The fanny pack is back! Well, sort of. A new Kickstarter project aims to manufacture a series of backpack inserts that can charge your phone from the energy of your legs.
The idea for the Go Kin (as in, kinetic energy) originally sprung from the minds of Queens University professor Qingguo Li and graduate student Michael Shepertycky. The Canadian team took the project to Bill Ostrom, a canoeing enthusiast who had run an outdoor equipment business in Ontario for 26 years. Together, they developed a lightweight design that uses two cords connected to an ankle bracelet or shoe tab to charge the Go Kin insert, which can fit into the bottom of a backpack or fanny pack. According to Ostrom, five minutes of walking with the Go Kin can charge a 25-minute conversation.
It’s a simple idea that could be used in a variety of situations. “If you’re environmentally conscious, and you want to try and take power off the grid system, that’s one thing,” Ostrom tells me. “But if you’re traveling, going to any country, anywhere in Africa, China, India, Pakistan, you might have trouble finding a power source on a regular basis.”
Then there’s the emergency application, too. Say a hurricane wipes out the grid, and volunteers need to be able to move around and communicate with one another freely. A USB and micro USB port also mean that the device is compatible with other kinds of gadgets. Ostrom, for his part, looks forward to using the GO KIN on canoeing trips through northern Ontario’s Boundary Waters because it’ll help power a medical device that treats his sleep apnea.
Ostrom and his team are trying to raise $30,000 for the initial manufacturing phase of the project, which will take place in Ontario. But the price of the GO KIN could still be prohibitive for many; Ostrom estimates something in the $300 to $400 range.
And yet, it’s a promising example of more innovations to come. Think of the Go Kin as a micro-micro-grid, a localized power source that holds up when the big utilities go down. Micro-grids have been the promise of the future for several years now, but, as promised, they’re developing in something of a decentralized way.
That’s also what makes them exciting. Creating new micro-grids is a task that demands that entrepreneurs be present everywhere, and not just in Silicon Valley.
“I’m always looking at ways to cut my carbon footprint, and we practice it now in our household, my wife Anne and I,” Ostrom says. “When I saw this, it was just the best of both worlds: Business combining with a green alternative.”