A Smart Shoe Is Capable Of Generating Power From Walking

Smart shoe devices are now capable of generating power when a person walks or runs. They can also track movement and speed, as well.

A team of German researchers have developed a smart shoe gadget that harvests energy from walking and running movements. This energy is then used to power sensors and other electronics, according to a report by Live Science.

A smart shoe apparatus called the “swing harvester” is capable of generating power when a foot swings forward when walking or running. Another device called the “shock harvester” produces power when the heel of a shoe hits the ground.

Walking Creates Energy With Smart Shoe Device
Schematic of the excitation conditions available in the human gait. (Photo courtesy of Kelvis Ylli/IOP Publishing)

Klevis Ylli, lead author of a paper about the smart shoe device, said, “Both [devices] are based on the same principle–electromagnetic induction.”

The smart shoes contain magnets and coils of wire. When a person wearing the device walks or runs, the magnets travel across the coils of wire, causing changes in the magnetic field within the coiled wires. This magnetic field is a source of energy that can be used to power other electronics in place of a battery charger, for example.

According to Ylli, the swing harvester is about three inches long, less than an inch high, and only a half-an-inch tall. The smart shoe apparatus weighs less than an ounce and fits into the shoe’s sole at the heel.

Ylli described the swing harvester smart shoe design to the Institute of Physics.

“The swing harvester was developed as part of a self-lacing shoe for the elderly. The shoe would detect when a user steps into it and lace itself up, as well as open up again when required. The harvesting device would generate the energy for the closing mechanism.”

The shock harvester is a bit larger. It weighs close to a third of a pound. This device was developed to provide power for an indoor navigation system. Indoor navigation systems are similar to GPS navigation systems when it comes to tracking the whereabouts of an individual or device.

Shock Harvester Smart Shoe
The shock harvester was developed to charge the battery of an indoor navigation system and increase its operating life. (Photo courtesy of Kelvis Ylli/IOP Publishing)

However, GPS navigation systems don’t always work indoors. Indoor navigation systems are a better alternative; used by military personnel and firefighters to collect information about an individual’s location and then transmit the data wirelessly to a centralized computer.

Klevis briefly explained how the smart shoe device works for indoor navigation systems.

“For the indoor navigation system, there are sensors [accelerometers] within the shoe that determine how fast you’re moving, acceleration and the angles that your foot has traveled. And from this data, the system can calculate the path that you have walked.”

Ylli, a doctoral student at the Hahn-Schickard-Gesellschaft Institute of Micromachining and Information Technology in Germany, cited the smart shoe devices’ potential.

“If you take a close look at the scientific environment, there are plenty of people working on these types of [harvesters] for shoes. I think there is some interest there, and people have high hopes that harvesters will get better over time and will be feasible for powering devices.”

Ylli and his colleagues’ plans include optimizing the harvesters to capture more energy from the innovative smart shoe design.

[Featured image via Kelvis Ylli/IOP Publishing]