Solar and IoT companies come together to extend off-grid power

Image: BBOXX Solar power in Rwanda 

Two companies, BBOXX -- an off-grid solar company and Aeris -- an IoT firm, have announced that they will collaborate to provide more off-grid solar energy products to help 20 million people in Africa get power by 2020.

Following the collaboration, BBOXX, which is already supplying 3W to 5kW plug-and-play solar systems for homes across Africa and has installed more than 80,000 systems so far, will be able to supply solar power products that can be monitored remotely through all cellular technologies including GSM, CDMA and LTE networks.

It works just like most of pay-as-you-go solar power products we have seen launched recently, but using Aeris subscriber identity module (SIM) that works globally, meaning these systems can be used anywhere in the world. This reduces supply-chain costs and deployment time because it eliminates time spent on configuring local networks. Most of the pay-as-you-go solar are connected to local networks so useful to people in those localities only. 

Inclusion of IoT technology in solar power gadgets helps to collect user data, allows user identification that facilitates payment and provision of personalized support to users, and the controlling of these devices remotely.

BBOXX will install the Aeris global SIM at the point of manufacturing to reduce supply-chain costs and deployment time. They systems will use Aeris' single global access point name (APN), so they can be deployed anywhere across the world in a play-and-plug mode without configuring local networks. The Aeris AerPort TM connectivity will help in the real time access to usage data, alert management and device-connectivity management over SIM network.

"By working together we can ensure that our solutions have optimum reliability and our customers can be sure their devices possess a reliable connection, at all times, no matter where in the world they are deployed," said BBOXX Christopher Baker-Brian, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer. "Aeris' high-quality service and IoT expertise ensure that we can offer the best clean energy solutions to off-grid communities worldwide."

Remote monitoring will help the company to gather data about energy usage behavior of customers, in order to learn how to provide a reliable service according to BBOXX CEO Mansoor Hamayun.

"We believe this innovation is central to unlocking the pay-as-you-go business model and making solar energy an accepted, trusted and financeable product in the eyes of the off-grid world,” he said.

The Smart Solar from BBOXX also helps to extend the battery life and to provide superior customer service. For those concerned about details, the solar system sends the geographical location data about your system up to one kilometer. The usage information is collected and sent through the mobile networks to the BBOXX cloud-based customer and hardware management dashboard. The team then configures and adapts the system to extend battery life. The support team can also send alerts to customers before problems arise. Remote monitoring also allows turning off the system when required.

BBOXX systems are able to power retail shops and outlets, lights, mobile phones, refrigerators and computers. The company also supplies accompanying accessories including LED lights, DC LED TVs, USB phone chargers, DVD players, satellite decoders, radios, laptop charging kits, inverters, small refrigerators, and fans that can work with these solar gadgets.

The company is now present in 35 countries and has supplied the systems to more than 500,000 people around the world. Aeris is already supplying IoT network connectivity across East and Central Africa. It has already deployed 20,000 systems in Rwanda, which is targeting to supply 40 percent off-grid household energy access by 2018.

The company was recently announced winner of GE Innovation Award earlier this year, an award that goes to companies showing leading innovations and promising ideas that impact the future.