Electric Mobs
August 20th, 2006

An interesting article called Power From the People looks like another instance of cooperative strategy using embedded technology:

Last week, JR East, one of the regional subdivisions of the national Japanese railway network, completed a pilot study looking into ways that parts of a station’s electrical needs could be met by people power.

According to the Japanese newspaper Chunichi Shimbun, the JR East program, assisted by researchers from Keio University, plans to embed piezo pads in the floor under the ticket gates. As people pass through, vibration and pressure on the pads is converted by piezo crystals into an electrical charge which can then be channeled to highly efficient power storage systems and provide clean, ecologically friendly power to parts of the station. Although the piezo current is apparently a small one, if enough passengers pass through (and bounce a bit as they do), quite respectable amounts of electricity can be accumulated….

For the environmentally conscious, it’s a thrilling idea. Suddenly a typical city looks like a series of energy-generating opportunities currently being missed. All those people walking, cars driving, elevated iron bridges vibrating as the trains roll across — aren’t they a bit like wind, sun or waves just waiting to have their energy harnessed and turned into power?…

Still, it’s fascinating to imagine a future in which almost nothing goes to waste, and power gets recycled in highly efficient loops. It raises all sorts of questions I’m sure Jacques and Pierre Curie, who discovered piezoelectrics in 1880, never got around to thinking about. Who really owns energy? Should we start thinking of walking (or just standing still and vibrating) as a commodity we could sell, or a gift we should give?

via Wired

I followed this post up with some additional thinking in Cooperation Problematizes Property.

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