What is a “smart” battery? Well, we will dive into the details of that in a moment but suffice it to say for now that a smart battery is any battery system that can give you information. If you own a smartphone (or indeed any mobile phone or laptop over the last thirty years) then you will already be familiar with the little displays or read-outs that tell you how much charge you have left, be that 90%, 50% or, in some unfortunate cases, 2%. This simple communication of the charge cycle from device to user is made possible by smart battery technology. Today, smart batteries can do a great deal more besides. But any battery that tells you anything about its functioning can be considered a smart battery. One thing about them should, in any case, be obvious: they are everywhere.
Unsurprisingly then, smart batteries have a long and storied history; one of constant development, continual refinement, and the occasional revolutionary breakthrough. Today, excellent time- and effort-saving products, such the USB rechargeable batteries produced by Utah-based company Pale Blue Earth, are a common sight in households. Such USB rechargeable AA and AAA batteries can now display their charge on the casing itself – and it is all thanks to smart battery technology.
What is a Smart Battery Really?
Smart batteries have been around for some time. All laptop battery packs are essentially smart batteries simply because they inform users about remaining battery life. However, it isn’t just a matter of conveying this information to users; these devices have also been able to prompt users when it is time to charge. Today, they can even automatically initiate power management functions when battery life is running out. It is here that the real potential of smart batteries lies.
What makes all these additional features possible is something known as a smart battery system (BSS). BSS systems have been around for a long time too – and they vary in their complexity – but it is the presence of such a system that truly makes a smart battery. A smart battery does more than just monitor its condition; it also needs to be to be able to convey that information and perform automatic power management functions. For this to be possible, it needs to have a BSS.
Thus, a smart battery is one with a special integrated circuit as part of the battery itself. This is then connected to a software system. The information which these BSS systems monitor can be complex and detailed and can include things like battery type, model number, charge/discharge rate, temperature, and voltage. The software (usually a simple AI system) processes this data and acts accordingly. You could say this is how batteries went from being electrical products to electronic products.
Past and Present
Smart batteries first arose at the same time as lithium-ion batteries. The combination of these two technologies is largely that which made all modern portable electronics possible. The lithium-ion composition allowed for the fast charging times and many charge cycles while the smart battery systems allowed all that to be managed and conveyed to the user.
As this technology developed, smart batteries went through various stages of development, each one bringing with it more complex systems of battery power management and more efficient and long-lasting batteries. It is precisely this technology that has made electric cars at all possible. And with the future looking set to become ever-more battery powered, you can be sure smart battery systems will keep pace with every exciting step along the way.