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Dublin: 12°C Sunday 19 September 2021

This insole could help solve your iPhone battery problems

SolePower, one of the many startups attending the Web Summit, has developed an insole that turns each step you take into electricity and charges your devices.

Image: SolePower/YouTube

WE’VE ALL BEEN there before. Through no fault of our own, the sight of your phone’s battery life tends to fall into the red without us realising it. Then the rest of the day is spent cautiously trying to make your phone last the rest of the day, and avoiding a scenario where

It’s a problem most smartphones have and while battery life is beginning to improve, we still have a long way to go before such thoughts go away entirely.

That’s the problem SolePower aims to solve. The Pittsburgh-based startup has created an insole that turns each step you take into electricity, which can then be used to charge your phone.

The device originally started off as a class project at Carnegie Mellon University in 2012 where its two co-founders, Hahna Alexander and Matt Stanton, created a shoe that powered embedded LED lights with their class.

While that project was to promote safety walking home at night, Alexander and Stanton saw the potential behind it and decided to attempt turning it into a portable charger.

By fitting specialised insoles into your shoe, a small power pack is attached on the shoe, just over the shoelaces, to avoid any cables or wires tripping you up. The device is also waterproof and is designed to work in all weather conditions.

Generate1 How the insole will connect to the portable battery pack. Source: SolePower

The amount of effort required to charge an iPhone 5 or 6 up to full capacity would require roughly four or five hours of walking, or 2.5 hours of talk time for every hour you walk, according to its Director of Marketing, Ashley Stephens.

While the first market they’re focusing on are hikers and campers, the team are also focusing on other areas such as developing nations or emergencies situations where regular power sources are not easily accessible.

“We’re working with developing nations for those who don’t have a viable source of electricity,” says Stephens. “We know there are 250 million cell phone users in sub-sahara Africa that have no reliable access to energy so by partnering with cell phone companies, we’re able to provide insoles that can charge their phones at a low cost.”

While it sounds great, the project has thrown up its fair share of challenges. Currently, the team is working on durability, making sure the insoles last as long as your pair of shoes, but there were many more obstacles to overcome.

“Getting it [the technology] do to the small scale has been really difficult and we’ve got that [completed], but the other thing is funding,” explained Stephens.

“Right now in the startup community, it’s very easy to get funded if you’re [offering] software or an app since it’s easier to get to market. For a mechanical item or hardware, it’s more expensive and harder to find investors as it’s a longer period of time, going from the concept to actually getting it to market.”

Thankfully, the latter problem was somewhat solved by the team running a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, where it raised $60,000 (€47,900) for prototype testing.

While the funding was obviously important, Stephens says the main reason behind the campaign was to gauge interest in the product, which was mainly positive.

The team is still perfecting the device before it’s released, but for now, they preparing to travel to the Dublin Web Summit as part of the BETA startups category (startups are grouped into three categories, ALPHA, BETA and START, with the latter reserved for the more established startups).

The device expected to launch early next year, before the end of spring, The insoles will cost $199 (€158) when it’s first released, but the team is also planning on offering one insole charger and one dummy insole for $149 (€118).

Source: Sole Power/YouTube

The Dublin Web Summit will be taking place in the RDS on 4 – 6 November, and will feature more than 500 startups, 600 speakers and 20,000 attendees over the three days.

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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