Rising energy prices are forcing us to look in all sorts of odd places for spare power—including ourselves. Philips subsidiary Ledalite Architectural Products' Airwave exploits fingertip energy with battery-free lighting controls. The act of pushing the Airwave light switch captures kinetic energy (the energy of motion) that transmits wireless commands to turn lights on and off.
Airwave's photosensors also rebel against battery power, relying instead on photovoltaic cells to monitor light levels and signal the lighting unit to reduce output when sufficient daylight is available. Since Ledalite's controls are battery-free, they can be installed on almost any available surface without ripping open walls to install new wiring. The truly lazy can even pocket the controls and use them wherever Ledalite's wireless signal is available.
According to Ledalite, the switches cost $80 and light sensors cost $150. That could be comparable to traditional lighting systems, but it depends on the complexity of wiring in individual homes versus the upfront cost of a wireless solution.
Ledalite may be the latest player in the kinetic energy game, but it's not the first. M2E Power is working on a motion-powered electronics charger and Sony's ODO Twirl N' Take concept camera uses a spinning wheel to get picture-taking juice. But the M2E charger asks for six hours of walking time to produce 60 minutes of cell phone talking time, and the Twirl N' Take requires you to spin a wheel for 15 seconds to take a single photo. Ledalite only asks you to do what is required by traditionally-powered lighting systems—press a button.