Every time someone walks over one of the special kinetic tiles installed in the 1,200-pupil Simon Langton Boy’s Grammer School in Caterbury, England, they generate electricity which is harvested by a passive energy harvesting system. With a peak generation capacity of just 100W, over the course of a year the 12m2 of tiles won’t harvest that much energy; enough to power a standard light bulb for a couple of months, or fully charge 850 mobile phones.
While it’s an idea that has been around for a while, with the increasing number of deployments of sensors to measure the environment both inside and outside buildings, as well as larger-scale “smart city” programmes, power is starting to be needed in the strangest of places. Places where wiring the sensors into the existing power grid would be difficult or costly. Passive energy harvesting is an interesting idea that could be used to power those sensors, and the smarter cities that are driving those deployments. So perhaps its an idea whose time has finally come?