Behold the self-powering shoes of the future
You may soon be able to add another word to the digital lexicon in the coming days: smartshoes.
A pair of prototype devices from the German research firm HSG-IMIT could help to power certain low power applications, according to BBC. The devices can then be embedded in most shoes, and are powered by your normal walking movement.
The first device, known as a “shock harvester,” generates power when the sole of the shoe strikes the ground. The second device, known as the “swing harvester,” generates power as the shoe swings during your movement.
The devices are still both in their infancy, and the amount of power they can currently generate is tiny. The German firm is looking into multiple low-power uses for the shoe-based generators at the moment, including powering self-lacing shoes (which could be of interest to Nike later this year), as well as navigation and tracking.
“One application we are working on is indoor navigation which means we have sensors within the shoe that measure the acceleration of the foot, the angular velocity – whether you’re turning the foot or not – and the magnetic field,” Klevis Ylli from HSG-IMI said.
“From the data from these sensors, you could calculate how far you have travelled and in which direction. So imagine a rescue unit walking into a building they don’t know. They could then track which way they went on their handheld device.”
How it works
The devices work by using a relatively simple set up of magnets and coils. As the wearer walks, a magnetic field is created through the movement of the magnets. That field then passes through a coil, generating a small current.
The current is limited though, producing a maximum of three or four milliWatts at its peak. To put that in perspective, a smartphone requires about 2,000 mW.
The firm is focusing first on self-lacing shoes for the elderly. The idea is that once a person slips into the open shoe, they can just swing their foot to tighten the laces. There are other applications though.
The devices could, for example, also be fitted into children’s shoes. That could power something like a light on the side for fun, but it may also offer parents a way to track their wandering kids. In theory, that tech could also be used in situations where knowing a person’s location could be vital, as mentioned above. Think about firemen in a smoke filled building, or soldiers in the field where GPS may not be available or accurate.
The research paper on the devices was just published, so it might be a bit before this technology hits the market. That should give people plenty of time to find new ways to make use of it.