An extraordinary amount of research, design, technology, and innovation goes into the creation of every Goal Zero product, from the earliest CAD drawings to the final phases of production. In our From the Engineers series, we get a behind-the-scenes look at the development of our portable power, solar, and lighting products, straight from the engineers who design them.
Want to control your Yeti power station from virtually anywhere? Now there's an app for that.
Paving the way for an even more connected future, we've launched a new version of our Goal Zero Yeti Lithium power stations, now with WiFi connectivity. In the video and interview below, we caught up with Goal Zero Engineering Supervisor Sterling Robison and Firmware Engineer Alex Stout to find out what went into the making of our mobile app enabled Yeti Lithiums, and what exactly that means for you.
What is different with the new Yeti 1400 and 3000 Lithiums?
We have things like a larger display with new information. We have kind of buffed under the hood a little bit and improved our electronics to make it a little faster, a little more responsive, a little more robust. Then we've added the new USB-C connectors to a couple of our USB ports to keep it in-line with where most Android phones are going. You can just charge directly without any kind of weird adapters, dongles, or cables. One of those is a Power Delivery port that allows you to charge things like laptops and tablets at up to 60 watts, with no adapters, no bricks, nothing in the way.
Moving up to the largest change that we've made is the addition of WiFi, which gives us a way to interact with the Yeti now through our app, so you can do so many things that you never could have done before. A tiny display with a few buttons can get confusing when you're trying to do more than basically turn things off and on. Through an app, that's not a problem. You can cycle through screens, see layers of information and history, set controls and timers.
It also gives you the ability to interact with your Yeti remotely. You can literally be anywhere on earth with an internet connection and keep an eye on what's happening with your Yeti.
Lastly, with the new Yetis we can push out updates as we identify bugs or we implement new features, and users can simply press a button and bring their Yeti up to date with the latest and greatest from Goal Zero.
What was the motivation behind making those changes?
First of all, within product development here at Goal Zero we're always trying to improve the product. So, that's through things like making it faster, more responsive, and more reliable. We're also always listening to what our customers have to say about how they're using our products, as well as their suggestions on what could make it better, what could improve their interaction with it. For example, occasionally we hear that people have a product that they're trying to power off of our Yeti and the Yeti isn't quite keeping up. So, we went and made the 12V port stronger as a result.
Then we're always trying to think of innovative new features that keep us at the front of this space. Adding wireless connectivity lets us add features that we never could have done in the past. Not just through improved interaction and visibility into what the product is doing, but it lets us apply fixes remotely, it lets us roll out new features, and opens up new applications that were just not possible with the first version.
Why create an app to go along with the Yeti? What benefits does the app provide?
At first glance it's just a battery in a box, so people might wonder, “Why does it need to be on the internet?” Well, there are a lot of scenarios that you might find yourself in that it would be really handy to be able to control and monitor your unit when you're not next to it. For example, we have a lot of customers that install their Goal Zero Yeti in RV's or vans and they’re not always mounted in an easily accessible way. By connecting via an app, you can now do everything that you could have done previously without having to actually open up the Yeti and get to the buttons and look at the display.
It also works nicely in emergency preparedness situations. Say you've got your Yeti connected to your home in such a way that you're backing up some critical circuits, refrigerators, etc., and the power goes out. Now you can get a notification from your Yeti that your power is gone and you can turn on the circuit that is being backed up by your Yeti and keep your refrigerator going until you have the chance to get back and attend to it.
Why make the move to USB-C?
At a glance, USB-C is different in that there's now no longer a top or a bottom to a USB cable. No more struggling to find the correct orientation, there's no up or down or right or wrong end.
What’s more, it's faster, it's a smaller connector, and there are lots of other kinds of technical features that it supports, but just know that in the case of the Yeti it gives you a faster, more efficient charge for your devices. If you've got an Android phone within the last three years, or a tablet or a notebook in the last year or two, there's a good chance that it supports USB-C for charging and data connection.
Users should be aware that there are two flavors of USB-C out there. There's a standard or legacy one that works basically the same way as your USB of old, it's maybe a little faster on charging and moving data, but not much different. However, with the new USB-C standard they've introduced a version called Power Delivery and that's really interesting in a few ways. First of which is it can charge things, in the case of the Goal Zero Yeti, at up to 60 watts directly. That's comparable to charging your MacBook from the wall, but now you're just using a simple cable and going at wall speed at full efficiency from your battery with the Yeti.
It also takes away a lot of the uncertainty that we dealt with in the past when trying to charge laptops. Whether it was a difference in voltage or amperage or just the mechanical end of the connector wouldn't fit, that's all gone with the new standard because it intelligently communicates on both ends what the source can provide, what the sync wants and things work more seamlessly. So, it's a better user experience, it's more efficient on your battery, and all around a better connector.