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Posted: 07:09:46 PM, 07/09/2015

The Batteriser: Bane or boon?

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Recent teardowns I've written have highlighted the circuitry differences between hardware powered by batteries, therefore containing DC voltage regulation circuitry, and mains-powered equivalents containing more elaborate AC-DC converters. These discussions reminded me of a newly unveiled product, the Batteriser (here's the patent), which was recently shown in AA-sized prototype form to a select set of journalists (yours truly not included, in the interest of full disclosure). The Batteriser is forecast to begin production-shipping in AA, AAA, C, and D cell-compatible form factors in late September, crowdfunded by an Indiegogo campaign.

Founding company Batteroo's pitch is rich with intrigue and compelling claims:

- Industrial espionage,

- Up to 8x longer battery life

- Products that "pay for themselves with the first set of revived batteries"

And at minimum, the Batteriser, "crafted from stainless steel at 0.1 mm thin," represents an impressive Moore's Law case study of the now-possible extreme miniaturization of today's DC voltage boost and regulation capabilities. But what, if any, reality is there behind founder Bob Roohparvar's boasts? Plenty of detractors exist; see, for example, the commentary at Hackaday and Slashdot. Here are my thoughts.

In his pitch to PC World's Jon Phillips, Roohparvar reportedly showed via a "power meter" that adding the Batteriser to an AA battery that had been drained to 1.3V restored the battery's like-new 1.5V output capabilities. I've no doubt that this is possible, but the "power meter" likely put a scant current demand on the setup. The Batteriser-boosted battery might not have fared nearly as well under more typical applications ("wireless keyboards, game console controllers, TV remotes, digital scales, blood pressure monitors, toys, and (of course) the ubiquitous flashlight"), especially when drained all the way down to 0.6V as Roohparvar suggests is feasible.

Secondly, why couldn't the requisite boost and regulation circuitry alternatively be located within the powered device itself? In fact, as you likely already realize, it frequently is. Roohparvar happened to find a Bluetooth keyboard that wouldn't function reliably with 1.3V non-Batteriser'd AA power sources. But debunker Dave Jones, in spite of lots of searching, was unable to find an AA-based product that wouldn't work with batteries running at above 1.1V. And since battery discharge cycles are non-linear, that 1.1V level represents around 80% of a battery's full life.

What about Batteroo's cost-savings claims? Each AA-sized Batteriser is forecast to cost $2.50; that's $10 for a four-pack, plus the prices of the batteries themselves. But I recently came across a 100-pack of alkaline AAs for $15. Even if you buy into Roohparvar's pitch that a single Batteriser-enhanced AA can replace eight conventional counterparts, the comparative math just doesn't add up ... especially if, as Dave Jones claims, use of the Batteriser might lead to a short circuit-induced system fire.

And what about Batteroo's advocacy about keeping an excessive drained-battery count out of landfills, which would normally resonate strongly with an avowed environmentalist such as me? Thankfully, batteries are no longer mercury-filled, although tossing them in the trash is still illegal in California. But why not instead invest in a set of NiMH rechargeables, which can be cycled thousands of times? Here, for example, is a generic twelve-pack of AAAs for $7.99. And here's a brand-name twelve-pack of AAs for $14.99. The charger's extra, of course, but the adder is scant; here's one for $12 that even comes with four AAs.

At the end of the day, although I commend Batteroo on its miniaturization achievement, I struggle to find a strong commercialization market opportunity for it. And attempting to rationalize early-adopter's investments in your company by means of dubious-at-best claims is penny-wise, pound-foolish. But having said this, there may be some angle on the product that I've overlooked, which might lead me to a more positive opinion. If you see it, I'd like to hear about it. Please post your thoughts in the comments.


Brian Dipert is Editor-in-Chief of the Embedded Vision Alliance. He is also a Senior Analyst at BDTI and Editor-in-Chief of InsideDSP, the company's online newsletter. And he's an off-hours freelancer as the Principal at Sierra Media, where he contributes to (among other things) the Brian's Brain blog at EDN Magazine. Brian has a BSEE from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN.

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