There are three million injuries on work sites each year, and nearly 5,000 of those accidents are fatal, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That motivated Hahna Alexander to create SolePower, a start-up designing a self-charging work boot that can be implanted with various kinds of sensors to track things like location or temperature.
Sensors in the workplace are nothing new, but batteries have not kept up. The SmartBoot creates energy with each footstep, and can be used to charge any kind of device. The boots can charge a location-tracking sensor, like GPS, every few steps, and can generate an hour of talk time on an iPhone after two hours of walking, according to the company.
Customers can also embed various sensors into the boot. The most obvious example would be a GPS sensor to track a worker's location, but a gas company might put a sensor that detects leaks, or a company that sends workers into cold climates might use a temperature gauge to track the risk of frostbite.
No customers are using the boots yet, but SolePower will initially try to sell them to the oil and gas and construction industries to improve worker safety and efficiency, and the company is working on a version for firefighters as well.
The U.S. Army helped fund the boots, and is testing SolePower's technology to reduce the weight of backup batteries the solders need to carry, SolePower CEO Hahna Alexander said.
"On a typical one-day mission, a solider will carry up to 20 pounds of backup batteries," Alexander said. "So they are actively looking for solutions to reduce some of that weight."