Laurence Kemball-Cook has an intriguing vision - to generate electricity using the power of footsteps. He is the founder and CEO of Pavegen systems, a technology company that has developed tiles to convert energy from people’s footsteps into electrical power.
Pavegen has already carried out more than 200 installations worldwide. Kemball-Cook has likened the company to Elon Musk’s electric car manufacturer Tesla, and believes they can follow a similar route to success. In the following blog, we will take a closer look at the Pavegen tiles.
Kinetic energy to electricity
The first question to answer is, of course - how does it work?
The Pavegen tiles act as a kinetic energy recovery system. Once you’ve stepped on the tile, it depresses up to one centimeter. This downward force drives an energy-storing flywheel inside the tile, which spins to convert kinetic energy into electricity. The process is very similar to how a wind turbine functions.
Pavegen is by no means the first tech company to harness kinetic energy. A host of companies have explored how energy could be used to power applications. It has been particularly noticeable as a trend in wearable technology. For example, the Element 1 is a smartwatch that doesn’t require charging. It’s battery is charged by the user’s own natural movement, so there should be no need to ever plug it in.
One of the distinct advantages of Pavegen as a product is its versatility. It can conceivably be laid anywhere there’s floorspace.
The Next Step
It is easy to see why Kemball-Cook sees similarities between his own company and Tesla.
Both companies put early prototypes that are significantly different from their latest models. For example, Pavegen’s early versions of the tile were rectangular. Because of this, the tile only produced power when someone stepped directly in the centre of the tile. In hindsight, this is quite a design flaw. The latest generation of tile is triangular, with a generator in each corner, which means power is generated no matter where you step. According to Kemball-Cook, the V3 model is more than 200 times more efficient than the original prototype.
The next step for Pavegen, and one Tesla has already taken, is to secure investment and begin mass production so that the product can be sold at an operating profit. With the V3, Kemball-Cook believes the company has reached a point where lower costs and higher efficiency will allow him to scale.
The evidence would suggest he is right. The company has recently installed 100 tiles on a football pitch in Nigeria. The kinetic energy stored from the footballer’s footsteps successfully powered the floodlights for the whole arena.
In 2013, Pavegen installed a 25-meter strip of 178 tiles near the finish line of the Paris Marathon. From the footsteps of 40,000 runners, they generated 4.7 kilowatts of energy.
But the most intriguing aspect of the tile, in our opinion, is its ability to track and analyse consumer patterns. The tile contains a data transmitter that can wirelessly capture information from every footfall, including who is doing the walking. So if you opt in, you could have access to a comprehensive analysis of your movement patterns.
This could be a very attractive prospect for companies and advertisers that are hungry for consumer analysis. According to the Pavegen website, “Consumer behaviour can be understood by measuring footfall intensity and identifying the number of people walking within a designated area.”
A reward system will be used to entice consumers to share this information. “By stepping on our tiles and connectivity via a mobile APP, each footstep collected is converted into a digital currency that can be used to reward loyalty or to donate to charitable causes.”
The tiles can also be used to support advertising campaigns. The company say their flooring system can power interactive messages, billboards and signage. So this means, if you are connected to the Pavegen app and walking past billboards, they could feature targeted advertising. A recent report published on Research and Markets noted how brands are trying to connect with their audience on a more personal level through programmatic video advertising.
Pavegen say their smart-flooring solution is “poised to power the data-driven smart cities of tomorrow.” One of the first obstacles it must overcome is its price, with varying reports on the cost. While one source estimated it would cost £1,250 to cover one square metre of ground with Pavegen tiles, another said Pavegen hoped to see the price drop to under $100 per tile in the next two years.
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