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Powertype: A User Experience Map

Powertype would use the kinetic energy from typing on a keyboard to power offices. In this case, specifically to light up a Living Wall recently installed by the San Francisco IDEO office. In order to get a better sense of what this idea might look like like, we mapped what a day long experience might look like for an end user, named Marie, an operations manager at the San Francisco IDEO office.

Photo of Joanna Spoth
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Powertype has potential to succeed because it draws upon behaviors that already exist. There are not a lot of barriers to adoption. However, the feasibility of this idea has much to be discovered.

Keen to try our a User Experience Map for your Renewable Energy Idea? Check this handy template we created to get you mapping!

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

The community is the San Francisco IDEO office. The average age is probably 35 and in general people are aware of the importance of renewable energy, but not necessarily of the energy we use in the office.

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

This idea identifies a friction point in our office - the lights that power our Living Wall and attempts to maintain their function of providing the right amount of intensity for our plants while taking into consideration how much energy they use. Through Powertype, we'll be able to keep our plants happy in a way that utilizes behaviors that already meet community needs - typing. If we can power the Living Wall lights through our typing, what else might that be applied to? And how can we think beyond typing to other kinetic activities happening in our office? Powertype creates awareness and functionality around switching to a renewable energy source by providing a readily visible result.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Talk to end users, such as the IDEO operations manager, and create a prototype of a button creating energy in order to determine if a keyboard, or network of keyboards, could in fact generate sufficient energy to power light bulbs. We could also observe analagous situations such as treadmill desks, or some of the Cycle Cinema contributions we saw during the Research phase.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

I'd love to hear if the community has seen this happen anywhere or happens to know how much energy keyboard keys might generate. I'd also love to brainstorm around ways to use other office-driven habits (opening the fridge door, walking between printers and desks, refilling water bottles) as sources of renewable energy.

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

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This idea emerged from:

  • A Group Brainstorm


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Photo of Mitra Ardron

Joanna - how much energy is there in the kinetics of a keypad, assuming of course that you wouldn't have to hit them harder ?) My guesstimate is that you'd be lucky to get enough to light the keypad itself even less a wall ? There's tonnes less energy in piezo-electric or any of these physical movement to electricity ideas than people think. There was a team in UC Berkeley that was working on this, and my memory was that they found that in all but hte most extreme cases (e.g. you want to get a tiny amount of power in a place that is hard to get writes to) its a really hard way to get power,

Photo of Natalie Lake

Hi Mitra,

I think it is feasible but the idea behind the board is not to power a board on your own but as a community. This may not work in small offices but larger offices would potentially be able to power small electronics off of their communal efforts (also if this were paired with the piezelectric floor idea.)

Also, Joanna and Mitra to answer your questions of what is created by the average person typing, I found the following article and according to Kwon, experimental results show that the maximum harvested power is the maximum power obtained is about 40.8ȝW at 3M: load and 11.6pW at 700: load from the PZT substrate and planar micro-spiral coils, respectively.,%20T.pdf

Thus, while it is an incredibly small load, I think if it was a communal effort and if it was paired with a piezoelectric floor or another type of KE harvester, I think this is definitely doable.

Photo of Mitra Ardron

Natalie - what is that first number "40.8ȝW". So .... how many people would it take typing to lets say recharge one of their mobile phones at 5W :-)

If you are thinking about energy, numbers are INCREDIBLY important, it comes down to what does it cost to generate how much power, Piezo generally has been one of the most expensive ways - which is why its useful only when you need TINY amounts of power, and where the costs of getting that much power to the device (e.g. running cables) outweight the cost of the power.

Photo of Natalie Lake

Hi Mitra!

Oops, that showed up weird, sorry! it is supposed to be microwatt (µ) and 3 megaohm (MΩ) Also, I think the idea would be to charge tiny 1 diode LED lights and their wattage is much lower than the average electronic. So 40.8µW at 3MΩ would produce results of ~ 11.0634533V and 3.69 µa. I am a bit confused though because according to this article they calculate the theoretical energy output as 0.424W. If it was 0.424W that is definitely useable. (Am I missing something in this article?)

40.8 microwatts is a very tiny amount of energy but according to Dr. Bhaskar's interview in the article below, piezoelectric typing can output enough energy for about 1/10 of the average gadget's wattage needs. Thus, if we were to use these estimates, it would seem that this idea seems feasible. I'd love to see the data behind this RMIT article and am still looking, let me know if you find anything;ID=x7phmev409181;STATUS=A

That being said, I still think pairing this technology with another kinetic energy harvesting technology would be best. The original article I posted above (the one in the other comment) also points out that there is still room for improvement in their prototype. What are your thoughts?

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