Did you ever imagine that the paving slabs under your feet might be generating electricity? If they’re like the ones made by UK startup Pavegen, then they just might be. These incredible devices are currently being applied across a number of sectors, such as transport, education, retail, entertainment and even in the creation of smart cities. They’ve already been applied in projects across the world, but what is it that makes them so exciting?
The power of the footstep
Pavegen’s tiles are composed of 3 main components: an electromagnetic generator, a composite tile in the shape of a triangle, and the “user.” When the user steps onto the tile, it causes vertical displacement in the generator, which in turn causes the production of 2 by-products, namely electrical energy and data.
Both of these can be put to good use by the smart cities that are employing them, as well as the commercial and corporate buyers who place them within their own projects both temporary and permanent. The idea is to create a more engaging experience when walking down an otherwise seemingly ordinary street.
With even the small sections of street converted into Pavegen tiles that exist, the power generated is enough to generate, for example, birdsong effects on urban streets to improve the atmosphere, as well as enough stored energy to power nighttime lights to make the street more lively. This has already been done in one of London’s busiest shopping areas right off Oxford Street.
First and foremost, the main part of the vision behind Pavegen is to create sustainable power that has real and actionable benefits. The best way to achieve this while still being strategic with tile placement is to put the tiles in places that have built-in foot traffic.
For instance, the UK’s Department for Transport and Central Bedfordshire Council installed a section of tiles right outside Leighton Buzzard train station, a busy commuter hub with packed daily trains heading to and from London Euston.
A simple installation generates not only huge amounts of off-grid power that can then be stored and used without adding strain to the grid, but also helping the community with useful data on how much power is generated per person, how many people walk across it, and more. Imagine every commuter hotspot with Pavegen installed, providing massive amounts of additional power for communities to put to work as they need: Wi-Fi networks, lights, pollution monitors and much more.
Any event can be made more interactive and creative using the Pavegen tile technology. It was put to good use during Berlin’s 2017 Festival of Lights where Pavegen and Google worked together to create the “Light Path.” As users walked on the Pavegen tiles, colored lights in Google’s signature colors lit up along walls lining the path, which created unique patterns and styles according to how you walked, danced, jumped, or ran down the tiled pathway.
These interactive applications can seem a little frivolous on the surface, but it’s all about demonstrating that this technology makes the human footstep into a more powerful and meaningful thing. Pavegen is continuing to work with new government, commercial and corporate clients to create innovative and exciting applications for this amazing technology.