NASA’s “Smart Road” Knows How To Illuminate and Activate Visitors’ Phones

We have heard of illuminating ground cover, absorbing solar energy, generating electricity from pedestrians, and even generating Wi-Fi signals before. Now NASA is working with some scientists to develop a new high-tech road project, welcoming visitors to the Kennedy Space Center. The installation, which costs US $ 2 million, is made up of about 1,000 panels spread over 40,000 square feet (3,700 square meters). These plates form mosaic images of the Earth, Mars, Moon, and the International Space Station. Each panel contains an electronic board, six small solar panels, batteries, LEDs, a Bluetooth transmitter, a Wi-Fi transmitter, a microcontroller,  and a piezoelectric unit. All this is encased in a thin, high-performance concrete cavity and covered with a strong glass panel. The piezoelectric systems generate energy from mechanical pressure, and in this case the footsteps of visitors. “When you step on the tempered glass panel, it compresses the piezoelectric element, creating a charge that brightens 125 LEDs.” Along with the illumination of different colors, the panels can also transmit a wireless signal to the phone of passers-by using piezoelectric technology. Stern said: “The piezoelectric elements also issue Wi-Fi or Bluetooth signals to the visitor’s smartphone, and they can play audio, provide information about their geographical location to search for potential paths.” The system is fully self-propelled, but not just by piezo elements: the solar arrays also continually absorb energy from the sun and are all stored in a rechargeable lithium battery for use at night. Finally, the purpose of the project is to introduce “smart city” applications of technology. Devices like these can be used to local power devices such as street lights, guide tourists about attractions, or collect real-time information about traffic conditions and road surface conditions.