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Where Are They Now?: Pavegen

Telecommunications

We spoke to Laurence Kemball-Cook, founder of Pavegen whose expansion plans could see more cities using the electricity generating paving slab making energy more sustainable and accessible worldwide.

Having just unveiled its energy-harvesting walkway at the 2017 Berlin Festival of Lights, in partnership with Google, Pavegen is in an exciting phase of development and expansion.

Pavegen tiles convert the kinetic energy of pedestrians into electricity, and the company currently has a number of international projects in either the planning or construction phase. Recently, Pavegen’s latest version of its technology won a Smart Cities award, and the company earned significant media coverage for its contribution to London’s eco-friendly smart street near the shopping hub of Oxford Circus. By creating installations that are immediately engaging, Pavegen is helping make sustainable energy accessible and fun. Pavegen tiles have embedded data collection and connectivity capability that allows passersby to track the exact amount of energy they create. Organizations can use the information to analyze footfall.

First profiled by Springwise in 2010, founder Laurence Kemball-Cook says Pavegen “gatecrashed” the energy and data industry. “It’s always difficult to do something new,” he said, “and we had to work very hard to be heard and accepted.” “Our long-term vision has always been to be part of the essential fabric of a smarter, more sustainable city,” Kemball-Cook continued. “In the last few years we have begun to make that a reality with projects at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 3 and Washington DC’s Dupont Circle. Our collaboration with TFL and New West End Company in developing the world’s first smart street just off Oxford Street has given us more reach in the smart cities space.”

Pavegen’s latest iteration is its V3 system. It took “hours and hours of development and testing, [with] over 600 prototypes. The results helped us to double our order book and won us a 2017 SXSW Smart Cities award”. Three of the most important lessons Kemball-Cook says he and his team have learned so far are to not give up; hire a strong team; and communicate effectively. Having grown considerably over the past eight years, the company is now trying to reduce manufacturing costs and expanding the team to service fast-developing opportunities in regions such as North America and the Middle East. “The product development team is also working on some radical and exciting applications of our technology. We see great potential in transport hubs, smart city centres, stadia, schools and retail destinations.”

While there has always been a data component to the company’s tiles in order to measure energy output and overall performance, recent investment and a strong partnership with Tribal Planet are allowing Pavegen to connect directly with users through an app. “[It is] an incredibly powerful eco-system which can reward users for their interactions with Pavegen,” says Kemball-Cook. The walkway in Berlin is an example of the tangible connection Pavegen generates with the public. The tiles power interactive light walls and generate a GIF movie file and stills.

Elsewhere, Pavegen is deploying arrays in Kazakhstan, Europe and New York and is developing one that will tour Asia as part of a demonstration of homes of the future. Ultimately, the company would like to deploy in all of the world’s cities, helping to “improve the quality of people’s journeys – creating engaging, interesting environments that generate off-grid energy and useful data”.