by Olivier Amiot, Director of Marketing, Energy
Founded in France in 1918, Saft is a leading battery maker serving over 3,000 customers across the world. Its batteries and systems are used across a wide array of sectors, ranging from healthcare, aerospace and defence to transportation and renewable energy utilities, to name just a few. Saft’s products have been deployed over a wide spectrum of environments – from the hot and arid deserts in the Middle East, to space missions around the Moon.
For a few months, Saft’s technology incubator in Bordeaux, France, had been trying to build an IoT application to remotely monitor its batteries out in the field. Saft wanted to capture real-time data across a range of parameters such as battery cell status, temperature, and humidity. The data had to be reported in real-time (in some cases, every 5 seconds) because fluctuations in temperature and humidity can immediately affect battery health.
Given the long lead times and complexities associated with building an IoT infrastructure from scratch, Saft’s technology incubator tapped Sierra Wireless to connect its batteries to the cloud. By choosing Sierra Wireless Octave™, the all-in-one edge-to-cloud solution for connecting industrial assets to the cloud, Saft was able to simplify its IoT project and accelerate its remote monitoring application’s time-to-market.
We spoke to Frédéric Mefiant, a software designer, and Erwan Guillonneau, an embedded software engineer, who work at the Saft incubator, about their IoT journey so far.
Could you take us through the initial efforts in building a remote monitoring application? What were the challenges encountered?
Frédéric: The incubator had been looking at solutions to take remote control over the batteries via Modbus. Attempts were made to build our own solution on Raspberry Pi and then on Strato Pi, using different SIM cards. We also had difficulties in porting over some of the customized programming developments made in Python. The incubator realized that it was very complex to get a proof of concept in the field – there were challenges associated with finding the right cellular connectivity at remote locations, and with device management. Re-programming the solution also took up our time and resources.
When did Saft’s technology incubator realize that it needed an IoT partner to help execute this project? What were its expectations?
Frédéric: The incubator realized that building an IoT infrastructure was not a viable option. We needed a partner that could connect our batteries to the cloud so Saft could focus on its core business – batteries. Some of the key requirements were global cellular connectivity, device management and invoicing capabilities. Further, the solution had to support Modbus and CANopen protocols
Erwan: We were looking for an off-the-shelf solution, where we would not have to certify devices and get the software development qualified.
Why did Saft’s technology incubator choose Octave?
Erwan: Octave is an all-in-one solution. Unlike other solutions on the market, it is not a DIY solution. It is a mature IoT solution that can help Saft’s technology incubator scale its IoT application quickly. Octave also brings a lot of flexibility; not only does it make it much easier to get the data from our batteries, it also enables us to easily adjust the data we extract based on the multiple use cases we address.
The incubator is now considering expanding its use of Octave to connect sensors on batteries, using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and USB interfaces, and address additional needs such as hygrometry, and tracking batteries en-route to remote locations.
Frédéric: Saft’s technology incubator is very pleased with Sierra’s sales and tech sales teams. Not only are we impressed with the expertise that Sierra brings, but also by its team’s attitude: the Sierra team is very pro-active and can anticipate the incubator’s needs – this has made this IoT project so much easier.
Saft’s technology incubator has used Octave to connect batteries in France, as well as in remote locations with extreme weather conditions, where it is challenging and costly to send maintenance teams. For instance, Octave enables Saft to remotely monitor its batteries in remote parts of Mongolia where the temperature can reach – 40°C. Octave will soon also be used to connect Saft’s renewable energy storage batteries in Puerto Rico, and in Mayotte, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean.