Portable device generates charge from daily activities


Photo Courtesy of SARAH PINHO

AMPY absorbs kinetic energy, storing it inside a battery that can be used to charge phones or other devices.

By Assistant Sports & Health Editor

Those who have trouble getting through the day without their phones dying might have a new solution that will keep their batteries charged for longer.

The makers of AMPY, a wearable device that captures kinetic energy and stores it in a battery that plugs into a device and charges it, are in the process of achieving full-scale manufacturing to break into the marketplace.

The company was founded by Northwestern University alums Tejas Shastry, Alex Smith and Mike Geier as part of an entrepreneurship class they took while enrolled at the university’s engineering Ph.D. program.

“We wanted to solve a problem that we all have, which is that our smartphones die before the end of our day,” Shastry said. “We walk around a lot living in the city, to and from work, or even go on runs, so we thought, ‘Why can’t we capture some of that energy we put into all these activities in our day and use it to charge our phones?’”

There are other kinetic chargers on the market, but AMPY is three to four times smaller, making it a portable accessory that can be strapped onto the body or put in a pocket to best fit a person’s lifestyle, according to Shastry.

AMPY is being funded by more than 2,000 Kickstarter backers who have pledged more than $270,000, nearly triple the campaign’s initial goal of $100,000. The campaign closed Nov. 9.

“I think AMPY [got so much support] because it solves a problem that a lot of people have had,” Shastry said. “So many people have active lifestyles that have been waiting for a product that fits into their life like this, so the message has resonated with a lot of audiences.”

The funds raised from AMPY’s campaign will be used for pre-production and manufacturing costs so the company can deliver AMPY devices to its backers and launch in retail outlets in 2015, Shastry said.

Beth Macdonald, vice president of marketing at Dragon Innovation, said AMPY passed the company’s Dragon Certification test, which ensures that AMPY can actually be manufactured and assembled.

Going through the Dragon Certified program can help with crowdfunding by showing that the creators are serious about their product and assuring potential supporting they are backing something that could be successful, Macdonald said.

“The bottom line is that the creators of AMPY have made it this far because they’re a team that’s done their due diligence,” Macdonald said. “By going through this process, I think it says a lot about how they have a strategy around their work, and hopefully it should point to not only a successful Kickstarter campaign and ultimately happy backers, but hopefully they’re on the path to being a very successful company for years to come.”

AMPY can store enough power for roughly two-thirds of the charge of most modern smartphones and users can add approximately three additional hours of battery life by simply walking the average daily number of steps per day, which is 10,000, Shastry said.

AMPY’s main customers are active urbanites or people leading healthy lifestyles, although anybody who faces issues with smartphone battery life could get use out of the device, Shastry said.

Currently, those interested in securing an AMPY can preorder the device by donating $85 on the Kickstarter. After the Kickstarter closes, Shastry said AMPY will be available for preordering at $95.

In addition to the device, the co-founders of AMPY have developed a smartphone app for iPhone and Android users that can be paired with a person’s exercise routine. The app can help track the number of calories a person has burned and translates that into the amount of energy earned in AMPY, allowing people to visualize the results of their activity, Shastry said.

Eric Whobrey, vice president of interactive for the Chicago Interactive Marketing Association, said he recently decided to back AMPY after learning of the device from a coworker. Whobrey, also a Northwestern alumnus, said he was drawn to the Kickstarter product because he liked that it took technology that has already been around and made it accessible to the general population in a way that could benefit everyone.

“I think it is a technology that’s advancing in a way that will eventually just be incorporated into devices when it’s small, fast and efficient enough,” Whobrey said. “It will be built into our phones, it will be built into our watches and other electronic devices.”