SolePower’s Smart Boots generate power with each step the user takes. They can be embedded with electronics to contain GPS, lights and other helpful features. This makes them a self-sustaining and versatile piece of wearable tech for organizations who want to keep track of people and monitor their safety. But like many inventors, their creator Hahna Alexander did not follow a straight path to come up with this innovative footwear, as this nifty animation from Joe’s Big Idea of NPR conveys.
Alexander and her design team invented the first version of the shoe in college. It generated power kinetically (through movement), which could charge a battery. She founded the company SolePower based on this prototype. But in testing, it turned out people preferred the ease of just carrying a battery pack. Alexander rebounded from this disappointment by revamping the shoe.
"The failure taught us an important lesson. You have to invent something that people can't live without," she says. The new Smart Boot powers its own helpful functions, which can include GPS, RFID (“Radio Frequency Identification” or using radio waves to identify people or things), lights, step counts and measurements of temperature and motion. The shoes have internet cloud access that allows the wearer to be monitored. These boots have many practical applications, such as in construction, military, and search and rescue scenarios. Because they could literally save lives, it appears Alexander succeeded in making something people “can’t live without.”