A Kenyan man invented a shoe-powered charger for phones, joining other inventors in making mobile technology greener and more independent of traditional infrastructure.
24-year-old Anthony Mutua developed a thin crystal chip that fits into shoe soles and generates electricity under pressure.
The $46 device connects to a user’s phone via a thin extension cord, ultimately allowing people to charge their mobile batteries while going for a walk. Mutua says the chip fits into all footwear except bedroom slippers and will last for almost three years provided the shoes don’t wear out first.
Mutua first unveiled a prototype at the Science and Innovation Week in Nairobi and has since patented the idea in preparation for mass production. He predicts the device will prove popular as a commercial enterprise, as people can use it to charge several phones during one walk.
Mutua’s chip joins similar cell phone charging inventions that may soon “greenify” the mobile market.
Tom Krupenkin and Ashley Taylor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, for example, developed similar “in-shoe technology” that harnesses the thermodynamic power generated from footsteps. The engineering students have already founded a company called InStep NanoPower and plan to sell the device in 2013.
Besides shoes, concertgoers’ t-shirts are now capable of powering their cell phones, as demonstrated last year during England’s Glastronbury festival. The shirts captured sound vibrations and produced electricity using a piezoelectric pocket to reboot attendees’ mobile phones.
And the German company Silverback recently unveiled a line of “Starke” bikes that harness pedal power to charge smartphones during long rides as the need for connectivity continues to grow in places where traditional power sources are scarce.
Charging solutions like these not only help the environment by encouraging exercise and decreasing electrical consumption, they may also prove vital in countries lacking solid infrastructure.
In countries like India, too, government-run electrical lines are often unreliable and costly, making it difficult for very poor people to keep their phones working.
A shoe insert like Mutua’s may change all that, by giving users direct control over their power usage. And once people can harness energy from their footsteps, they can use this power to change their circumstances.