Meet our Application Engineers
Meet our Application Engineers
Meet our Application Engineers, they’re here to help you
If you’re a regular reader of our IoT blog, then you’ll know that at the end of every article there is a link to get in touch with us for more information. This link puts you in touch with our application engineers who together with our sales team are available to help you find the right battery solution to meet the technical specifications of your IoT devices. This service is unique, Saft is the only battery manufacturer to offer technical support, free of charge, to ensure that you have exactly the right battery solution for your IoT devices, taking into account the full power ecosystem of the application. When batteries are critical to your application, you know you can rely on Saft.
So, let’s introduce you to Isabelle Sourmey and Jean-François Savin, two of our Application Engineers for Saft Connected Energy Division, and Susan Palenta, our Sales Manager for Connected Energy in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.
Isabelle Sourmey and Jean-François Savin, Application Engineers, Susan Palenta, Sales Manager for Connected Energy
How long have you been working as application engineers for Saft and what does the role involve?
Isabelle Sourmey (IS): I first joined Saft in 2009 as an engineer for the Space and Defense Division, and as an Application Engineer since 2014. Our batteries are critical components of IoT applications – if they fail, the application fails. So our role is to provide technical support for our sales team and customers, to identify the precise needs of our customers’ devices and ensure that batteries we propose meet the required performance in terms of power and lifetime.
Jean-François Savin (JFS): I’ve been working in the role of Application Engineer for four years now but joined Saft in 1987 as a trainee engineer straight from mechanical engineering school! In this time, I have held various positions, I have had the opportunity to work in Italy, the USA as well as France, and with customers from all over the world. IoT technology is bringing change to every industry and every market every day. What is essential in this role is understanding the full ecosystem in which IoT developers work. Power – in the form of batteries – is at the heart of every technology.
Susan Palenta (SP): I joined the Saft sales team in 2005, and I have to say, that from a commercial and a customer point of view, the technical support provided by Isabelle and Jean-François demonstrates our commitment to providing the right solution. They will propose a range of technical solutions and I will calculate the pricing of each solution and discuss with our customers. In this way we can be 100% confident that the solutions we sell will work.
What specific considerations need to be made for IoT applications?
JFS: We start by asking customers to complete a product specification request (PSR) form so that we can understand and analyze their requirements and help them to select the right battery. This form includes the 4 key parameters which affect available battery capacity, namely: the temperature, peak currents, consumption profile and the minimal application voltage (or cut-off voltage). An accurate calculation of the expected battery capacity for an IoT application can be quite complex, as it must consider both intrinsic properties of the battery cell and the typical parameters of use cases and environmental conditions.
IS: We can help customers to complete this form at an early stage of product development. In this way, it works as a check list of important factors to take into account. Understanding the power needs and energy consumption profile of the application early in the design process will ensure that the device functions correctly over its whole lifetime. And it will also help to avoid expensive mistakes!
Saft provides 3 different on-line tools to help customers identify the right choice of battery. Can you explain the functionality of each tool?
JFS: Saft’s Smart Battery selector is a simple tool that lets you explore your battery choice at an early stage of your IoT project. In 7 steps it helps you identify the type and size of battery that correspond with your use case and provides an indication of price and battery lifetime that can be expected. Further along the design process timeline, when you have contacted our sales team, the smart selector can help you to complete the PSR form so that we can provide you with a personalized battery solution and an accurate lifetime calculation for your device.
Wisebatt for Saft is a virtual prototyping tool that lets you estimate the power consumption and battery lifetime of your device on the basis of different software and hardware options. It allows you to assemble components from a library of over 7500 models to draft your device software with functional blocks.
Our partner, Deutsche Telecom has developed a digital modelling tool, the IoT Solution Optimizer, which allows developers to plan, model and optimize the performance of their battery powered NB-IoT and LTE-M solutions using Saft batteries. The communication activity, frequency, payload size, employed protocols, and firmware updates all influence how the battery energy is consumed.
SP: These tools are designed to help customers and potential customers to identify the most appropriate battery solution for their device, and to test the effects of different configurations. But they’re just one part of the analysis. We always recommend that customers check their designs with our applications engineers, to calculate on the basis of given operational and environmental parameters, an accurate lifetime of the battery to ensure that, as a critical component of your application, it will not fail.
What makes the choice of battery for IoT applications so complex?
IS: As mentioned before, IoT developers work within complex ecosystems. Power is at the heart of every application. When considering batteries, it is important to understand how battery cells work. Each cell contains fixed amounts of active materials, in the form of an electron giver (or anode) and electron taker (cathode), and the chemical reaction which takes place produces electricity. The speed at which this happens determines the power (discharge rate) and lifetime (capacity) of the cell. Self-discharge and passivation affect the lifetime of the battery, and this is influenced by changes in operating temperature. The data transmission rate and transmitting distance of each application determines the power consumption. Moreover, there is no simple solution to measure the remaining capacity of a primary lithium battery once it has been installed, indeed batteries are not constant voltage generators. Which is why, all the different factors which influence the battery lifetime, need to be calculated from the start.
What are the key criteria for selecting Li-ion rechargeable batteries? Are they the same as for primary batteries?
IS: There are 3 important criteria.
- Accessibility. Is there easy access to the device? Does the device have access to a power source to be recharged?
- Autonomy. How much energy does the device require and for how long?
- Price. Li-ion batteries have more components and are more costly to manufacture.
For applications such as gas or water meters for example, they have no connection to the electricity network for safety reasons. Moreover, they are often installed underground or in places that are difficult to access. They need to operate without maintenance for 15 to 20 years. Primary batteries are the only solution for such devices.
Some applications may be able to use solar panels to be recharged during the day. Lifetime calculations would then need to consider the discharge rates and the charging cycle. In most circumstances, Saft’s Li-ion technologies will more than double the operating lifetime as compared to competitor’s cells. This extended life can take place over a broad temperature range, beyond that of most commercial cells. But they do not have an infinite lifetime. Depending on the application and environment, Saft’s primary lithium batteries may provide longer life.
Can you give an example of what could go wrong by making the wrong choice of battery?
JFS: As a former industrialization manager, I know all the potential problems and associated costs when things go wrong. We sometimes have customers who come to us for help because they did not receive any technical advice from our competitors and their choice of battery did not match the needs of their device. They had to go back to the drawing board and together we were able to develop the right solution.
IS: In the case of smart metering for example, a company such as GRDF, responsible for the gas distribution network in France, has over 13 million meters installed across the country. They cannot afford to make the wrong choice, because once installed, the batteries cannot be replaced. They need to be certain that the battery will ensure that the meters will operate as designed, without the need for maintenance or intervention, for up to 25 years. The battery lifetime is critical for their business model because the cost of replacement would be too high. With our years of experience, technical expertise, and assurance, they know that they can rely on Saft batteries.
SP: I received a big project request from a large company that had calculated on the basis of available data sheets that a single A cell would be sufficient to power its device. Our application engineers reviewed their calculations and saw that under the extreme pulse loads and demanding temperature scenarios these cells would only last for 3 months! The customer would need a much larger battery consisting of 2 D size cells to meet their required duration. However, they did not believe us, and they did not leave enough space in their design for such a large battery. Maybe they will come back in a few months’ time and ask us to review a new design or adjusted load profiles!
We hope you’ve enjoyed meeting our team, and that we’ve given you an insight into the important ways in which we can help. Now that you’ve reached the end of the article, here’s a reminder of the link you need to get in touch with us for more information.