Smart Path

Smart technology already has a big influence on the way we live, work and talk, but how about how we walk?

Late last month, London received its very first ‘smart street’, a creation by renewable technology company Pavegen. The 107-square foot pavement is made up of kinetic paving slabs, which are able to convert the kinetic energy generated by pedestrians into electrical power!

The walkway can be found on Bird Street, just off Oxford Circus. The project itself was funded by Transport for London as part of its ‘Future Streets’ scheme.

Given the number of pedestrians that walk through this area on a daily basis, it is easy to see the potential of technology like this. The ‘smart street’ is currently used to power nearby street lights, hidden speakers and Bluetooth transmitters connected to a unique app, which shows pedestrians exactly how much power is being generated by their footsteps. Users can even earn shopping vouchers for meeting higher targets!

Smart Path

“With installations in Washington, D.C. and at vital transport hubs including Heathrow, being able to demonstrate how our technology can bring to life the retail shopping experience is a vital step for us,” said Laurence Kemball-Cook, CEO at Pavegen. “As retailers compete with online, technologies like ours make being in the busy high street more exciting and rewarding for people and brands alike.”

The Bird Street project is very much a pilot, intended to test the capabilities of the set-up before rolling the pads out to elsewhere in the West End and, eventually, streets the length of Oxford Street itself.

Pavegen has admitted that the energy created cannot yet compete more commonly used sources of renewable energy, such as solar power. Each adult pedestrian using the setup will only create around five watts of power, which would struggle to power or heat an entire home. Another issue is that the kinetic pads, while impressive, are much more expensive than traditional materials for pathways, making them an unrealistic option for home improvement projects.

Having said that, one of the main strengths of this smart street is that it engages with pedestrians directly. Engaging technology is already helping us to waste less energy, with smart monitors and apps letting us keep track of exactly how much we are using and where.

Pavegen’s pads can already be found in sports installations, businesses, streets and transport hubs around the world. Could they literally be the next big step in renewable energy?