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Battery-Free Wearables of the Future Could Run Off Your Footsteps

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Get a move on; your wearable needs some juice.

A new insole can harvest energy from one's footsteps that can be used to power small devices.

Credit: Tim Tadder/Corbis

Researchers at the University of Southampton have designed an insole to sit inside a person's shoe and harvest energy from their footsteps.

The removable insole collects kinetic energy generated by the movement of a person's body and the pressure of their feet hitting the ground. The kinetic energy is then transformed into electrical energy that can be used to power small devices.

"The most realistic application is to extend the battery hours, but the ultimate goal of our research is to make wearable devices battery-free," says Southampton researcher Jerry Luo.

The team says the insole potentially could be used for identification, indoor tracking, and activity measurement.

The first real-life application of the technology will involve a local hospital, which will use the insoles' continuous measurement capability to test the balance and foot pressure of recovering patients.

The insoles currently generate enough energy to power a sensor chipset, according to the researchers.

Luo says the insoles are only able to transfer power to devices that are close to them, so they are not ideal to use with smartwatches or anything too far up the body. The same technology could be used to power a smartwatch, but would have to be incorporated into clothing instead, detecting vibrations in the fabric and from arm movements.

From CNet
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