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What is a Smart Battery?

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  • Written By: S. Gonzales
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Standard, non-rechargeable batteries do not give an owner any information about a battery's state of charge (SoC) or state of health (SoH). With standard batteries, nothing about the battery, including its weight, size, shape, color or brand will inform the user about particular points in the battery's lifespan. A smart battery, however, is designed to answer this problem by providing regular information about a battery's SoC and SoH.

Rechargeable batteries are often marketed as smart batteries. A microchip incorporated into a smart battery allows the battery to display information about itself to the user, the device in which it is used or to its corresponding charger. However, many consider complex functions an integral part of what makes a battery smart. Batteries that simply communicate to a charger that they need to be charged to a certain level are not typically viewed as smart batteries.

With that being said, there is no real consensus on what a smart battery actually is. Battery industry organizations and manufacturers of batteries still debate over a precise definition. Problems in marketing often lead consumers to study manufacturer claims and battery capabilities before making a purchase.

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It is, however, generally understood that a true smart battery is at least capable of providing SoC information. The way manufacturers and their products choose to provide that information varies. Most companies use chips to achieve this, but they can select a single wire system, a two-wire system or a System Management Bus (SMBus) as conduits to monitor and give SoC information.

Applications and devices that are suited to smart battery usage include laptops, video and digital cameras, biomedical instruments and military devices. The type of smart battery required for a device and its inherent capabilities can vary in function and cost. Low-end smart batteries are likely to cost less, but may not have high functional capabilities or can give questionable SoC readings.

While many consumers may find smart batteries an attractive and resourceful purchase, they must also be made aware of certain disadvantages to purchasing and using smart batteries. Costs for smart batteries can be relatively high, depending on the conduit selected and its required charging system component. In addition, the time and effort involved in periodic calibration may make owning a smart battery cumbersome for the average consumer. Compatibility issues between battery and device or battery and charger may also arise, which can make a purchase much more expensive than initially anticipated.

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miriam98
Post 3

@David09 - I’d like to address the issue of “questionable SoC” readings the article talks about. One of my digital camera batteries tells me that it’s half way charged when it’s actually full.

This happened about a year ago. Someone told me that your camera battery could go bad because of a leak. A leak happens when you don’t remove the camera from the battery when you turn the camera off.

While it’s still attached to the camera the battery slowly begins to leak, or drain, power. This renders the battery less effective than it used to be and may give you bad SoC readings. The theory makes sense, as I did have a habit of leaving the camera in the battery. It’s too bad, because it’s an expensive battery too.

David09
Post 2

@nony - I don’t know that what you have is a smart battery really. That’s very basic information coming from the battery. I think the smart battery has to provide additional information.

At any rate the distinction may not matter much. The point is how useful the battery is. I bought a bunch of rechargeable batteries, they were triple AA size and a couple of D batteries. I use them for my electronic devices like my radios and mp3 players.

The batteries last a long time before they can’t recharge anymore, and the charger gives you state of health information about the battery. I think it’s worth it for me to buy them, given how frequently I use batteries, but as I said, they do cost more.

nony
Post 1

Based on the given definition I would have to assume that my digital camcorder battery is a smart battery then. It gives state of charge information.

When I plug it in I get a reading of how charged the battery is. Is this really a measure of the battery itself or do smart battery chargers provide this information? I guess what I am asking is does a chip exist inside my camera battery – making it truly a smart battery – or is it the charger itself that is smart?

It’s hard to tell, really. I’ll take it on face value that the battery is smart. It’s certainly big enough to have some extra components inside of it.

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