Trevor Baylis: Will Somebody Run With My Electric Shoes?

Peter Judge has been involved with tech B2B publishing in the UK for many years, working at Ziff-Davis, ZDNet, IDG and Reed. His main interests are networking security, mobility and cloud

Creator of the clockwork radio Trevor Baylis tells TechWeekEurope how industry should support inventors

Trevor Baylis is famous as the inventor of the clock work radio, but he has continued to invent other things, and support other small inventors in the their efforts to gain recognition and reward through his site Trevor Baylis Brands.

We spoke to him about electric shoes, and ways individuals can get the benefit from their inventions. He was talking at the Ideas Matter event in Brussels, sponsored by Microsoft and other big players.

Electric shoes

The clockwork radio was designed to provide power and communications for areas where the electric grid is unreliable. Since then, Baylis has invented electric shoes, that generate electricity to charge a phone or radio, using the piezoelectric effect, and walked across the Namib desert wearning them.

It’s not been commercialised yet, though, perhaps because of security worries:  “The only trouble is that having a pouch full of electronics on the side of the shoe invites you to have four bullets in the brain,”Baylis says, “becausae  they think you might be a shoe bomber. Try going to an airport wearing one of those! Hello, hello hello. Bang, bang bang!”

There is still room for these shoes he says, “if someone would run with them”. If they are built with a see-through pcuch, so airport staff could see it is a mobile phone battery, he pointed out. “It would have to be taken off as you go through the airport, obviously.”

A full version would give the user three batteries: one in the phone and one on each foot. “It is one of those things that would be perfect for the army,” says Baylis. “f you are in the middle of nowhere, you can still get a signal out. ”

He isn’t very fixed about the details of the shoes, and doesn’t want to talk about how much energy they  could deliver.  The patent doesn’t even specify what the energy source is, apparently:  “It could be  a dynamo in the shoe.”

A safe haven for inventors

He has also designed other things, including a self-weighing briefcase, with a spring scale in the handle, but most of his ideas have been to help the disabled. A former stunt-man he is very aware that “disability is only a banana skin away. ”

However, his main focus now is on helping other inventors.

” I just don’t want all the inventors being turned over like a turkey by big business,” he says. “We have to make sure that when the money comes in, the inventor has a patent and gets a return for for their invention”

Trevor Baylis Brands is a “safe haven” he says, where inventors can find out first of all whether their idea is viable. “You come to us, and I have a patent attorney and a team of people who look at your inventon, to ask 1. Is there a need for it? and 2. Has it been done before? There might be products out there so similar to yours that by the time you’ve raised a million to bring it court,  it goes to the one next door. ”

Finding this out soon is good: “It’s better to be let down early on than end up saying ‘Alas, Alas!'”

“Great minds think alike,” he says, and we challenge him: “Surely great minds think differently?”

That prompts a disccusion of perpetual motion: “If someone came to me with an idea for a perpetual motion machine, I wouldn’t laugh at them. I’d say hang on, let’s call it something different.”

He would have to do that of course, because perpetual motion machines are automatically rejected by any patent authority. “Let’s look at that perpetual motion machine,” says Baylis. “There could be some gizmo or gadget inside that could be used inside a hair dryer or a water heater, or some other gizmo or gadget.” Perhaps the inventor has stumbled on a better piece of mechanics or a different lubricant, says Baylis.

Dump Dragon’s Den

He is scathing about the Dragon’s Den series where inventions and ideas are turned into entertainment, and inventors are “made to look like buffoon”.

” It shouldn’t be up to six people to make the final decision,” says Baylis. “It should be an auction. It is not a game show, it should be taken seriously.”

Apart from anything else, Dragon’s Den contestants should be properly protected with a patent, and they should only go on the show if they can be “presented in a decent respectable way. ”

Baylis’ co-panelist at the Ideas Matter event, Microsoft’s Ron Zink thinks it is best for companies to own patents earned by their employees, but Baylis is not so sure. “Som universities even claim to own the intellectual property of their people,” says Baylis. “If that is the case if you come up with a big idea, you won’t even get the credit.”

“I don’t thikn we should do it that way. I want to make sure that when the money rolls in, he or she is not rolled out. We have to entice people to have a go.” Companies should give their inventors one percent of the revenue their invention generates, he says. That is “peanuts” he says, but if it makes a billion dollars, it is very worthwhile.

He thinks that moves like Twitter’s decision to credit inventors and give them control of their creations, it would be good publicity for the company.”It’s an everybody-win situation.”

He wants invention – and how to protect it – to be on the curriculum. “You have to teach all students about intellectual property,” he said. “You have to show them great inventors. Some them committed suicide, some died in bankruptcy. There is a whole list of them, and it shows how important it is to do it properly. Use history to prove a point.

“We are all inventors,” he says “but some have the guts to get off their backsides and do something about it. ” After years as the inventor’s spokesman, it can comes out a bit chippy.  “I’m fed up with little guys being looked down upon,” he said. “I don’t mind anyone looking down on me, as long as they don’t expect me to be looking up. You have got to have an attitude, you’ve got to have guts.”

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