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The future of urban innovation will be interconnected and interactive

Tue, 20 October 2015

Contributed by Shell LiveWIRE Alumnus and Pavegen founder, Laurence Kemball-Cook
Every second the world’s cities grow by two people. By 2050, it is estimated that 75% of the world’s 9bn population will be living in cities.​ Meeting the demand of the rising urban population requires a new mix of energy solutions as companies attempt to combat the rising issue of fossil fuel dependency.
Examples of various innovations in the smart city environment include Urban Green Energy’s wind turbines, specifically designed to maximise the energy generated from wind that evades high-rise buildings and reaches the technology. Although effective, it is very dependent on weather conditions. In cities with minimal wind speeds, for example, the turbines wouldn’t generate enough energy to produce a viable amount of electricity.

The same disadvantages lie with solar energy; it is highly dependent on weather conditions and also requires a substantial amount of roof space. The issue with space has recently been overcome through innovations such as ‘Solar Tree’ – a constructed tree that incorporates solar panel ‘leaves’ as part of the design. Bristol installed a solar tree in November 2014 to demonstrate Bristol’s energy initiatives for 2015. The tree uses solar power to charge mobile phones and other devices, as well as providing wifi connection to passers-by. 
The dependency on weather conditions renders wind and solar less reliable than other, more innovative forms of renewable energy generation. The need for sustainability in growing cities is rising, and I believe the answer lies in kinetic energy. 

Transport for London (TfL) have been testing a new regenerative braking system on their lines, which harnesses wasted energy from a train braking and converts it into electricity. The system has the capabilities to power Holborn Station for more than two days a week, contributing greatly to the off-grid energy supply in the transport sector.

I believe Pavegen can take it one step further. We’re a clean-tech company that generate electricity from footsteps using flooring technology. Each step on our tiles can power lighting, advertisement, wayfinding solutions and provide data on demand.

We worked with Gensler and Momentum Transport Planning to create a concept for the disused lines in the London Underground, and the recent development with TfL had me thinking. What if we installed our tiles in every tube station, in every city, across the world?

Currently, over 85,000 pass through Oxford Circus station every day. If each of those pedestrians stepped on only one of our tiles, we could power over 200 lights in the station. Alternatively the energy could be stored in generators and used to power the lights at night, or instead used to power display signage around the station.

This, combined with the regenerative braking systems on the train line, could significantly impact how much energy is used within the transport sector in London, as well as changing how people move and interact in the smart city urban environment.

And if Pavegen could make such a huge impact in the transport sector, imagine how these technologies could work together to power the public space, retail sectors, events venues and more.

Intel estimate that there will be 200 billion connected objects by 2020. In a world where all the objects will ‘talk’ to each other to distribute data and information, Pavegen are perfectly poised to provide sustainable energy and data as and when it is needed.

Imagine a future where:
  • Your walk to work in the morning can power the lights during your walk home in the evening
  • Combined technologies in train and tube stations allow for ‘smart lighting’ – keeping the lights on only as long as they are required
  • Retailers can tailor their advertising space depending on footfall hotspots during the day – targeting the right adverts to the right people
  • Event venues can monitor footfall to redirect crowds to less populated exits in stadiums.
With recent innovations and the development of smart technology, the future of the urban environment could be both interconnected and interactive – placing people at the heart of their own renewable energy generation. 

About Laurence Kemball-Cook (Founder of Pavegen Systems)
Laurence is the founder of Pavegen Systems. Pavegen’s signature paving tiles convert energy from people's footsteps into electrical power. In its early start-up years, Pavegen secured a £1,000 start-up award from Shell LiveWIRE and was a finalist for the 2011 Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. In 2014 Pavegen collaborated with Shell and world football legend Pelé to create the world's first player powered community football pitch in the Morro da Mineira favela in Brazil.
You can follow Pavegen Systems on Twitter @Pavegen

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