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Battery monitoring technology leads world

Media Statement 5 April 2005

Battery monitoring technology leads world

A New Zealand company has developed one of the world’s first automatic monitoring systems to measure, record and analyse back-up battery systems, avoiding the substantial financial losses which can result if back-up battery systems fail during major power cuts.

The battery monitoring technology is crucial to businesses that rely on continuous power supply, like airlines and traffic control, power, telecommunications and data processing companies, where battery systems provide emergency power until generators kick in.

Years of research and development, along with investment and support from Technology New Zealand, has resulted in Auckland-based PowerShield producing a world-class system that has jettisoned it onto the world stage, with export markets now established throughout Europe, Asia and Australia.

The PowerShield technology replaces manual monitoring, which was labour intensive, costly and was often a risky job as staff worked among banks of batteries and electrical wiring to try to calculate the state of standby batteries. Manual checks are not a foolproof method of confirming that batteries will function when required in an emergency.

PowerShield’s Managing Director, Len Thomas, says the cost of early battering monitoring was more expensive than the batteries being monitored. Battery monitoring remains a relatively immature industry, and PowerShield has an early lead in the global market.

Its potential is growing as companies move to protect themselves against compensation claims for cancelled or disrupted services during power failures. When a power failure blacked out large areas of North America’s east coast in 2003 people assumed they would at least have the security of cellphone communication but more than 20 percent of the batteries in cellphone network sites failed, he says.

The PowerShield product incorporates a Measurement Module with optical isolation to transfer data from each battery. The technology provides remote, continuous battery monitoring, comprehensive reporting that identifies voltage variations so remedial repair action can be taken, and provides an electrically safe environment. It captures data by sampling all batteries in the bank every two seconds, calculating the capacity of each battery and triggering an alarm when a defective battery is detected.

The system also provides information that allows companies to redirect emergency battery power to priority services and closing down non-essential areas until emergency generators power up.

PowerShield is installed in some prestigious international sites including 450 Singapore Telecom sites, the Hong Kong and Taiwan stock exchanges, and many banks throughout New Zealand, Australia, UK and France.

“The investment support from Technology New Zealand allowed us to push ahead with our research without being dependent entirely on cashflow to fund the work. Without that support, we would have missed opportunities to launch into world markets,” says Mr Thomas.

An initial $25,000 investment from Technology New Zealand helped with preliminary research investigations, and $260,000 was provided from its Technology for Business Growth (TBG) programme to enable PowerShield to go ahead with product development.

PowerShield has achieved its international success with just nine staff. It is now working towards another significant international breakthrough, again using its Technology New Zealand partnership and investment of $500,000. It aims to add greater intelligence to its battery monitors so that the technical data provided can be translated automatically into everyday language that companies can easily understand without requiring expert interpretation.

A partnership is also being forged with a Swiss company to develop new technology that will predict the future life of each battery during monitoring. This will open up further export opportunities for PowerShield, particularly in lucrative United States markets.


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