Customer Success Stories

Ending Energy Poverty with Bboxx

“Our printed circuit boards go through a lot of changes throughout the lifetime of a product and are worked on by multiple product engineers. We rely on Altium Designer to take us throughout a product’s entire component lifecycle.”

Fabian Iriarte
Hardware Development Team Leader
Bboxx

Energy poverty—a lack of access to modern energy services—impacts over 840 million people worldwide. An additional billion people are connected to unreliable power grids, resulting in connectivity losses that adversely impact the public and private sectors alike.

Bboxx is a next generation utility who manufactures, distributes and finances, decentralized solar powered systems in developing countries, scaling through forming strategic partnerships. The company is positively impacting the lives of more than 1.5 million people with its products and services in over 35 markets.

They create plug-and-play hardware units, designed for easy use by rural households and microbusinesses. The units work seamlessly with Bboxx Pulse®, their IoT technology-enabled comprehensive management platform that helps customers track and pay for their energy usage. 

Bboxx have relied on Altium Designer to develop their hardware units for over six years. As Hassan Khan, Product Marketing Manager at Bboxx, elaborates, “Bboxx has grown from a solar-centric solution into a next generation utility company, transforming lives and unlocking potential through access to energy. With so much work to do, we needed a tool that our teams could rely on. Our hardware team members felt that Altium was the best option in the industry.”

"With so much work to do, we needed a tool that our teams could rely on. Our hardware team members felt that Altium was the best option in the industry.”

Hassan Khan
Product Marketing Manager
Bboxx

A Simple, Sustainable Approach

Solar energy is an effortlessly renewable resource that can provide ample energy throughout the home, as well as powering water filtration programs in rural communities. To harness solar energy and transform it into raw power, Bboxx’s hardware units are compact and easy to use in almost any setting. 

As Khan explains, “Our company name implies “battery in a box”. These compact, powerful solar home systems have provided over 1.5M people worldwide with clean, reliable, and affordable energy to date, offsetting over 500,000 metric tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) while generating over 14 megawatts of electricity every single day.”

Creating these solar home units requires multiple design iterations. As Fabian Iriarte, Bboxx Hardware Development Team Leader, explains, “Our printed circuit boards go through a lot of changes throughout the lifetime of a product and are worked on by multiple product engineers. We rely on Altium Designer to take us throughout a product’s entire component lifecycle.”

Altium Designer makes it easy for multiple team members to collaborate on the same projects, allowing electrical and mechanical engineers to easily work together and view their designs in 3D. “Collaborating with mechanical engineers is much easier, especially with the export function to 3D step model. This is useful to check fitment, size constraints within the enclosures, and ensure we meet all of the mechanical requirements,” Iriarte reports.

Modifying designs is just as easy inside Altium Designer’s unified design environment. “Changes are clearly highlighted, and net names automatically show up on pads inside the PCB editor, which is very helpful,” Iriarte adds.

Altium Designer’s Output Jobs feature is particularly vital to Iriarte and his team. “With Altium, producing consistent manufacturing files for production is very easy. The Output Jobs feature helps us to create consistent manufacturing files across a team of electronic design engineers. Once the job is set up, we know we’ll get the exports we need in the right formats and naming conventions.”

When asked if a particular Altium Designer feature is the most consequential for Bboxx, Iriarte is nothing short of enthusiastic. “Altium Designer’s Output Jobs feature saves us hours, if not entire days of time. We manufacture in China, and our different manufacturing partners need outputs done according to their unique file structures. Once the types of files and formats are agreed upon and an output job is created, generating manufacturing files for different contract manufacturers takes seconds.”

“Altium Designer’s Output Jobs feature saves us hours, if not entire days of time. We manufacture in China, and our different manufacturing partners need outputs done according to their unique file structures. Once the types of files and formats are agreed upon and an output job is created, generating manufacturing files for different contract manufacturers takes seconds.”

Fabian Iriarte
Hardware Development Team Leader
Bboxx

Bboxx's Tomorrow's Rural Home 

To further advance efforts towards ending global energy poverty, Bboxx formed partnership with CANAL+, the international leading pay-TV company operating throughout central and West Africa. They’ve also worked with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to expand clean cooking access, harnessing their Bboxx Pulse platform. The time-lapsed user data collected as customers cook helps Bboxx better understand customer needs and consumption patterns, while empowering USAID’s team to effectively monitor emissions.

In 2018, Bboxx unveiled arguably their most ambitious project to date, the Tomorrow’s Rural Home initiative in Rwanda. These multi-family homes feature safe, sustainable designs, including V-shaped roofs to collect rainwater, locally sourced building materials and healthy floors made with safe materials to reduce the risk of parasitic infections caused by dirt flooring by 78%. The homes are outfitted with Bboxx solar home systems, Bboxx Cook® clean cooking solutions, a solar powered irrigation system, and affordable Internet connectivity. All services feature a pay-as-you-go model, allowing families to get all the clean energy they need all day, every day.

As Khan explains, “Bboxx’s Tomorrow’s Rural Home project reflects the needs and desires of rural households in the developing world. It represents Bboxx’s outlook on how new technologies can address these needs, transform the lives of off-grid communities, and power growth in rural Africa.”

And Altium will continue to support Bboxx’s efforts as they evolve, every step of the way.