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Interview with Anthony Mutua, inventor of Hatua

23 Oct 2013

Interview with Anthony Mutua, inventor of Hatua

Last year, Anthony Mutua’s ‘shoe charger for mobile phones’ caught the attention of the world.

Seeking to tackle the low battery problem that all cellphone users face, Kenya-based Mutua, the founder of Hatua Technologies, set out to create a cheap solution for this problem.

He came up with the idea of charging phones using specially designed shoes with microchips that produce electricity while walking.

Anthony says his innovation not only solves the ‘low battery’ problem cellphone users face, but also contributes towards reducing environmental pollution.

And it is only fitting that this innovation has been selected among the top 40 African startups on show at the DEMO Africa event to be held in Nairobi in October.

In an interview with ITWeb Africa, Mutua says this is a chance for him to acquire partnerships and investment to help produce his product on a larger scale.

ELLY OKUTOYI: In a nutshell, describe to us what you do at Hatua Technologies.

ANTHONY MUTUA: I am the founder of Hutua technologies, a technological company and the inventor of the mobile phone shoe charger. Some of our products include a vibration-based mobile phone shoe charger and wireless cap chargers.

ELLY OKUTOYI: Your innovation caused quite a stir in both the Kenyan and the international tech scene when you introduced it, to the point of Google chairman, Eric Schmidt acknowledging it and describing it as “innovation from the ground up”. Tell us, how exactly does it work?

ANTHONY MUTUA: The charger basically uses the body weight exerted on the sole of the shoe while walking to charge the phone. We have placed crystal chips in the sole, and these are the producers of electricity when the body weight is placed on them.

We have made harvesting of the electricity possible through two ways: using a cable that is connected to the sole of the shoe and runs into your phone, so that you can charge while walking; or you can decide to just walk, let the chips to store charge for you due to its storage capability.

The chip has the ability to charge several devices at the same time, as we have special charger designed for this. This however depends on how far or long you walk to give the chip enough charging power. By the way, the chip can also be moved from one shoe to another once the old one gets used up. It can also (be) compatible with any shoe with the exception of shower slippers. We wouldn’t want to have electric accidents in the showers!

ELLY OKUTOYI: How long would to charge a phone fully, and how secure is your device with regard to preventing damage from dust and water?

ANTHONY MUTUA: From our tests, a walking distance of 800 metres is enough to charge a phone fully. About the security of the chip, we have designed them is such a way that they are waterproof, and definitely dust proof. This guarantees longer life span. The users are also safe from accidental electric shocks, as the energy produced is very minimal.

ELLY OKUTOYI: How long can one use the chip on the shoes for then?

ANTHONY MUTUA: The chip has a lifespan of six years to eight years; thus, when the shoe wears out the gadgets can be transplanted to another shoe, this involves training local shoe repairs on how to insert the said device in case the shoe wears out.

ELLY OKUTOYI: Interesting! So, how would you describe your business model?

ANTHONY MUTUA: My business model involves designing, manufacturing and selling of mobile phone charging shoes (Hatua shoes). Hatua is a brand name of the mobile phone shoes charger, just like the common brand of shoes like Adidas, Nike, Bata, etc.

ELLY OKUTOYI: What are some of the challenges you have faced while producing your shoe chargers?

ANTHONY MUTUA: This is a relatively new idea, and due to unavailability of production machines locally, we are forced to outsource this service. Outsourcing these services increases the production cost and consequently the cost of the device used in the shoe. If the required machines were available locally, I am sure the price would be 40% lower, at the moment a pair goes for in between $40 to $48 depending on the quality of the shoe.

The product’s counterfeits and duplicates pose a serious threat to the implementations of this technology. We are looking to solve this challenge by getting a worldwide patent with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO).

Finances have also been a big challenge but we are however looking to acquire new partners, crowd funding, grants from organisations and prize awards, hopefully!

ELLY OKUTOYI: You mentioned that you design the shoes, why don’t you just go for ready shoes already in the market and insert the chip before reselling them?

ANTHONY MUTUA: The use of shoes from other companies like Bata posed a major challenge since enhancing the shoes with this technology added quality to their products, consequently they demanded royalty payments making it necessary to introduce the Hatua shoe logo and produce my own shoe brand.

ELLY OKUTOYI: What is your vision for this innovation and where do you see it in a few years?

ANTHONY MUTUA: I would say this is one of the greatest business ideas to watch. The technology is worth billions with the required financial support. My belieF and aim is to take this business to a multibillion level company. The concept is not only limited to being fitted into shoes for mobile charger. There are other applications which I have explored and some are in my pending list to explore. Some of these concepts include a house lighting door mat, electric generating tiles which will be used in street lighting, security lighting, highway and bridge lighting and many others. This will be achieved by use of the chips similar to those used in the charging shoes.

I believe this will be achieved mainly by customer satisfaction which is a priority to the business, having a worldwide patent of the same, ensuring that the hatua shoe is available to all retail chain, building networks outside to other parts of the world and partnering with an international company after acquiring the world wide patents.

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