Case Study

An Innovative Solution to Protect a Customer's Proprietary Technology

The Problem

As a third-party laboratory, Element is often entrusted with sensitive or proprietary information that must be kept confidential, but one unusual request required that the technology being tested remain a secret even from Element staff. The customer had designed an algorithm to control a battery management system (BMS), and although the algorithm needed testing in a qualified battery lab, it was sensitive intellectual property that the customer needed to keep strict control of. To ensure total insulation from potential leaks to the market, the customer required that absolutely no one at Element could have access to the algorithm. Although the request was challenging to execute, we devised a solution that gave the client the data they needed without compromising their intellectual property.

The Creative Solution 

After consultation with the customer, the Element team proposed an unorthodox solution: we would give them the ability to directly control the battery cyclers in our network using Raspberry Pi – a type of small, programmable computer. The customer would load their proprietary algorithm onto Raspberry Pis, which they would then connect with our on-site MACCOR battery cyclers. Using this system, the customer would need only very limited interaction with Element staff to make appropriate adjustments. Since the customer would retain control of the Raspberry Pis throughout testing and our team would serve only as facilitators and equipment providers, the customer could be confident that Element personnel had no way to access their intellectual property.  

The Challenges

The biggest hurdle for the customer was locating a testing partner who would allow this sort of unconventional access to their lab, network, and battery cyclers — and who was prepared to put in the time and effort to execute this complex workaround. The logistical challenges were considered not worth the effort for many other testing labs. Element, however, was willing to develop a process and adopt a technological solution for the customer to control the MACCOR battery cyclers directly.

Although Element was committed to supporting this customer, achieving these goals required collaboration between Element, the customer, and MACCOR. Together we designed an effective and secure process that minimized risks to both the sensitive IP and our facility. Battery testing comes with inherent physical dangers, such as thermal runaway. We wanted to ensure that this process wouldn’t override the built-in safety systems on our MACCOR cyclers, charging batteries beyond their limits and potentially sending them into thermal runaway. Such an accident could cause a fire, damaging the equipment and our facility. By working with MACCOR we were able to ensure that nothing the Raspberry Pi units were doing could override those internal safety measures.

The Results

Thanks to careful planning, the mission was a total success. The customer was highly satisfied with the final process and was able to access the battery cyclers as intended. The customer praised our team for their devotion to problem-solving and their willingness to take on such a unique challenge. Our companies have continued to work together on multiple programs since this first project. The Raspberry Pi proved to be only the first in a line of creative custom solutions that Element has delivered with consistent satisfaction.

Key Takeaways

This project presented a challenge, but one that our experts were happy to take on, and it led to the creation of a unique and convenient new capability. Element now has a proven process that allows a company to protect its proprietary technology within a third-party test facility. This allows customers access to the expertise, facilities, and equipment of the US’s most advanced battery testing lab without compromising the security of their intellectual property. Element undertakes diverse battery testing projects for customers across the aerospace, military, medical, and consumer electronics sectors. Our facilities have the largest battery testing capacity in North America and provide a wide range of other electrical, mechanical, and visual evaluation capabilities for custom cell or battery screening operations.

Do you have a challenging project for our dedicated team? Contact us today to put our expertise to work for you. 

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