Company working to turn your steps into electricity

Global Business

Smart phones are getting better and better, but battery life seems to still be a disappointment forcing owners to find some creative solutions. CCTV America’s Roza Kazan filed this report from Chicago.


Startup turns human energy into battery life

There's a lot you can do with your smartphone these days. But one thing they still don't offer is a super-long battery life - forcing owners to find some creative solutions. CCTV America’s Roza Kazan reported this story from Chicago.

Three engineering students in Chicago say they’ve developed a charging device that will harness kinetic energy as the user runs, cycles or walks. They’re calling itAmpy.

The device weighs about the same as a smartphone and is about half the size. It uses a magnet inside a coil to produce electricity that recharges an internal lithium ion battery. While the internal technology isn’t new, Ampy founders say they’ve made it more efficient.

“In terms of other kinetic chargers out there, they’ve all been pretty big and bulky and don’t really fit into people’s lives. They’re about the size of an empty paper towel roll,” Tejas Shastry, Ampy’s co-founder said.

They say walking 10,000 steps, doing an hour of cycling or 30 minutes of running will produce enough charge to keep a smartphone going for three hours. The Ampy team is targeting busy urban dwellers on the go as they commute to the office, client meetings or errands to turn all of that movement into electricity.

The device comes with a companion app that allows the user to track the number of steps and the amount of energy they generate. The founders are hoping that this will allow them to compete with other fitness tracking devices and apps.

“A lot of fitness trackers they reward you with badges: Congratulations, you’ve reached your step total. Instead, you can have power for your phone, so this is a really reward-based system for your fitness,” Alex Smith, Ampy’s other co-founder said.

Engineering professor Mark Werwath of Northwestern University points out that there are limitations.

“You are not going to generate that much power. Bottom line, it’s not going to be enough to replace the socket on the wall,”Werwath said.

Professor Werwath does acknowledge the potential of the kinetic energy we all produce and take for granted.

“Imagine the energy you are expending just sitting here now, or walking from here to your car or even the energy you are using driving the car. That energy can be harvested from a lot of different applications,” Werwath added.

The team at Ampy says it is working on incorporating the technology directly into wearable devices.

“Smartwaches, fitness trackers and other crazy wearable devices that haven’t been invented. One day, they could all just power themselves as you wear them and as you move with them,” said Shastry.

Having raised more than $300,000 through their Kickstater campaign the creators believe harnessing human energy is a step in the right direction.