You might want to check that before taking your high-tech solar system out there in the boonies...

e9999

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So today I took out some solar system components I have not used in a while. In particular, my fancy charge controller (microprocessorized MPPT, programmable, bluetooth and all).
Well, to my surprise, the phone app I use insisted on doing a firmware update before I could access the app (and device?). (I don't know if the controller would have worked and charged without doing this or not. That would be important to know, but too late for me this time around.) This strikes me as odd and not very user-friendly. Admittedly, I did not try to bypass that, maybe there is a way, but they sure did not make it sound like that. There was some sort of message saying explicitly that the app/device (?) can not be used without the update.
Of course, I thought [wrongly apparently - see correction below] that I needed internet access for that. And I needed to get the app going because I have to change the charging profile for the battery at hand. So got back within Internet range and updated. That took some doing because I kept on losing the bluetooth connection.

I'm also going to get a programming cable for that thing as a backup, that might save the day if my phone or the app conks out.

So, anyway, before taking out your system on a trip far away from the Internet of things, it may be a good idea to make sure all the software is up to date and working (and maybe even take a cable so as not to be entirely dependent on your phone if you go the bluetooth way)... Geez... high tech for ya...


added: Clarification/Correction. The manual for my specific device's app says that an Internet connection is not needed for the firmware update if the app (Android in my case) has itself been updated. Presumably it has the firmware update stored in then. That's better, good thinking on their part. And this may mean that I won't be locked out since the app is the one checking for the version presumably. But of course you may want to keep the app updated then. YMMV.
 
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Cruiserdrew

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Sounds like a Victron unit?

It still works on the old firmware for charging, but the blue tooth history aspects and phone coms may not work. Easy to update though. A few days before any trip, set it up, log into the CC with the app and it will update in about 3 minutes.

I had this happen before a trip to the North Rim and batteries charged just fine, just no coms with the phone app until I could update both. Mine is now several years old, and they are still releasing updates for it.
 

e9999

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Yup, Victron.
The issue in my case was that I needed to change the battery charging profile. I was set up for LFP and now wanting to charge another battery (FLA). So it would not be great if I were out there and could not get the app to work cuz I'd have to be charging my FLA at 14.6 V the whole time, which is not good. So, yes, worth checking it all before the trip. Basically make sure it's all good before leaving in case you lose the use of the app while on the road. The price to pay for new-fangled tech, I guess.
I have to say the bluetooth system is not that robust. Nice to have the numbers on the app for us nerds, but If the phone goes in standby or I have to use another app, I lose the connection (and some of the history) each time. And takes a while to reconnect sometimes. Could be the phone's fault but not foolproof either way. And without a cable you are at the mercy of the app if the controller is not fully set up yet.
 

Cruiserdrew

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Sounds like that could happen 1/2 through the trip.
But if it does, and you have cell service, you can update as usual. It's when the app thinks it should see the newer version and the charge controller is running the older version and you don't have service. It's no big deal, because the older version still charges and works as usual. It's only the coms with your phone that may change, and phone coms is totally optional. Think about it. Most charge controllers never talk to your phone.

I think Victron spoiled people with an easy to use ap that is in constant contact with your phone. But if you remember to attach it to your batteries (you don't even need your panels) and couple it to your phone in the driveway before you go anywhere, it updates in just a minute or two.
 

e9999

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^^ well, the way I think it normally works is that the app will first need to update and then realize the controller is not up to date for it to lock up until the controller is in turn updated. So if you are without internet contact at all, or don't have auto app updates enabled, the app can't update so there should be no new conflict and you should be safe (or at least as safe as usual given potential software foibles). OTOH, if everything works as it should for updates, then you should be fine too. The thing is that mine did not want to update properly for a while so that added a bit of frustration to an unexpected turn of event.

^ The app is not optional if the charge controller is not set up properly for the battery you have to charge, as in my case. Unless you have a cable for programming you may then not be able to use the charge controller if you can't set it up properly with the app. IOW, the app is not just a nice bonus for nerds, it can become a liability too. Now, admittedly, that's likely not going to be a problem for most people under typical circumstances. And, anyway, all of it should be taken care of with a quick set up or check before leaving, which is the point I'm trying to make here in case that helps somebody avoid a problem in the middle of nowhere.

The more general issue though is that one needs to be aware of the potential pitfalls of relying overly on technology. Like your charge controller -or GPS- suddenly freezes up or stops working and all that fun stuff. But, eh, that makes life more interesting too...
 
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