IB Pulse Battery Tester
A Reimagined Battery Testing Experience
Building trust and offering solutions through effective experience design and innovation.
The IB Pulse is an advanced automotive battery tester that builds trust with consumers by delivering the peace of mind that they won’t get stranded with a dead car battery. Interstate Batteries approached IN2 Innovation to rethink battery testing — a common task at automotive shops that allow technicians to perform preventive maintenance on a vehicle's battery and electrical system. This connected device enables an ecosystem of improvements and new features for auto shops – and revolutionizes Interstate Batteries’ business model and IP strategy. This ecosystem revolves around the automotive technician, who serves as the primary connection to consumers and the primary user of the battery tester. We set out to make the tech’s job easier.
Rolling up our sleeves, we ventured into repair shops to conduct user centered research focused on the technician’s real-world experience with the battery testing process in their ‘office’ - a loud, busy, and often dirty shop.
Time to Talk Shop
Our new friends expressed frustration during the process and showed how most current testers are heavy and cumbersome, difficult to use, inaccurate, and often break. Most battery testers are engineering-driven solutions focused on manufacturing and feature-creep, rather than the technician — the tester’s ultimate user.
Battery testing is many times considered a hindrance rather than a value add, often slowing techs down in an industry that demands quick service - so much so, that techs frequently skip this step when a vehicle is in for service. This leaves the consumer with a lack of confidence that their battery is in top working order and presents a missed opportunity for the shop and a potential battery sale.
In addition to the ethnographic observation in the discovery process, survey-based data of over 2000 technicians was collected. Supplied with fresh data, IN2 led a cross-functional team of researchers, engineers, marketers, and designers to convert insights into over 100 potential ideas - many that were tested with technicians back in the repair shop.
“A tool should always solve problems and not just the business’ problem. A product owner should pause the design and ask if this solves the customer’s problem too. And with the IB Pulse, that’s exactly what we set out to do; designed by the technician for the technician.”
- Brian Madeley, former General Manager of Testing and Charging at Interstate Batteries
To ensure technicians test every vehicle’s battery brought into the shop, the IB Pulse was designed to be smaller, user-friendly, and durable.
Techs said that lugging around heavy and bulky testers all day felt like a workout after a long shift. Hence, the IB Pulse is 50% smaller and only weighs 2.1 pounds — half the weight of previously used testers.
Battery Testing Redesigned
Totally reimaging the experience, the IB Pulse makes testing a battery easier, smarter, and faster. To complete a standard test, the technician 1) scans the vehicle’s VIN number, 2) scans the battery information, 3) hooks up the cables, and the IB Pulse generates accurate results in under 60 seconds.
As a digital user experience, the simple 2-screen workflow dramatically improves upon the previous process. Before, each test involved over 13 unique screens where the technician had to manually enter a great deal of data, meaning results may be inaccurate because they are unsure if they entered the information in all those screens correctly.
The research identified a number of pain points technicians have with the new wave of diagnostic equipment utilizing only digital interfaces - the inability to interact with touch screens while wearing gloves. This led to a technician-tested physical and digital hybrid approach for navigation. A physical ‘D-Pad’ user-interface was integrated to complement the digital touch screen on the same device, still allowing for efficient input while wearing gloves. The lightweight ergonomic design includes multiple grip zones to provide balance, and is easy to hold with just one hand.
The product features rugged Gorilla Glass touch screens, rigorously tested to reduce chances of damage during rough usage.
By using field-replaceable parts, repairs are inexpensive and do not halt productivity. The onboard holster includes storage for the attached clamps to prolong the product’s lifespan. Additionally, the redesigned clamps are smaller and more versatile in application. Ergonomic cable management solutions were tested so techs don't have to contend with the hassle of unruly and unnecessarily long cables found in many battery testers.
Ultimately, the new tester is significantly easier to use and improves communication between the tester and the technician and between the shop and the vehicle owner. Test results are quickly sent to the shop and the consumer’s phone, and the tester connects wirelessly to printers for physical record keeping, building trust with vehicle owners. In addition, results are easy to read and can be sent to a wireless printer, emailed, or texted directly to the owner.
Improved Communication of Results
Additionally, the IB Pulse helps to build trust between consumers and the shop they take their cars to. With this system, drivers gain precise knowledge about their battery — meaning they have more information to make more accurate shopping decisions. For instance, when testing is implemented in a shop, 73% of drivers purchase a new battery on the spot when their current one fails a test. Lastly, more informed data reduces drivers’ chances of getting stranded — an expensive and inconvenient problem. Often, a dead battery becomes a safety issue — whether a driver is left stranded on a busy highway or during severe weather conditions.
Interstate Batteries actually recycles more batteries than it sells and recycles over 900 million pounds of lead per year. The company works hard to ensure that lead-acid batteries are appropriately handled and recycled. In fact, the company’s recycling and battery handling practices are designed to exceed federal and state transportation and environmental regulations.
The data collected by the new testers are helpful for several reasons. First, As Interstate Batteries learns more about actual conditions in the field, it will be able to optimize its large fleet of vehicles, reducing total miles driven and unnecessarily lugging batteries around. Second, more accurate battery testing leads to efficient battery usage and replacement, which reduces waste and optimizes a battery’s life.
Recycling and Sustainability
The IB Pulse defines the next generation of automotive battery testing. It’s been redesigned for portability by reducing size and weight to minimize fatigue in a demanding environment. Integrated smart technology streamlines testing by eliminating the time-consuming input of information screen after screen. Wireless connectivity allows results to be easily shared to consumers.
Impact: Driving Innovation Beyond the Product
By partnering with IN2, Interstate Batteries now offers a product - and ecosystem - that reaches well beyond battery testing. The IB Pulse is a connected device that enables an ecosystem of physical and digital products and services that build trust with consumers for piece-of-mind, creates an effortless experience with faster throughput for the technician and auto shop, and improves the ability to optimize distribution and battery performance. As a result, shops can integrate quick and reliable testing into their total service offerings, providing easier electronic record-keeping and back-end inventory management.
The Pulse is the winner 0f the 2019 Design Transformation Award from Design & Innovation Global, a division of the Customer Management Practice organization. Design & Innovation is a global community of designers and innovators obsessed with Human Centered Design.
“Hiring IN2 to help guide us as we sought to update our battery tester offering was the right partner for the task. As anyone who can imagine, when left to your own viewpoint, it’s easy to view the problem from your company-centric lens. But this would have lead to a product that wasn’t as great an offering for our system. I look forward to work with IN2 on my next product and leveraging their expertise as I bring customers the products they want.”
- Brian Madeley, former General Manager of Testing and Charging at Interstate Batteries
A New Visual Brand Language and Future Forward
Because technicians take pride in their work and the appearance of their tools matters, the development of the Pulse provided an opportunity to establish an unapologetically rugged Visual Brand Language focused on usability and durability. This new visual vocabulary was constructed to engage the brand, beyond just batteries, as the Interstate Batteries product line expands.
This research and design work led to an expanded line of battery testers offered by Interstate, which we also helped design, including the IB Wave — a smaller, slimmer tester that connects directly to a phone or tablet and the IB Guardian battery charger product line, both of which share in Pulse’s Visual Brand Language.