In the last couple of years, wearable technology has had significant growth. Both start-up companies as well as technological giants have been releasing wearable devices. Devices such as smartwatches or activity trackers have gained great publicity and are not only popular among technophiles anymore. The introduction of the Apple Watch in September 2014 proved to be yet another success for the brand, paving the way for a growing market of smartwatches.
However, wearable technology is older than that: in April 2013, Google officially launched Google Glass, an eyeglass with an embedded 5MP camera and the capability to deliver rich text and notifications via heads-up display. Sony-Ericson and Motorola are also among those that have released similar products in wearable technology events, conferences and exhibitions all around the world.
Every day, numerous new products and devices are being introduced, and crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter have facilitated this process significantly and more than ever before. Unlike watches and wristbands, other wearables such as clothing and footwear, however, have not had any major and significant technological advancement in recent years. Although smart shoes like Lechal footwear have been introduced and presented to the tech-wearables market, most of these products’ functionality have not gone beyond simple gesture detection and navigation.
However, as part of a team of Imperial College students, my colleagues and I have recently started research in the field of energy-generation in footwear – with the aim to enable easy access to power on the go. Although many different models and working prototypes have already been built, and patents dating back as far as 1924 can be found, most of these prototypes have proved inefficient. Unable to perform tasks such as powering mobile devices, most of them never even reached the production phase. Even the more efficient products have been unable to survive in the competitive footwear market, perhaps due to design and aesthetic shortcomings.
Our Imperial-based team is working on ModSteps: a highly efficient electricity-generating shoe, by utilizing a combination of state-of-the-art power generating methods and innovative mechanism, all in an elegant design.
As we work on prototyping our first electricity-generating footwear, we have quickly realized the great potential of such a product with smart features –much further than embedment of simple sensors – and have redirected our team’s efforts to develop such a product. We are planning to have built a working prototype of our smart shoes by early 2016 and then go through a testing and improvement phase to optimize our product’s features – one of the most important ones being power generation from footsteps, of course!
Amirmohammad Fattahi is studying for a MEng in Mechanical Engineering