Wow, what a week at Embedded World! With so much happening and so many of our parters in attendance, Embedded World is easily one of our favorite events of the year. This year we showcased what’s new with XBee by giving multiple hands-on workshops with the recently released XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit. These short demonstrations gave users a chance to see how quickly you can create an IoT prototype, including a working application, with the new development kit.
As another piece of our booth, we had Owlet’s full street lighting solution on display. Owlet enables cities to retrofit their existing street lighting infrastructure into an intelligent system with XBee and sensors. You’ll see a snapshot of the demo in the scrolling pictures below! The ConnectCore 6 was also in full-force as we included it in a public transit demo to show how ConnectCore 6 can handle everything from location tracking to driving multiple HD displays.
Thank you to everyone that stopped by for a chat. We are looking forward to next year!
Adam Wolf, an engineer at Wireless Design Services by day, electronics maker and creator by night, received a request to build a light show for an upcoming Doomtree concert. Dessa, a singer and rapper in Doomtree, wanted to create something ‘beautiful and spooky’– the main source of inspiration being a scene from the Little Mermaid. The hope was to create glowing lights in the singers’ mouths and on their clothing that could dim and brighten with the music.
First order of business was to a find a way to get the singers’ mouths to glow.
As you might expect, the mouth isn’t the greatest environment for a circuit, so some clever engineering was required. The circuit had to be enclosed in mouth-safe plastic to ensure any saliva wouldn’t close the circuit.
For control of the lights, Adam used magnets as a way to regulate voltage, so each singer is able to turn the mouthpiece on by bringing a magnet up to her face. A lot work went into this little device, it even required a trip to the dentist to create a well-fitting mouth piece!
The lights on each of the singers’ sternums is where XBee comes in. Each LED module was connected to a MOSFET, which was connected to the PWM pin on an XBee Series 1. This setup allowed Doomtree’s light guy, Arlo, to control the lights’ voltage over a wireless link. Above is a picture of the control interface. By adjusting the knob on the top of the control box Arlo is able to adjust the brightness of the lights to match the music.
Below is a short clip of the LED lights in action.
We are always finding amazing XBee projects. From wireless robots, to interactive art installations, to wearable musical instruments–the creativity of XBee makers is endless. We have some new additions to the XBee Project Gallery and wanted to share them with you. Let us know your favorite!
Catalina Computing took an omniwheeled robot project featured in Make Magazine and replaced its radios with XBees. What resulted is a bot which is controllable from Raspberry Pis, Beagle Bones, Macs, with the ability to easily add an almost unlimited amount of sensors and actuators.
PacMan in Super Bowl Ad
The project consisted of a life-size maze that was built to scale of the original video game. The four ghosts wore light up costumes and rollerblades to give the effect of floating through the maze. XBee connects the ghosts’ costumes to a central base-station, so remote commands can be sent to control the LEDs.
SoMo – Wearables turned into Instruments
SOMO is a custom designed circuit board based on the Arduino Leonardo. It includes an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer and the XBee Series 2. Signals are sent over XBee to a computer, which processes the sound in Max MSP and Ableton.
Do you have an XBee project you would like featured in the XBee Project Gallery? You can submit your own or someone else’s project here.
We just wrapped up our annual European IoT Partner Conference in Cannes and want to thank everyone that was able to attend. We had a great time connecting with our partners and customers and look forward to the year ahead of us. This event gives as an invaluable opportunity to meet with our partners and learn more about the market and how we can improve as a company.
Throughout the week there were presentations from Digi’s leadership team sharing our goals and plans for our various product lines and the company as a whole. Additionally, Machina Research’s Matty Hatton, spoke about some of the key developments his firm is seeing in the connected technology industry. We also heard from our customers like GTech, Rmoni, and Emtest as they shared how they’re changing their businesses with IoT technology.
This yearly gathering also allows us to recognize the success of our many partners across the EMEA region. These are the companies honored as our top channel partners of the year.
We want to thank everyone that was able to attend and make the event a success. We are looking forward to what the next year holds. Check out Digi events page for more info on where you can find Digi in the coming months.
One of the most buzzworthy commercials of Super Bowl XLIX was Bud Light’s Real Life Pac-Man spot for the #UpForWhatever campaign. The advertisement features a life-sized Pac-Man game where a seemingly unaware contender, Riley Smith, is challenged to munch pellets while being chased by ghosts Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.
Here’s the commercial in case you missed it:
The Twitterverse thought that it was awesome and most people wanted to try the game out for themselves.
“Real life Pac-Man! A million high fives to the first bar to make that a regular thing in their establishment.” -@mattlindner
“Can real life Pac-Man be a thing with permanent game sets around the world?” -@DishNation
So, how real was real life Pac-Man? Is it be a game that you could really try in the future? Bud Light states that Smith’s participation was 100% organic. They say it was a live event, a real person, a real game board, all captured in real time. While we’ll leave Smith’s participation and the authenticity of the event up for debate, we can tell you that the game board itself was absolutely real. Bud Light and partners utilized Internet of Things technology to bridge digital and physical worlds and bring the Pac-Man game we all know and love to life.
Rick Galinson and Legacy Effects of Los Angeles, the same shop that provided Jurassic Park, Iron Man and Terminator effects designed the ghosts for the interactive game board.
Each roller-skating ghost costume is lit with about 4,000 LEDs, animated by a tiny open-source computer, the Parallax Propeller QuickStart Board, that communicates using Digi International’s tiny radio module, an XBee-PRO 802.15.4. The remote operator uses a laptop and another XBee module to send commands for the ghost’s flashing sequences.
“With the pressure of over 100 million viewers and a multi-million dollar campaign resting on these electronics, the Propeller chip from Parallax coupled with an XBEE PRO from Digi was an easy choice,” Galinson, SPFX Designer, said. “They performed flawlessly, are easy to implement and will remain my controller and communication products of choice for years to come.”
The technical details of the project had to be as straightforward as possible given short deadlines. Rob Faludi, Digi International’s Chief Innovator and author of Building Wireless Sensor Networks explains, “XBee radios are popular with artists and industrialists alike. They simplify radio communications between devices and the Internet, so critical projects can meet their deadlines without requiring extensive engineering efforts. There’s certainly no postponing the Super Bowl, so XBees were a great choice to ensure this project came off without a hitch.”
A total of five ghost costumes were produced with one serving as a backup. It took about twelve people to assemble the costumes in time for the commercial. Be sure to get a close look at their eyes, which exhibit the original video game character and move with the roller-skating ghost’s movement. Jon McPhalen’s Spin/ASM WS2812 driver figured prominently as a key source code object for this project.
Here’s a behind the scenes look at the game and event coming together:
“It’s now easier than ever with IoT technology to create mesmerizing digital experiences in the physical world. We’re not only seeing this in entertainment with Bud Light’s Pac-Man game, but also commercially with connected solutions for energy systems, transportation monitoring, medical care and even municipal street lighting, Faludi said. “XBees can be a power-up for almost any connected device project.”
So, to answer a question that may be burning in many fan’s minds: yes, it’s totally possible that you too could be running from Blinky the ghost in real life (IRL). Maybe coming to a bar near you? We’re not sure. But one thing we’re positive about is our digital and physical worlds will continue to come together to create these incredible dream-like experiences; both for fun and entertainment and for solving real-world problems.
Have you ever wanted to test the strength of connections in your XBee network? Within the XBee configuration software, XCTU, you can perform a range test. This will tell you the amount of packets received and the RSSI values at the local and remote nodes. This video will take you through the steps necessary to perform a range test.
Creating XBee applications just got way easier. Gone are the days of toiling away for every inch of code. In order to make it as simple as possible for you to write applications that interact with XBee, we have created the XBee Java Library. This library supports ZigBee, 802.15.4, DigiMesh and Point-to-Multipoint XBee devices!
The project includes Java source code, unit tests for the library, and multiple examples that show how to use the available APIs. The examples are also available in source code format.
Here’s a list of what’s included in the library:
Configuration of local and remote XBee devices:
Configure common parameters with specific setters and getters.
Configure any other parameter with generic methods.
Execute AT commands.
Apply configuration changes.
Write configuration changes.
Reset the device.
Transmission of data to all the XBee devices on the network or to a specific device.
Reception of data from remote XBee devices:
Data reception callback.
Reception of network status changes related to the local XBee device.
IO lines management:
Configure IO lines.
Set IO line value.
Read IO line value.
Receive IO data samples from any remote XBee device on the network.
So whether you’re designing an intelligent lighting application, completely automating your home, tracking your dog’s activity level, or anything else you can dream up– you no longer have to start from scratch. Visit github.com/digidotcom for access to the library and more information.
Did you know that roughly 1.7 billion people are not connected to a power grid? In Sub-Sahara Africa, the number is around 500 million. For many, the infrastructure simply doesn’t exist. The modern day conveniences we take for granted such as being able to read at night, cooking on the stove top and refrigeration can be a hassle, or close to impossible, with no access to a reliable source of electricity.
The challenges of installing a power grid in remote and undeveloped areas can be numerous, so how do we reimagine how to deliver reliable electricity and move past the traditional power grid system? Thankfully, Devergy is solving this tricky problem. Using solar power and wireless technology, Devergy has built a sustainable business that’s helping villages in Tanzania and Ghana meet their energy needs.
Who is Devergy?
Founded in 2010 by Fabio De Pascale, Gianluca Cescon and Daniel Ponz, Devergy is a social enterprise committed to providing an affordable and reliable source of energy to low-income people throughout Tanzania.
Their customers live in rural areas of the country where a power grid is nonexistent and residents do not have the money necessary to purchase a personal solar home system.
Residents in Tanzania typically spend between 6 and 25 USD per month on kerosene, phone charging, and dry-cell batteries for radios. After the installation of Devergy’s solar grids, residents spend as much as 20% less than what they were spending on kerosene for lighting and 50% less for phone charging. Not only does Devergy provide a clean, renewable and reliable source of energy, but it’s also substantially more affordable.
The service is based on village-sized energy micro-grids, which provide solar power to households and small businesses; it allows the users to connect lights and appliances such as radios, TVs and refrigerators. With the smart micro-grids, the usage of installed power is up to 70% more efficient than with equivalent solar home systems.
The key feature of the system is an energy meter that powers the household or business with a pre-paid pay-per-use approach, where customers top up their credit by using a mobile commerce platform, such as Vodacom M-Pesa. This is just like the system you would use to top-up a pre-paid mobile phone.
How it Works
Devergy uses Digi XBee technology for the communication network in its grids. Hundreds of nodes are connected with XBee–making the solar micro-grids smart, cost effective, and manageable. Devergy relies on XBee modules for its smart meters and is using Digi’s ConnectPort X4 for its ZigBee to GPRS gateways. Fabio, co-founder of Devergy says, “The plug and play, flexible nature of the Digi product was fundamental to get our services to the market faster.”
Devergy’s customers receive an unprecedented service thanks to a system that is designed to require no user maintenance and is remotely monitored for faults, so that the reliability and availability of the service is unmatched. Local representation of the company is ensured by the appointment of a village agent, selected based on recommendation by the village committee and trained by Devergy to perform technical support and sales. This ensures the customers always have a well-known and trusted counterpart to deal with.
Devergy has successfully connected more than 800 customers since 2012 to reliable, clean and safe electricity with a service sufficient to satisfy their needs for many years to come. Currently, they are active in two regions and quickly growing their customer base. In addition to Tanzanaia, the Devergy grids are also licensed to third parties in Ghana, where they power 3 villages.