charge an iPhone, but further development will hopefully get that solidly down to the two-and-a-half miles mark. Beta testers are using the device throughout the summer to identify problems and come up with fixes.
The SolePower was analyzed by podiatrists to make sure it didn't affect the way people walked and it's also waterproof to protect it from rain and your sweaty feet.
The device has some limitations -- users cannot be over 350 pounds and the smallest shoe size it accommodates is a women's size 8, which rules out my tiny feet, but overall it seems to be a solid entry into personal energy harvesters. If you want a SolePower of your own, you can pledge $100 and get a first run of the device, which should be available in late 2014. The company has a goal of $50,000 and is already over halfway there.