Since energy-gulping smartphones have become such a ubiquitous part of modern life, there’s been plenty of external battery packs and charging accessories that have followed the market. Here comes another: Chicago startup Ampy is coming out with a battery that charges using the motion of your body. You just strap it onto your body or put it in your pocket.
Ampy claims that walking 10,000 steps or running for 30 minutes can provide three hours of smartphone charging or 24 hours of smartwatch life (tested with the Pebble Smartwatch). The lithium ion battery is charged through internal coils that couple with motion to capture energy throughout the day.
Motion charging is nothing new, but most so far have been clunky pieces of hardware. Kinetic energy charger nPower PEG, for example, is about the size and shape of a rolled up magazine. And before smartphone chargers, you could find this same technology in flashlights you charge by shaking them. But Ampy’s advantage is how small it is. The company claims the way its patented technology is able to be so small is by placing its coils on the circuit board and power transmitter.
Ampy was founded by three PhD engineering students at Northwestern University who have been working on the device (first called myPowr) for the past year. The PhD students have technical backgrounds in energy harvesting, batteries and circuitry design. The three met and came up with idea in an entrepreneurship class. Since then, they’ve piloted the charging device with about 1,000 users. The three have funded the project so far with money from a number of business competitions they’ve won and now they’re looking for angel backing.
Ampy just started a Kickstarter campaign today with orders expected to start shipping in June 2015. For early backers, Ampy will cost $75. After Kickstarter, Ampy will be sold for $95.
There are also bigger opportunities the three entrepreneurs are after than individual hardware unit sales. They want to license their motion-based charging technology to wearable manufacturers. The technology would have to engineered into the device but wouldn’t add bulk, they claim.
“What’s nice about our technology is that it’s flexible,” said Tejas Shastry, CEO of Ampy, in a phone call. “So depending on form factor, power requirements and size of the wearable, we can integrate to increase battery life or provide all of its required power consumption.”
The company has already been in talks with several wearable manufacturers about engineering Ampy charging technology into the next generation of their devices.
“There’s a problem with battery life in the wearables industry,” said Shastry. ”You’re expected to wear these things all the time.”