Pedestrian power – London startup harvests energy from footsteps

Tue, 2013-04-30 12:47 -- Jesse Berst

This story focuses on the power generated by energy-harvesting floor tiles. I think there's an even more important story -- the data they generate. Right now it is relatively easy to generate information about automobile traffic, but much harder to quantify pedestrian traffic. Tiles like these have the potential to make that much easier. Especially since they are self-powered and include wireless communications. -- Jesse Berst


A London startup is developing tiles made from 95% recycled tires that can harvest energy from footsteps and turn it into electricity for street lights and other urban needs.

That's according to a Design News interview with Pavegen founder and CEO Laurence Kemball Cook, who told the publication that his objective is to create a new energy source for smart cities.

The tiles flex to 5mm when stepped on and it's that downward motion that is converted into electricity – up to 8 watts per footstep, according to the report.

By putting the tiles in a particularly busy part of a city – think Times Square in New York City, for instance – Cook says the energy stored from pedestrians walking to and fro all day can be used to keep streetlights on at night.

But there's even more technology wrapped up in those tiles. They also have a proprietary wireless communications technology that uses just a fraction of the power collected to transmit data via the Internet about the number of footsteps and amount of energy generated. That kind of data can be valuable to city administrators and even business owners.

As Cook told Design News: “A smart city is one where energy is generated where it’s needed, stored where it’s needed, and used where it’s needed. This wireless technology allows a seamless integration between power usage and demand.”  

And this isn't a someday technology. During the 2012 London Summer Olympics, Pavegen tiles were used at a transport station right outside Olympic Park. The energy generated from the crowds of people that walked on them kept the station lights on for five hours each night, which you can see in this video.