The energy generated by walking, running, jumping, or kicking a ball is an unrealized source of power that could be used to charge cellphones, provide power to Internet of Things devices, or even light up whole villages in the developing world.
“Over the past year, we have sold some 50,000 of our soccer balls and jump ropes, which provide light and power using the energy stored up by kinetic energy – the energy generated when a person kicks the ball or jumps rope,” said Jessica O. Matthews, the inventor of the SOCCKET ball and the PULSE jump rope. “People who hear about the idea think it’s amazing, and they are even more amazed when they see it in action.”
But what amazes people even more is that Matthews invented the system nine years ago, when she was just 19 and an undergrad at Harvard. This makes her eligible for the Forbes 30 Under 30 List, a gathering of individuals who are likely to be the influencers of the future, innovators who are shaping the next iterations of technology, business, medicine, and society in general.
To celebrate that innovation, business magazine and information site Forbes is holding a gala event in Tel Aviv this week to celebrate those individuals and their accomplishments.
Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial and cultural center, Forbes editor Randall Lane said, was “a natural choice for a conference like this. Israel is way ahead of most places on ways to innovate. We at Forbes have always been about entrepreneurs, and Israel has the entrepreneurial ethos that fits right in with our philosophy. Israel is the natural choice for a summit like this.”
The summit has something for everyone – not just entrepreneurs, but for scientists, gamers, music lovers, and even foodies, including panels on tech and business, tours of the markets (shuks) in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, concerts, and even an Under 30 Food Festival “Iron Chef”-style event.
Six hundred young entrepreneurs and game changers from across the world, including 200 from the US, 200 from Europe and 200 from the Middle East and Africa, all chosen for the numerous Under 30 Lists maintained by the magazine (there is a list for cybersecurity, Internet of Things, mobile tech, and many others) – are attending the program.
And among those guests are Mathews, along with sister Tiana Idoni-Matthews – who are, respectively, the CEO and marketing director of Uncharted Play, the company they formed to develop Jessica O. Matthews’ ideas on kinetic energy.
“As most people know, energy is not created and it does not disappear – it merely changes form,” the company’s CEO said. “Instead of having that energy ‘evaporate’ into the air, we designed a mini-generator to absorb the energy, which gets stored and converted into power for use when needed.”
The result is the SOCCKET, an actual soccer ball that kids can kick around. It’s tough enough to withstand a tough game, but it also stores up the kinetic energy absorbed by the ball and when the day is done, the ball can be used as a lamp to light up a room.
“The PULSE jump rope does the same thing, providing energy to power cellphones, laptops, and other small devices,” said Matthews.
“I got the idea for this when I was living in Nigeria, where even wealthy people do not have regular access to electricity,” said Matthews. “Most people use polluting, dangerous kerosene lamps to light their homes at night, and that bothered me. At the same time, I saw how much people there enjoyed soccer, and I got the idea to figure out a way to translate that soccer energy into power. It’s a way to use ‘consumer energy’ to democratize access to power – if you can kick a ball, you can turn on the lights.”
One lit-up ball is nice, but Matthews can think of other applications for her kinetic energy generators.
“We are not working on energy transmission, but there are many people who are – and when wireless systems are available for the transmission of power, our generators will be there to send out power from not only soccer balls, but all sorts of other things we plan to put them into – baby carriages, shoes, clothing, and much more.”
To do that, Matthews has developed M.O.R.E. – the Motion-based Off-Grid Renewable Energy system, a highly-miniaturized version of the system that the company plans to install in a wide range of consumer and industrial products.
“Imagine a kinetic generator in a piece of luggage you schlep around an airport,” said Matthews. “You are expending a lot of energy there, while at the same time you are looking for an outlet to plug your phone into in order to recharge it. With our system, you will be able to plug your phone into your bag, and thus recharge it.”
Partnerships with companies that manufacture luggage, as well as a wide range of other products – even floor tiles (“tiles get depressed slightly when you step on them, and that is recoverable energy,” said Matthews) are in the works.
So successful has the idea been that Uncharted Play has been profitable for the past three years of its five-year existence – and the company has yet to raise a Series A round of funding (that’s likely to be announced soon, said Tiana Idoni Matthews, “and we are already oversubscribed for it.”)
Although she has never before been to Israel, Matthews said that she has found an immediate kinship with the people here.
“The entrepreneurial vibe here is fantastic, and the people have been very welcoming – and as a black woman, I don’t always get the feeling I am welcome, even in places like Silicon Valley,” said Matthews (Tiana Idoni-Matthews, also a first-time visitor, underwent an Orthodox Jewish conversion several months ago).
“One thing I do know is that the political situation here is very complicated, and that makes a lot of people uncomfortable – and I can not only identify with that, but I also welcome it. Comfortable people don’t innovate – and just like I wasn’t comfortable with the situation in Nigeria, a situation that led me to develop our kinetic energy technology, Israelis who are not comfortable with just sitting back on their laurels and leaving things be are doing amazing things.”