Inventor Hahna Alexander spent years developing an idea that people said they really liked: Shoes that generate power as you walk, making it possible to charge a battery with them. But after starting a company and testing shoe prototypes, she learned something disappointing about her product: “No one really wanted to use it.”

“We kind of took it as a challenge. The failure taught us an important lesson: You have to make something that people can’t do without. So now we’re making a ‘smart’ shoe. Every step creates enough power to charge sensors like GPS, temperature, motion, and step count. The shoe sends all of this data to the internet.”

That data can help locate someone in a construction accident or dangerous military operations, two industries where her self-powered smart boots are now being used. This innovative wearable tech solution is at the core of her company SolePower and continues to help improve safety for people in high-risk occupations.

Read more about Alexander in this feature from NPR: After A Failed Launch, Smart Shoe Benefits From A Reboot.

Next: The power of creative constraints, The Reinvention of Normal: Dominic Wilcox’s quest for new ideas, Plastic bottle water wheel power generator experiment, and How do batteries work?

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