put a spring in the step and a charge in the phone

Cell phones are transforming lives in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, where they are crucial for advancing everything from education to medicine to commerce. The problem? Many developing countries lack access to the electricity needed to charge mobile electronics. Over a billion people lack access to electricity worldwide, about 99% of whom live in the developing world.

Enter SolePower. Using a basic shoe insert, SolePower allows users to charge mobile electronics simply by walking. In capturing the kinetic energy of footsteps, SolePower’s shoe insert converts energy into electrical power that is stored in a battery for later use. The battery is then used to charge electronics like cell phones.

The device has the potential to be a game-changer in places like Kenya, where 84% of the population owns cell phones but only 14% has access to electricity. SolePower wants to address both  – the cellphone and the lightbulb.

Matthew Stanton, co-founder of SolePower, says the biggest challenge his team faces is making the device as efficient and compact as possible. “There are only 20 watts in a step. So if you’re losing a few percentages in efficiency, you are drastically reducing the power output in the device.”

It may still be beyond the reach of consumers in these $2 a day markets; that will require Sole Power to develop their consumer finance model further, perhaps adapting models of micro-payments and microfinance to make it within their reach.


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