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What is the shared power bank and how can it run

IT Infrastructure *SharePoint Business Models IOT Finance in IT
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The shared economy is a very popular economic concept in recent years. In this concept, the idle resources are the first and most critical element. The shared economy is developing rapidly in China. Projects emerged recently, including the shared powerbank, the shared umbrella, the shared bike and the sharing cars etc.

Now I’m working at an embedded hardware company, I have been exposing to powerbank station related projects. In this article I’ll talk about  the shared powerbank structure and its usage direction.

How to use

1. Find power bank stations in public areas like restaurants, shopping malls, train stations;

2. Scan the QR code, follow the payment or deposit instruction, a powerbank would pop out and ready to use.

3. After using, find an empty dock on station location map on the phone and return it.

Structure of the shared powerbank

The shared powerbank is generally divided into three parts: station, powerbank, customer-end APP and the back-end server.

In terms of  hardware, powerbank station adopts low-power MCU solution to realize intelligent management of shared powerbank. The MCU connects with the back-end server. Between them there is an agreed communication protocol . For example, after the consumer returns the powerbank, the server will send instructions to the station to charge the usage. The equipment supports domestic 4G IoT card for telecommunication in order to ensure the signal is unlocked.

Regarding the safety of the powerbank, battery supports 5V output short circuit protection, internal overcurrent and short circuit protection. The rated input of the powerbank battery can automatically balance the charging current according to the input 5V charging capacity. Besides, the rated output of the power bank battery can be balanced according to the load capacity.

The most important part of the shared powerbank project is the software system. The back-end server is based on the AWS IoT platform. AWS IoT devices communicate with applications running in the cloud via HTTP, MQTT  and WebSockets. These applications are secured by TLS. The given SDK based on the platform can be used for embedded C, JavaScript, Python, iOS, Android and Arduino Yún.  Merchants get powerbank information, return information and time synchronization information through the back-end server. At the same time, in order to prevent theft, the slots of the device can be locked according to the backstage big data, and the battery will not be bounced out. Firmware of the device can realize remote OTA for software maintenance and upgrade. Through the customer end APP developed by this back-end server, consumers can quickly locate the nearest empty station for return.

Application scenarios

The shared powerbank is generally installed in crowded places like shopping malls, restaurants, railway stations and airports. Mobile phones are an indispensable device in people's lives today, especially now that some people may also have "low battery anxiety." However, although the powerbank can guarantee the battery power at any time, it is inconvenient to carry. If the shared power bank can be seen everywhere on the street at this time, then the mobile phone can always be fully charged, and people can also travel without "loading".

How many powerbanks can be placed in a station depends on the location of the device. The shared powerbank station with 6-12 slots is suitable for  a store or restaurant. The equipment is usually small, compact and convenient. For places like shopping center, powebank station with 20-108 slots would be a better choice regardiess of its big size. We can put touch screen on it to make a big size power bank station a interactive kiosk & digital signage. A good human-machine interface and advertising screen will bring additional revenue to the business.

Conclusion

As the author of the article, I studied in St. Petersburg from 2018 to 2020. At that time, I had never seen any shared powerbank in public. According to Product Lifecycle Theory in marketing, at least in East Europe, shared power bank station is still in introductory stage which indicates a rapid market growth in the future. But I always have a question. We generally use powerbank when battery is low. So when our phone die, how can we scan the code to rent the power bank?

The solution I have so far is to add the following function. We can set a button to bounce out charging cable on the station. It can not be taken out, and it can just only be charged for 2-3 minutes to ensure that the phone can be turned on and run normally. And then we can use the restarted mobile phone to scan the code and finish the rental procedure.

Of course, according to my product experience, currently we need to scan the QR-code before taking out the powerbank. Theoretically my idea should be feasible. And also everyone is welcome to discuss and share ideas together.

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