SolePower charges smartphones by harnessing walking power

Looking to solve the issue of a dead phone battery and no power outlet in sight, a new invention on Kickstarter says it can capture, generate, and store power within a shoe insole.

SolePower is a power generating shoe insole that can charge portable electronics. Screengrab by Dara Kerr/CNET

What if people could charge their phones by going for a walk? No electricity, no power outlets, no more dealing with dead phone batteries. This idea actually isn't too farfetched.

A new Kickstarter campaign is focused on getting funding for a power generating shoe insert that lets users charge portable devices -- like smartphones, music players, and GPS devices -- while they walk.

The device is called SolePower and is currently in an alpha prototype phase. The company is looking to raise $50,000 by July 18 to start working toward finalizing a mass producible product.

SolePower founders Matthew Staton and Hahna Alexander came up with the idea as mechanical engineering students at Carnegie Mellon University.

"We initially designed SolePower to simply light an LED on the shoe so students walking to and from campus at night would be more visible," Stanton told CNET. "After we developed a proof of concept prototype for the class we realized that there were many more applications for the device."

To generate energy, SolePower takes each step and converts it into usable electrical power. As the user swings their leg and steps down energy is created, the insole then captures this energy and stores it in an external battery. A two and a half mile walk generates enough energy for a solid smartphone charge.

"Our initial target market will be hikers, backpackers, and other outdoor enthusiasts in need of mobile power," Staton said.

Eventually, the company hopes SolePower will have an even further reach. Not only could it be helpful to people in the military, forest rangers, and anyone stuck in a natural disaster, but it could also be life-changing to people who live in remote regions around the world with little electricity.

However, some issues arise with a phone-charging shoe insert. What about water and sweat? And, shoe size? SolePower's co-founders seem to have these problems figured out. The device is entirely waterproofed and the company has consulted with podiatrists to ensure the insoles don't affect the way people walk.

Staton said the company is planning to retail SolePower for around $150 to $175. If the company gets the funding it needs, the final product should be ready for consumers sometime between June and December 2014.

 

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