Horizon Hobby Spektrum Smart Technology Products Review

Spektrum Smart Technology introduces a new way to easily charge and safely store your LiPo and LiFe batteries. The batteries are "Microchipped" and the chargers are Smart. Mike McDougall bench tests and field tests the new technology to see how well it works in the Real World.

Splash

Introduction

In the late 90's I started experimenting with "Lithium" based battery technology. The batteries were a bit finicky but they had a much higher individual cell voltage and greater energy density than the NiCd batteries of the day. However, the new LiPo batteries came with a steep learning curve. Early packs did not have balance plugs and unbalanced cells led to overcharging of some cells and undercharging of others. LiPo fires were a new phenomenon and a slightly charred section of my workbench was a stark reminder not to charge 2-cell packs on a 3-cell setting. There were times when it seemed like the bad might just outweigh the good.

Fast forward 20 years and LiPo battery technology has pretty much become the gold standard for RC Electric Power sources. Thankfully modern chargers have evolved to include balance charging provisions and storage voltage settings. However, RC newcomers are quickly overwhelmed by the myriad of LiPo battery terms and LiPo charger settings that form the basis for the proper care and feeding of our LiPo batteries. As an aid for our new Club Members, we furnish a "Cheat Sheet" to help them better understand this wonderful power source known as the LiPo battery. While the sheet is not a replacement for any battery manufacturer's recommended battery practices, it is intended to get new folks acquainted with some of the idiosyncrasies of LiPo batteries. In addition to the sheet, we also recommend they purchase a good balancing battery charger, a voltmeter that shows individual cell voltages, and a battery discharger that will discharge packs down to storage voltage. That's a lot of stuff to buy and a lot of different systems to learn to operate.

Spektrum may have just come out with an answer to this problem. They have just released a new line of batteries and battery chargers with "Smart" product technology to specifically address all of these issues. Spektrum has produced an informational video overview of this new technology that highlights their various Smart product offerings.

This new Smart technology promises to simplify the battery charging process as well as provide an automatic battery storage voltage discharge. Let's open up the boxes and see how well this new Smart technology works.

Smart 30A 540W Power Supply

The Smart 30A 540W Power Supply is listed as a "Smart" technology product, but the only smart features listed for the power supply were related to over current, overheating, and reverse polarity protection. That minor issue aside, the power supply had some very nice features.

Over the years, I modified numerous PC power supplies and quite a few server power supplies to function as power sources for my numerous DC powered battery chargers. The results were somewhat mixed. Many of the modified power supplies were limited on current output and most produced less than 12 Volts under load. This new Spektrum power supply was my first purpose built "commercial" power supply and I was looking forward to being able to take it out of the box and start using it to power my battery chargers without having to make any "modifications".

The included Power Supply Manual described a specific connection and power up sequence for this supply. The sequence described connecting the load first, then connecting the power supply to the AC source, and lastly turning on the power supply. The manual also recommended shutting down the supply before connecting additional loads. I followed the manual and experienced no problems with the operation of the power supply.

This new Spektrum Power Supply included a very nice backlit Voltage and Current display as well as an adjustable Voltage dial. The power supply was rated for up to 30 Amps of current and the Voltage output was adjustable between 12 and 18 Volts. The dual banana plug power outlets were a welcome feature that allowed for multiple simultaneous charger connections. The Spektrum Power Supply was torture tested at the SEFF Event in Georgia this year. The output Voltage was rock solid even though the input source Voltage was all over the place as the generator tried to keep up with the various loads that were being applied. The Spektrum Power Supply stayed at exactly 15 Volts and cranked out up to 24 Amps all week long and never broke a sweat.

Back home on the bench, the Spektrum power supply was set for 15 Volts and loaded up to 30 Amps for 30 minutes. The fans were running and the case was warm to the touch, but the power supply was once again rock solid.

More Features

The Spektrum Power Supply also has two standard USB charging outlets rated for 5.0V, 1000mA (total). This was a nice feature that allowed charging up my iX12 and cell phone during the flying day at SEFF.

Spektrum Smart S2100 AC Charger

The Spektrum S2100 Smart Charger is an AC powered dual output charger capable of charging two batteries at a time with up to a total of 200 Watts of combined charging power. This charger also includes a USB charging outlet that is rated for 5 Volts and 2 Amps. The bright LCD color display is easy to read even in direct sunlight.

Smart Technology

The S2100 Charger features Spektrum's newest Smart charging technology. The included Instruction Manual gives a very good overview of the charger operation, but this review will help expand on some of the operational techniques needed to fully utilize the device. The charger output connecter is shown as an IC3 connector. The connector has a third wire connection placed between the main power leads. This third wire serves as a communication point for the integrated microchip contained in each new Spektrum Smart battery pack. The microchip stores all the battery characteristics, power parameters, and charge/discharge history data for the pack. All of that data is communicated directly to the Smart Charger through that third wire every time the Smart battery pack is plugged into a Spektrum Smart charger. The Smart charger reads all that information and automatically configures the battery chemistry type and charge settings for that specific Smart battery pack. An IC3 connector/cord is available to adapt any of your existing battery connector systems to the IC3 port on the S2100 Smart Charger.

Basic Charger Setup

The Spektrum S2100 charger comes with basic default settings, but a quick run through the setup menu will help personalize the charger. Plug the charger into an AC power source and after the charger boots up, long press the Menu Button to access the System Setting Menu.

Use the Scroll Wheel to highlight the desired menu item and then press the Menu Button to select that item. An adjustment window will open and allow adjustment of the selected properties. I found the Touch Menu Scroll Wheel WAY too sensitive and almost unusable for my clumsy fingers. The Touch Sensitivity menu item allowed me to change the sensitivity to "Low" and the charger became much more user friendly.

Smart Battery Charging

This automatic charger setup feature should take a lot of the mystery out of setting up the proper battery chemistry type, charger parameters, and proper charging technique for Spektrum Smart battery packs. The Smart charger will make all the adjustments and all the user has to do is press the Menu Button. Here is a typical charge sequence for a Smart battery pack.

As soon as the battery power lead is plugged into the charger, the display shows the number of cells in the pack and the individual cell voltages as well as the pack capacity and charge current. When the balance lead is connected and the Menu Button pushed, the "Start" function is highlighted.

Pushing the Menu Button again will begin the charge process. It's that simple! When the charge sequence is almost done, the current is reduced.

As the cell balancing charge sequence begins, the charger beeps once and the display color changes to green. When the battery is fully charged, the charger beeps twice and the display color changes to blue.

That was easy! Just plug the battery into the charger and press a button. When the screen turns blue, unplug the battery and go fly. I like this new Spektrum Smart technology.

Charging Non-Smart Batteries

It's good to know that the Spektrum S2100 Smart Charger is still capable of charging "Normal" batteries too. The IC3 charge plugs on the S2100 are compatible with the EC3 series of power connectors used on most E-flite batteries and adapter cables are available for most popular connector systems.

The charging process for standard batteries begins pretty much like the charge process for Smart batteries, plug the power lead into the charger and the S2100 charger will display the total pack Voltage. Plug the balance lead into the charger, and the S2100 Smart Charger will set the cell count based on the number of cells present on the balance lead connector.

Pressing the Menu Button once will bring up the charging menu screen. The scroll wheel is used to highlight the charge current and the Menu Button is used to select the item.

The scroll wheel is used to highlight the desired charge current and the Menu Button pressed to select that value. Charging current should always be set according to the battery manufacturer's recommendations. Once all the parameters are set, the scroll wheel is used to highlight the start function and the Menu Button pressed to begin the charge process.

Just like the charging process for Smart batteries, the S2100 screen color indicates the stage of the charge process for the battery pack - Orange for charging, Green for balance charging, and Blue for charging complete.

Spektrum Smart S1200 DC Charger

The Spektrum Smart S1200 DC Charger is a DC powered single output charger capable of charging a single battery at up to 200 Watts of charging power. The included Instruction Manual describes the operation of this charger. This compact Smart Charger can be powered by any DC power source with Voltages between 7 and 32 Volts. The Spektrum Smart 30A 540W Power Supply works very well, or any large capacity battery would also work. The input connector is an IC3, so a power adapter cord will be needed for connecting a DC power supply, or the supply battery will need an IC3 or EC3 connector.

The programming and operation of the S1200 charger follows the exact same process as the S2100 described above. The Smart S1200 charger will automatically recognize Spektrum Smart batteries and automatically set all the necessary charging parameters just like the Smart S2100. Likewise, the S1200 has the full range of Smart battery programming capabilities. The S1200 Smart charger is also capable of charging other batteries that do not have Smart battery technology.

Smart LiPo Batteries

The Spektrum Smart Batteries included in this review are the 22.2V 7000mAh 6S 30C Smart LiPo Battery, the 11.1V 2200mAh 3S 30C Smart LiPo Battery, and the 11.1V 1300 mAh 3S 30C Smart LiPo Battery.

Smart Battery Programming

The Spektrum Smart battery automatic charging process is amazing. The internal circuitry within the Smart batteries greatly simplify the charging process and make charging much safer for all modelers. However, as cool as the automatic charging process is, the Smart battery automatic self-discharging technology may be the very BEST feature of Smart technology. These new Spektrum Smart batteries can be programmed to automatically self-discharge down to proper storage Voltage after a preset time interval. Let's take a quick look at "Storage Voltage" and find out why it is important to our LiPo batteries.

A very knowledgeable LiPo battery designer once told me that there is a process called "Micro Bridging" that occurs on a molecular level anytime a LiPo battery is left at a constant voltage other than storage voltage. This process causes the battery plates to short out one molecule at a time. Since there are billions of molecules on the plates of our batteries, the shorting process can go on for a very long time before we notice any difference in our batteries. However, the longer a battery is left above or below storage voltage, the sooner it will start to lose "C-Rating" capacity and the sooner it will start to puff up.

The simple explaination we give our new Club members is that LiPo batteries are only "Happy" when they are at their proper Storage Voltage. Discharged LiPo batteries are not happy and fully charged LiPo batteries are not happy. The longer a LiPo battery is unhappy, the puffier they get. Our Club recommends storing LiPo batteries between 3.80 and 3.85 Volts per cell. We also recommend balance charging and balance discharging for all LiPo battery packs.

Spektrum Smart chargers are designed to balance charge, balance discharge, and storage charge all brands of LiPo batteries. In addition, the Smart chargers can also program Spektrum brand Smart batteries to begin a slow self-discharge down to proper storage Voltage after a selected time interval. So if a Smart battery pack is charged and not used, it can be programmed to self-discharge to storage voltage all by itself. This may be my favorite feature of Smart technology. We all know that stuff happens at the flying field, and fully charged battery packs look just like discharged battery packs. The ability to program Smart batteries to self-discharge to storage Voltage is Pure Gold to me.

Here is how the Smart S2100 charger is used to program a Smart LiPo battery pack. Once the charger is plugged in, the Smart battery is plugged in.

A long press on the Menu Button will bring up the Smart battery programming menu. Using the Scroll Wheel, highlight the Auto Storage feature.

Press the Menu Button. Using the Scroll Wheel, scroll up the menu to select the desired number of hours delay for the Auto Storage function. Auto Storage values are listed in one hour increments from 240 hours down to 12 hours.

Press the Menu Button to select the number and then the number should appear in the Smart battery menu next to the Auto Storage heading.

That's it, the battery will begin an automatic self-discharge after the programmed number of hours.

Using the Spektrum Smart S2100 charger, the 7000 mAh 6S Smart battery pack was programmed to begin self-discharge after 12 hours and stop discharging when the cell voltage reached 3.80 Volts. The pack was fully charged at 7:00 am and flown at 11:00 am in the Hangar 9 P-47D 20cc that same morning. Individual cell Voltage was measured at 2:00 pm that afternoon and found to be 3.95 Volts per cell. The pack cell Voltage was measured at various time intervals and the results are shown in the following chart. The times shown were measured from the completion of the flight.

Using the Spektrum Smart S1200 charger, the 1300 mAh 3S Smart battery pack was programmed to begin self-discharge after 12 hours and stop discharging when the cell voltage reached 3.80 Volts. The pack was fully charged at 9:00 pm and the individual cell Voltage was measured at 4.19 Volts per cell. The pack cell Voltage was measured at various time intervals and the results are shown in the following chart. The times shown were measured from the completion of the charge.

After a week in the LiPo storage sack, both batteries were checked and the individual cell Voltage of both packs was still exactly 3.80 Volts.

WOW! It worked! It may have taken longer for the larger 7000 mAh pack, but the Smart batteries were able to self-discharge down to storage Voltage and stop.

XBC100 Smart Battery Checker & Servo Driver

The final Smart product in this review will be the Spektrum XBC100 Smart Battery Checker & Servo Driver.

The included little Instruction Manual is somewhat brief and the small font makes it hard to read without some form of magnification. However, it covers the basic operation of the checker. The Spektrum XBC100 Smart Battery Checker is a multifunction device that allows the user to check battery parameters including charge percentage, total pack voltage, and individual cell voltage. When checking Spektrum Smart batteries, the device will also display internal pack temperature, number of charge cycles, number of overcharge events, number of excessive discharge events, and the number of over temperature events. The checker will also program Smart battery parameters including Auto Storage function, Storage voltage value, Charge current value, and Charge Voltage value.

The Smart battery checker function menu includes adjustments for Language, Backlight brightness, Volume, System information, Alarm Tone, Battery Type, Low Voltage Alarm point, as well as functional outputs for USB Charge, Servo Test (1520us), Servo Test (765us), and Cell Balance for the pack.

The Spektrum XBC100 Smart Battery Checker will perform a cell balance discharge that will match the individual cell voltage of all the cells in a battery pack. The Smart checker will also perform a 3.0 USB charge through a Qualcomm USB port to keep your various devices fully charged at the flying field even in the absence of other USB ports.

In addition to these numerous battery checking functions, the Spektrum XBC100 Smart Battery Checker is also an excellent servo tester. The servo tester function gives modelers the ability to setup and test each servo in a model without using a transmitter or receiver. The Smart checker has separate servo test functions for normal aircraft servos (1520us) and specialty helicopter servos (765us). This checker gives a real time display of servo current draw at all servo positions throughout its complete travel. The current is also shown as the servo moves throughout its full travel movement. Excessive current draw may indicate binding somewhere in the surface travel or it may indicate the mechanical end of the surface movement. The Smart checker will allow modelers to pinpoint linkage issues as well as overtravel limits before the radio system is ever installed in the airframe.

Tapping the center button once will drive the servo to the max travel at 1020us. Tapping the center button again will bring the servo back to neutral at 1520us. Tapping the center button a third time will drive the servo to the max travel at 2020us. Tapping the center button a fourth time will return the servo to neutral at 1520us.

Pushing the up arrow will move the servo +5us and pushing the down button will move the servo -5us. Holding down a button down will move the servo toward the 2020us (up arrow) or toward the 1020us (down arrow) end of the servo travel. The servo current drain is a good indicator of how well the servo is driving the surface. Any excessive current drain at a specific spot in the servo travel could indicate a surface drag or a linkage problem. This aileron servo reached the physical end of its travel before it reached the electrical end of the servo travel.

Double tapping the center button will slowly cycle the servo through its full range of travel. The real time servo current drain is displayed during the full servo transition process.

A long press on the center button will cancel the servo test function and return the checker to the main menu.

The Spektrum XBC100 Smart Checker once again proves the old adage that big things can come in "Small" packages. This handy checker/servo tester is so versatile that it qualifies as a must have for your flight box.

Spektrum offers an interesting Product Video that shows the Spektrum XBC100 Battery Checker in action.

Conclusion

This new Spektrum Smart battery technology is AMAZING!

RC newbies are now able to confidently and safely charge and store their batteries without needing a PhD in "Batttery-ology". Spektrum Smart chargers and batteries make the charge and storage process pretty much "Plug and Play" simple.

RC nerds are now able to easily access battery information and statistics that were not previously available. At least not available without careful data entry and tracking as well as data storage for each battery.

Spektrum Smart batteries are programmable to self-discharge to storage Voltage after a set time interval. This is possibly the most valuable feature of Smart technology. This one feature is reason enough for me to purchase Smart batteries and begin to phase out my older batteries as they come up for replacement.

Including USB charging capabilities on Smart products is a very welcome feature. Including real time servo current drain on the Smart XBC100 checker's servo testing function is a welcome bonus.

It looks like Spektrum has just released a line of Smart LiFe batteries that can be charged and programmed with these same Spektrum Smart Chargers.

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Last edited by kingsflyer; Aug 06, 2019 at 09:33 PM..
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Sep 07, 2019, 06:02 AM
Where o where has my America g
stsguy's Avatar

Amazing indepth review on this new product


Mr. Mike, You knocked this one out of the park sir, I expected no less as all you reviews are educational as well as thorough. However I'm scratching my head when it come to price As you can see here the compare from Horizon site shows the Smart battery is less? Can this be possible? Better product for less financial pain ?
Product
E-flite: 11.1V 2200mAh 3S 30C LiPo, 13AWG: EC3 $29.99

11.1V 2200mAh 3S 30C Smart LiPo Battery, IC3 $26.99
.

I'm not going to mention in type how much I have invested in Lipos ( my wife may stumble on this post, she can sniff out my money spending like pack of well train blood hounds) but I will say I destroy many batteries yearly simply to poor (discharging) care. Ashamed as I am to admit this but life does get in the way. I'm lucky to get the fly time I get sneaking away to the field. Some will agree that Discharging Lipos is not a chore we look forward too. Plus I leave a few charged if a windows opens to sneak out to fly a few batteries. So this can be a HUGE money saver for guys like myself.
I like that they incorporated the servo tester, usb charger and the other functions all in one package. Less to carry makes for a more enjoyable trip to the field and less tools to store in the shop. So everything really looks like it will be a win win..
I do see a few things I'd like to see different or added First I have not been a fan of the EC plugs for some time, the XT has worked better for me however without seeing one in hand ill digress on that subject until I see one in person. Also I saw no mention of the charger being capable of testing internal resistance. I like to see when the number starts to rise so I can cycle the unit out.
All in all i'm excited and plan to order.. It will look good with my green I x12....Yep I couldn't pass on the deal I found . If I'd buy the $650.00 hat and they would send me a FREE IX12 transmitter! And its a real nice hat .. I show off the hat more than the transmitter... lol
Thanks again sir, it must taken a month of Sundays to gather and share all this info ..
I'm looking forward to your next review already....
Cheers Joe
Sep 07, 2019, 07:02 AM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
Thread OP
Thanks for all the kind words. I think you're gonna like your new hat .

I checked a number of E-flite prices for my review and was pleasantly surprised at the pricing for the Smart Batteries. It seems we're getting much better battery technology for about the same prices.

On the topic of "Stored" Lipos, my wife has no idea how many batteries are stored in those 8 Lipo battery sacks, or the pricing. It may bit of a stretch, but I can honestly tell her that those new batteries that keep showing up at our house are replacements for "old" worn out packs. I can also assure her that the new Smart Batteries are MUCH better and will last longer.

#MoreSmartBatteriesOnOrder

McD
Last edited by kingsflyer; Sep 07, 2019 at 08:06 AM.
Sep 07, 2019, 07:15 PM
Modeling Retread
I’d like to see a comparison of the service life of the new batteries with the previous generation of EFlite batteries. My experience, and that of a lot of people I know was that 5he old ones were disappointing for their cost.
Latest blog entry: 17th Annual BEST Fly-In
Sep 07, 2019, 07:18 PM
Where o where has my America g
stsguy's Avatar
I read (somewhere) the new batteries or not the same I doubt they would send old tech wit the new flagship product. On my concerns early mentioned I found the connectors are the same shape but the material has been upgraded and IT DOES CHECK IR>>>> YEA BABY
Sep 08, 2019, 05:00 AM
Registered User

Battery protocol


Is the protocol between the batteries and the charger open?
If not we run the risk of vendor lock-in (which would be a great shame - auto setup of the charger should be great)
Sep 08, 2019, 05:18 AM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
Thread OP
To my knowledge, the protocol is proprietary. However, the Smart chargers will work with any batteries and the Smart batteries can be charged with any appropriate chargers. Once the self-discharge parameters have been set for a battery, they will continue to initiate the balance discharge function after the set time duration no matter what charger is used for the charging process.

Hope this helps.

McD
Latest blog entry: LEDs on my T-28
Sep 08, 2019, 09:26 AM
Registered User
koppterX's Avatar
I was looking at the smart charger at $149 but after seeing that I would need two EC adapators and the cost was climbing to $170, I bought a Dynamite Prophet at 100 x 4. I use the Spektrum 3200 6S packs on my Viper, and I like the packs, but I'm living happily without the Smart features and a lot less time charging with double the available ports. the servo driving capability is a attractive.
Sep 08, 2019, 10:18 AM
Registered User
cjpace's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by kingsflyer
To my knowledge, the protocol is proprietary. However, the Smart chargers will work with any batteries and the Smart batteries can be charged with any appropriate chargers. Once the self-discharge parameters have been set for a battery, they will continue to initiate the balance discharge function after the set time duration no matter what charger is used for the charging process.

Hope this helps.

McD

I thought this was a nice and detailed review, but I think it makes sense to mention that this Spektrum gear is really just re-branded ISDT equipment, and the protocol is just their BattGo standard --- you could argue whether or not it is proprietary but it seems like the intent was to make it a more open standard for batteries and charges from multiple manufacturers.

I don't say that it's rebranded as a negative -- Spektrum/Horizon has more and different marketing reach than ISDT and if they make their products more successful through that collaboration, I think that's a pretty good thing -- the isdt chargers / parrallel boards, etc have always been prett slick.
Sep 08, 2019, 01:23 PM
Registered User
Not sure on the prices myself. All Horizon batteries are a bit salty for the quality IMO. Hopefully these are better quality. I have a smart 4S 3200 laying on the bench. Was over $80. Haven’t used it and I think it’s going back to the HS. I can get 4 decent 2200 4s packs for around the same price.

These are rebranded ISDT chargers for sure. ISDT makes decent chargers though.
Sep 08, 2019, 01:43 PM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
Thread OP
According to Horizon, ISDT is not compatible with Spektrum Smart technology. I know the chargers look very similar, but according to Horizon, the programming is different.

I assume it may be a protocol issue - something to keep the brand distinct. You know, Ford vs Chevy, Spektrum vs Futaba, etc.

I know that DJI has a form of self-discharging storage function, but it is adjustable in days and Spektrum is adjustable in hours.

I guess the bottom line is that Spektrum Smart chargers will charge any Lipo battery with balance leads and Spektrum Smart batteries can be charged on any Lipo battery charger. However, the Smart part of the technology will only work when charging a Spektrum Smart battery on a Spektrum Smart battery charger.

McD
Last edited by kingsflyer; Sep 08, 2019 at 04:56 PM.
Sep 08, 2019, 05:07 PM
Registered User
cjpace's Avatar
The first of these chargers that spektrum released still had ISDT labelling on the inside, so the hardware is certainly the same, not just similar in appearance. If they chose to create incompatible firmware for smart batteries, that would be a disappointing choice (and may even be a reversal, see https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...16&postcount=8)

I'm all for them rebranding, or releasing exclusive versions (for example their XBC100 has the nice little addition of servo tester output vs the first incarnation of this device which was the ISDT BG-8S) -- but I'm not as on board with the protocol change. It also doesn't seem that smart -- I have some ISDT equipment currently and I thought the spektrum stuff was going to be interchangeable. I will just stay with the ISDT brand for future purchases though if spektrum's firmware isn't compatible.
Sep 10, 2019, 03:47 PM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
Thread OP
Looks like Spektrum has just added two new chargers to their Smart Technology lineup. Check out Jason Cole's Article here:

https://www.rcgroups.com/forums/show...um-SW150-S1500

McD
Latest blog entry: LEDs on my T-28
Sep 12, 2019, 01:36 PM
Registered User
alex24's Avatar
Check out the new line of Spektrum Avian Smart ESCs just announced today. Gone are the days of modules, sensors and extra wires for telemetry!

https://www.horizonhobby.com/content...Merch_09122019
Sep 12, 2019, 02:22 PM
We shall serve the Lord
kingsflyer's Avatar
Thread OP
According to the release info, these Smart ESCs and Smart Batteries along with the new Spectrum Telemetry Receivers will allow real time monitoring of not only total battery pack voltage, but even individual cell voltage and pack capacity. All that info will come through to the transmitter by just plugging the ESC lead into the Throttle port of the receiver. Amazing!

McD
Latest blog entry: LEDs on my T-28


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