Batteries - A Protected Source of Information
Batteries have become attractive learning devices. The Pace of AI adoption in many industries is rapid and becoming part of mainstream business. By connecting every battery to an AI-powered SaaS solution, organizations can make smart management data-driven decisions through full coverage of their stationary and mobile assets.
These tools can also perform remote analytics, increase asset longevity by changing customers and systems and tighten security. Protecting and securing the batteries has become increasingly important not only to prevent a financial loss but also to secure our assets that are becoming an important source of information, and connectivity.
Despite the advanced battery technologies, companies around the globe are experiencing dramatic losses due to a battery theft phenomenon. What used to be an issue mostly for developing countries is now a part of industry concern in North America and Europe as well. Expanding cases of battery thefts from base cellphone towers and broadband backups are being reported, putting public safety at risk with lack of cellular services.
Why Steal Batteries?
As prices of Lead as a commodity stay attractive, lead-acid batteries are a big potential payday for thieves. Battery theft can cause tremendous damage to cellular providers by removing the backup of cellular coverage services including risks to risking public safety and raising replacement costs. Over the past few years some technologies have transformed batteries into insightful sources of information for Artificial Intelligence (AI), making batteries an even more crucial asset to be protected.
One of the leading causes behind these battery thefts is the potential to recycle used lead to be reused in a litany of products and industries.
Don’t forget to recycle your Plumbum (Lead)
Lead is among the most essential metals used in society together with copper and zinc, having been a driver of innovation since ancient times as one of the first discovered metals. According to ILA – the International Lead Association, lead has one of the highest recyclable rates off all common materials used today.
Lead is a naturally occurring element, according to ILA statistics, about 85% of lead is used in lead batteries, all of which are recoverable and recyclable. The primary use of lead is in lead-acid batteries for motor vehicles, as well as stationary batteries for backup power, pigments, rolled and extruded products, ammunition and various other applications.
Lead acid is the most common battery used in the world and remains the most suitable battery to recycle; 70% of its weight contains reusable lead, making it an attractive asset for thieves while lead prices are around 1,500 USD/Ton nowadays.
Europe and North America have a battery recycling rate close to 100% – and most others share the possibility of 100% recyclability. Over half of the lead produced and used each year throughout the world has been used before in other products. So how widespread exactly are these thefts, and are they really that economically damaging?
Global battery thefts in the news
Over the years many incidents of battery thefts have been reported throughout the globe. In some cases, stolen batteries were being reported to police by recycling companies. However in most cases batteries make their way directly into the recycling market without having a chance of ever being spotted as stolen. In addition, a large percentage are also being sold second-hand on the black market.
Here are some examples of incidents from the local North American market:
- Police in North Jersey said they had noticed a growing number of battery thefts from cellphone towers. “It’s definitely becoming a problem,” said Detective Sgt. Robert Anderson following four thefts in Clifton, NJ, in December 2017.
- In the Bay area, thieves got around the alarms of a battery cabinet, and 12V batteries were stolen, causing all calls to cell phone towers to be interrupted.
- CBS2 news revealed a police report in Mahwah, NJ, in April 2017 where Verizon and Sprint were hit with a string of thefts, and 64 batteries were stolen.
- Kiro 7 news revealed in September 2018 several cell tower thefts. Thieves targeted broadband backup batteries, putting public safety at risk. Wires were cut, and batteries were taken in the middle of the day, 80 batteries have been reported stolen, and one cable company alone lost 40,000$.
- In August 2017, a Clarksville radio station posted that the Clarksville Police Department is warning the public about a recent string of vehicle battery thefts following 120 stolen batteries from vehicles in less than a month.
- In the Northeast US, a lone technician stole over 4000 batteries from towers across four states, raking in over $120,000 in less than a year before being apprehended.
Battery theft is a worldwide problem to be addressed; and although total numbers of stolen batteries or accumulated amounts are not exactly known, it is well known and clearly understood that battery thefts are a common problem affecting all of us.
Battery protection solutions
A wide range of battery applications are vulnerable to thefts, Telecom service providers are constantly facing theft solution challenges, especially in remote telecom sites. Antitheft solutions are constantly being addressed by battery OEMs and telecom service providers.
Multiple different methods are being implemented in the industry to control the problem. Some of these include overall site protection, extra cameras, more frequent patrols, educating recycling facilities on battery thefts, and transitioning to different type of batteries such as Li-ion. You can also use unique Lead-acid marking such as specific coloring and symbols by OEMs, and battery GPS tracking devices.
The classic solution for remote telecom sites is advanced security cameras, alarms and fencing protections. These solutions might slow down thieves but don’t stop them. Camera videos reveal thieves who are not concern with being recorded since they are protected with head covers or avoid face recognition.
Usually the sites are remote, awareness of stolen batteries are not in real time, sometimes days can past until noticed and batteries could well be in the recycling facilities by then, damage to site assets and lack of power back up is done and can last couple of days until recognized.
OEM battery marking
In some cases, OEMs have been requested to make a unique battery marking or specific coloring for battery cases in order to set them apart from other brands in the recycling/secondary market. Unfortunately, this is a oftentimes a costly and inefficient solution for battery OEMs, so it is one that is rarely implemented.
Replacing Lead-acid modules with Lithium-Ion
Demand for replacing conventional Lead Acid batteries with modern Lithium Ion–based technology is rapidly increasing due to the significant development in Lithium technology over the last several years. With that being said, the lead-acid batteries are dominating the industrial markets and prices of lithium batteries could be 3-4 times higher or more.
GPS Tracking solutions
GPS or tracking devices have long been in the market and over the years we are seeing more and more assets being equipped with tracking devices. The market is proliferating due to the emergence of IoT and cloud technology which is the rising trend at present.
In order to make the tracking device effective one must be able to monitor but also to be notified on time in case of movement. While some tracking units are just a location provider, others are more advanced and provide feedback notifications for an immediate response with security measures. GPS tracking solutions help law enforcement retrieve stolen batteries, bring thieves to trails and prevent futures thefts.
For an effective result a tracking unit must be concealed within the assets, such as the batteries. Battery OEM’s and end users’ main concern while using these types of tracking devices is the energy source of the unit. Some use a self-generated battery within the tracking device, thus tracking monitoring relies on an external source of uncontrolled power. Others may use the battery itself as the main source of energy, requires a good understanding of the power consumption to preserve the battery State of Health.
Get some feedback from your batteries
GPS tracking and remote monitoring of batteries are considered some of the more advanced technologies in the market today for LiB and more dramatically for lead-acid batteries. As lithium batteries are already equipped with a Battery Monitoring System (BMS), the tracking device is a further feature to help protect the batteries.
As for lead-acid, new game-changing technologies is a game changer that transforms a “simple” battery to a smart, monitored data asset. Smart and easy solutions can be integrated within batteries while consuming minimal voltage supply from the battery, under different types of modes – Installation, Storage, In Cabinet, and Movement.
The smart, compact, and powerful devices can be equipped with Pre-theft detection via a vibration sensor, and real-time alerts. The devices also feature minimal energy consumption, remote configuration capability, Embedded SIM (eSIM), and high cost-effectiveness: one module per battery string / battery cabinet.
It can also be connected externally to batteries in a string, and as mentioned previously, the power consumption must be negligible in order to preserve the batteries State of Health. All of this is made possible through Galooli’s AI-augmented, remote monitoring and management platform (RMM) for energy sources.
AI and Performance Based Optimization
Energy as a Service Monitoring and Management platforms are specifically designed to extend battery life while ensuring optimal usage and energy saving towards reducing Operational Expenses (OPEX). In order to achieve this, innovators have developed features like real-time voltage and temperature tracking to ensure batteries remain at optimal levels.
As we know, batteries colder than their optimal temperature range will remain undercharged, negatively affecting lifespan, performance, and overhead. In the same way, batteries operating at temperatures higher will result in dried out cells, overcharging, corrosion and similar performance degradations. From our experience, for every 10°C your battery temperature rises, battery life is reduced by 50%!
These active battery monitoring systems can remotely track live changes in backup battery and ambient temperature. At the same time, they can track and offer an optimal charging (float) voltage recommendation for lead-acid batteries based on manufacture specifications and live voltage and temperature readings.
In addition, live battery monitor solutions offer real-time data and alerts relating to temperature and voltage reaching levels outside your set norms at both ends of the spectrum. These monitors offer service providers advanced warnings before a potential problem becomes irreversible.
This allows organizations to quickly take care of any problematic batteries and make sure you only make visits to remote sites for maintenance and upkeep only when absolutely necessary. Software-based can also provide protection against batteries being damaged or stolen by providing live alerts and GPS-enhanced tracking.
But let’s get down to brass tax – How does this actually make a difference in your day-to-day operations. In a word – Efficiency.
Energy Efficiency and Sustainability
For service providers like utilities and telecom, being incapable of effectively monitoring and managing internet-connected assets can lead to severe energy inefficiency and significant overhead. Annual OPEX costs can be attributed to 20-40% of telecom organizations’ base station energy requirements.
Moreover, implementing a management and monitoring solution can reduce fuel consumption by up to 40% and save service providers up to 90% in lost energy. Having the capability to monitor your batteries and sites remotely will also increase operational uptime, reduce equipment failure, and cut down on response time to issues while offering real-time visibility of asset availability and performance.
It’s about time you start guarding your batteries
This piece shades an unflattering light on the battery safety market. As a society we are aware that thieves will not vanish, but rather will be caught, charged and become more sophisticated. The goal of this article is to open the debate and awareness of the global problem we are facing, while offering different solutions available in the market and to educate on new technologies that may help migrate the phenomena.
Through innovative analytics and battery monitoring technology Galooli can provide end users with a protective device that reduces cost of ownership by stopping battery thefts, dramatic reduction in site visits and extending battery lifetime.
These aspects create a true cost-effective value to clients and reduce overall operating and capital expenditures. Higher uptime, less failures, longer service life, warranty extension, cost reduction and minimizing carbon footprint are among the leading benefits Galooli’s clients enjoy on a daily basis.