Electricity From A Soccer Ball? This Startup’s Kinetic Energy Tech Is Lighting The Developing World
International Business Times, October 10, 2015. Image credit: Treehugger
Matthews founded Uncharted Play in May 2011. It’s aimed at solving the problem of power cuts in developing countries by harnessing the kinetic energy in sports. Matthews was inspired by a visit to relatives in Nigeria: When the power went out, they would resort to dangerous kerosene lamps to keep the lights on. Her cousins just accepted it as part of everyday life.
Since its founding, the company has released two products: the “Soccket,” a soccer ball, and the “Pulse,” a jump rope. Both generate power through kinetic motion. So when kids play soccer, challenge each other to a round of double Dutch or just absentmindedly kick a ball around a bit, they’re creating enough power to turn on a small appliance.
The generator provides excellent power: Thirty minutes to an hour of play can power the company’s single-LED lamp for three hours, while the same amount of play can power a three-LED version for one to two hours. Other accessories are planned, but this tech won’t be powering entire homes.
“It’s best to think about it like broadband,” Matthews explained. “We could set up giant, inefficient transmitters and push access to everyone at once, but instead we use smaller transmitters and put them in people’s homes.” Similarly, the generator is designed to fully power a single appliance rather than stretch itself thin. The main drive for Matthews was to move communities away from dangerous, polluting kerosene lamps, and the ball focuses on solving that problem efficiently.