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Implementing OpenPAYGO™ Token to boost interoperability and efficiency

SolarisLab OpenPAYGO Token Implementation

OpenPAYGO™ Token is the freely available token generating protocol engineered by SolarisLab (a service of Solaris Offgrid) in partnership with EnAccess. This technology is an open-source solution designed to make any device or household appliance Paygo compatible. OpenPAYGO™ Token has become an industry standard adopted by significant hardware manufacturers like Bboxx, Victron Energy and Koolboks to allow people at the “bottom of the pyramid” to have increased access to essential services by making their products affordable. OpenPAYGO™ Token is an essential component for scalable and interoperable home appliances, allowing for the total inclusion of offline and off-grid end users.

Why should manufacturers make their appliances Paygo enabled?

According to the World Bank and GOGLA Report of 2022 there are over 450 million people currently unserved who are able to afford Tier 1 Solar Energy kits but that number dives to only 3 million people if the end-users are expected to produce the full amount upfront. This drastic difference strongly indicates that end-user financing is essential in order for those at the “bottom of the pyramid” to access these energy solutions. The growth in possible revenue in this sector recently bears consideration by manufacturers as well. In the past year, there have been estimations of a 30% increase in annual growth rate within the off-grid sector. There has been a considerable increase in end-user demand for such changes in recent years as well as growth in revenue.

By allowing B2C customers to pay in smaller, more manageable amounts over time, distributors can expand their market and reach customers who may not have been able to access their products otherwise. Adopting a Paygo model at the B2C level also allows for the activation status of a device to be managed remotely and in real-time with relation to up to date payment information. This more flexible payment option aligns with the financial needs of end-users.

A Paygo business model allows manufacturers to supply partnering distributors with a much higher volume of product and create potential for a consistent stream of revenue. This is particularly true in developing regions where consumers may not have the financial means to purchase such products outright and distributors have access to a more vast market.

Adopting the OpenPAYGO™ Token as part of a transition into the Paygo market contributes to decreased time and less cost allocated by manufacturers otherwise necessary for integrating different devices with each CRM platform. Further, implementing OpenPAYGO™ Token allows manufacturers to maintain sovereignty and remain independent from any one software solution.

This technology consists of a token generating protocol, each token stipulating a certain number of activation days for a particular unit, and a verification method to ensure that each token is valid. The token generation aspect of the system can then be integrated with a management software platform (such as PaygOps) or any other software platform, as it is interoperable, and the OpenPAYGO™ Token technology can be integrated into any device.

The token which permits the activation of appliances for end-users are generated on the servers of the software provider of the device manufacturer or distributor's choosing. SolarisLab simply provides the source code as well as an in depth explanatory guide on how to generate the tokens. The technology can be accessed on GitHub, as is the case with the other components of the OpenPAYGO™ Suite.

What obstacles exist complicating Paygo market entry?

Before a successful entry into the Paygo market, there are certain obstacles facing organisations concerning both the hardware and software of their product ranges. Taking Solar Home Systems as an example; in order to ensure the Paygo compatibility and implement OpenPAYGO™ Token, it is essential for manufacturers to integrate a control switch and an intuitively designed user interface which includes an input method as well as a display. This will allow manufacturers to access a device’s activation status and the end-user to accurately interact with the device itself. Without these necessary first steps, manufacturers risk negative brand association due to end-user confusion and increased user error and tampering. A poorly conceived user interface can hinder entry into the Paygo market, while complete lack of UI makes entry virtually impossible. SolarisLab engineers have been working in the field since the foundation of Solaris Offgrid nearly ten years ago. We’ve designed customised user interfaces for companies like Victron Energy. With the added intuitive interface, we were able to support these organisations to successfully enter the Paygo market and remain competitive. Based upon field experience, we understand that consistent and intuitive user interface is crucial to the success and proper usage of appliances, reducing confusion and increasing user confidence.

SolarisLab UI Design example

In addition to the inclusion of UI elements to display Paygo status, manufacturers will need to take into account the following minimum system requirements for OpenPAYGO™ Token to be implemented:

  • An MCU with at least 8KB of available flash (after the rest of the firmware functions are implemented).

  • A hardware real time clock (RTC) that is accurate enough to drift by a non-noticeable time over 12 months, used to keep track of the elapsed time. For this reason, as the clock source we recommend a low-speed external crystal.

  • An EEPROM or other memory on which permanent data can be stored across power loss and reset events

  • A UART serial communication port that allows the factory setup of the device (uploading the secret key, the starting code and the serial number)

  • A backup battery in case the system becomes disconnected from the battery.

In cases where manufacturers are partnered with distributors expressing concerns about connectivity in remote areas, OpenPAYGO™ Token will allow you to generate tokens offline if needed. Being that the technology is open-source, an app integrated with the protocol API can generate tokens without the need of an internet connection.

While manufacturing organisations may be hesitant to join the Paygo revolution because of the upfront costs associated with the transition, OpenPAYGO™ Token is a free technology made available to all organisations which can be fully integrated autonomously. However, manufacturers may encounter complications with the integration process due to a lack of technical expertise. SolarisLab engineers have provided all necessary documentation for the implementation process with the source code itself and can act as consultants for implementing all aspects of the OpenPAYGO™ Suite.

Why is open source ideal for this project?

Open-source technologies like those developed by SolarisLab are crucial to expanding accessibility and can also lead to lower costs in the manufacturing process. SolarisLab engineers have made a conscious effort to adhere to an open source model in the interest of flexibility, transparency, and innovation. Locked-in ecosystems in the Paygo sector are exclusionary and don’t necessarily work to advance accessibility to energy alternatives. With OpenPAYGO™ Token implemented, manufacturers are granted total autonomy over the integration process itself but also the choice of management platform to be used in parallel with the token generating technology.

In the case of OpenPAYGO™ Token, the protocol which allows for remote changes to activation status is interoperable. This means that rather than having to adapt different devices with their own individual software provider, OpenPAYGO™ Token can be used across the board. This will create opportunity for cost reduction across the industry by facilitating the integration of standardised communication protocols across multiple Paygo systems.

How to implement the open-source technology

OpenPAYGO™ Token is secure and safe to use as audited by an independent security consultant. You can integrate OpenPAYGO™ Token with a token generation platform of your choice. The comprehensive documentation provided with the initial download will guide you through each of the steps you need to follow to integrate OpenPAYGO™ Token into your system. Implementation examples are described with suggestions based on your specific requirements. Several manufacturers have managed to implement OpenPAYGO™ Token successfully and without any assistance from our part.

The implementation process, while designed by our expert engineers, is meant to be simple to carry out. In order to implement OpenPAYGO™ Token, manufacturers will need to first ensure that their devices are Paygo compatible. This can be accomplished through adding a hardware control feature to the devices, for example a control switch. This control switch allows the activation status of the appliance to be both accessible and modifiable from a remote position. Once this switch has been added by the manufacturer, the source code should be accessed and integrated in two steps.

  • Run ‘pip install openpaygo-token’

  • You're ready to go. It is important to verify the test scenarios to see how to use the libraries to generate and check tokens.

Once this switch is in place and the program has been installed, then the token system can be used as a secure way to remotely control the activation of the device.

The generation of the token is performed via a Python script on Github which is used to randomly generate the different parameters for the activation of different batches. Each secret key is 32 digits long, the starting code is 9 digits long and Serial Number comes in a custom format. As for the tokens themselves, the standard format of the activation tokens is a 9 digit numeric string encrypting the activation time. When designing this program, we included the possibility to set an activation token to be 15 digits long. This is typically relevant in cases wherein the available keys are restricted in number so by making the activation token longer, we ensure a more secure process.

When organisations opt for independent implementation, they may face challenges relating to code generation. In order to implement this technology, technicians require starting code, a serial number and a security key where the code relating to activation time is encrypted. These codes are generated when manufacturers equip their products with necessary microcontrollers, and for guidance with further troubles the documentation which accompanies the source code for OpenPAYGO™ Token offers solutions in Python to resolve confusion.

Following market trends, there is a continuing increase in demand for off-grid sustainable home energy solutions, and those most affected by lack of access are not in a position to absorb the cost of these solutions on an outright basis. The need for end-user pay-as-you-go financing is becoming more present and it represents an assured revenue stream for actors in the manufacturing industry within the sector. Implementing OpenPAYGO™ Token allows manufacturers within the Paygo market to retain control over their choice of platform management software as it is open source as opposed to a lock-in ecosystem wherein users experience lack of autonomy. OpenPAYGO™ Token is interoperable from the moment of integration, a simple process backed by SolarisLab engineering acumen. Manufacturers can include simple hardware design elements to make integration of OpenPAYGO™ Token possible. The implementation is a simple process and the source code is accompanied by ample documentation as well as SolarisLab engineering expertise to guide you through the process.

OpenPAYGO™ Token technology is free for anyone to use and the Token Integration and testing can be performed independently. If you need assistance for the testing or implementation, SolarisLab can provide it on a consulting basis. We also provide certification of any devices which have had OpenPAYGO™ Token implemented independently. While this certification is not mandatory, it does provide peace of mind when moving to a mass production stage for your product. The SolarisLab team has reviewed and tested devices to certify that their integration is fully compliant, which makes these devices Paygo enabled and ready to be connected with PaygOps or any Paygo management software.

For an even more detailed understanding, have a look at a step-by-step video demonstration from EnAccess showing how the OpenPAYGO™ Token is generated.

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