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XCTU 6.2 – Linux Support and More

If you’ve opened up XCTU recently you may have noticed a prompt to update. Among many performance upgrades, version 6.2 of XCTU has a variety of new features and most importantly we now support Linux!Linux

Here are the release notes for XCTU 6.2:

Serial Console Tool
The Serial Console tool has been included within the Tools drop-down menu of the main toolbar. This tool allows you to interact with your radio modules without having to discover and add them to the list of radio modules.

  • Added a control in the consoles toolbar to see and manage the serial port flow control lines.
  • Added a new recording feature to XCTU consoles that allows you to record all the sent and received data in a log file with CSV format.
  • Status icon of consoles tabs now changes depending on the status of the console to display the following actions: connected, disconnected, sending and receiving data.

API Console frames filter 
Added a new frames filtering option in the API console in order to filter the frames of the table. This allows you to filter down to specific packet types and even look at packets being sent or received from a specific device on your XBee network.

Firmware Release Notes Viewer
Included a new feature that allows users to explore and read the Release Notes of the released XBee firmwares
in all the firmware list controls.

Documentation Updated With More Graphics and Video
We’ve also done a massive overhaul of our documentation which includes step-by-step walkthroughs of each feature as well as some videos like this one on updating firmware:


With XCTU documentation being moved to an online system we can guarantee up to date information and facilitate its access outside XCTU. Additionally, a PDF copy has been included in the tool, so you can access the documentation while working without an internet connection. Click here to access the new resource.

Download
If you haven’t already updated from within XCTU, or you’re a Linux user that has patiently waited for XCTU, just click here to download the software to your computer. Have fun!

NVdrones Gives Developers a Platform to Quickly Create Drone Applications

NVDronesThe core idea for creating the XBee was to create a module for wireless communications that gives our customers the option to choose the best wireless technology for the job. Whether you need long-range communication spanning many miles using the 900MHz band or mesh networking with ZigBee or more data throughput using Wi-Fi. The XBee enables us to offer our customers wireless flexibility to meet their needs.

NVDrones is helping developers integrate XBee for wireless communication in drone designs. The team aims to give software developers all the necessary tools to create drone applications.

They created a board that is plug-n-play compatible with top drone platforms and an XBee socket that allows developers to simply plug in their XBee of choice (check out the image below). By default, they offer the XBee PRO 900MHz, which is ideal for drone applications considering it’s substantial LOS range — enabling autonomous drones. This autonomous operation is controlled by the apps created with the hardware and easy-to-use SDKs.

NVDrones

With library support for Arduino, Android, and Javascript, their platform was meant to be user-friendly for all developers no matter their background — even those with limited or no hardware experience. If you have an itch to start creating a drone application, but lack experience, this is a great starting point.

You can check out their developer website at developers.NVdrones.com. They’ve just launched and are taking pre-orders now.

Employee Engagement: The Purpose Behind IoT Systems that You Might Be Missing

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Today, technology can help organizations achieve amazing things, especially Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Preventative maintenance, the elimination of machine downtime—it’s all great. But, with all of the technology talk, we often forget that it’s our job as business leaders to use technology to drive and scale human connectivity.

It’s our business leaders’ job to use technology to take our resources from good to great and from efficient to extraordinarily efficient, because data alone can only do so much. Data puts us in the position to evolve customer service, but real change also stems from your greatest assets: your employees. When we equip and empower employees to be successful at their jobs, they also become happier and more engaged. And while happiness may seem like a fluffy concept, it’s a key driver of employee productivity. With U.S. businesses losing $450-$550 billion dollars a year due to active disengagement (Gallup 2013) happiness that creates engagement is no small win.

So now I have to ask: Have you thought about how the Internet of Things and employee engagement go hand-in-hand? If not, it’s time to start. Here are three key ways IoT systems can better your business through employee engagement.

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1. Empower employees with data.

Data that employees can utilize for customer services makes for better outcomes. Those better outcomes make for more encouraged and engaged employees.

Connected products create an opportunity for employees to know more when disgruntled customers call in about a problem, and they’re equipped with more than just a transcript to help.

Employees who have greater insight can resolve issues faster and more frequently, leading to greater efficiencies and first-call resolutions– not to mention happier customers.

Access to real-time data can also help to surprise and delight customers. Just remember,  that surprise and delight will soon turn into an expectation. Better outcomes and surprise and delight aren’t just great for customer service, but it makes employees feel more successful at their jobs too. Remember, passion and engagement comes from being empowered and enabled to be good at what you do.

2. Engaged employees act like owners.

When employees are empowered to make autonomous decisions, they feel (and act) like owners– giving managers an opportunity to level-up.

Access to actionable data gives front-line workers the information they need to take autonomous actions and experience emergent leadership. With more employees making real-time decisions, time spent in the “chain of command” decreases. Those on the front-lines feel more empowered, while managers and more strategic employees have more time for higher-level activities—a chain reaction that increases engagement levels throughout the organization.

Connected products also help organizations align employees to its mission and goals. By understanding the company’s desired outcomes, employees can make decisions based on clearly-defined goals—not guesses.chsh-logo-300x118

One solution, Clean Hands Safe Hands (CHSH), empowers hospitals to use a set of company-wide metrics for hand hygiene compliance. With the CHSH system in place, staff badges are equipped with a sensor that tracks all hygiene events. Data analytics and reporting allow hospitals to benchmark performance, identify opportunities for coaching and praise, and share a dashboard of hospital compliance guidelines. This transparency helps create good habits and change behaviors. It can also lead to a reduction in healthcare associated infections by 40-70%. With that kind of reduction, a 200 bed hospital with the system installed can save up to $1M per year (CHSH 2015).

3. Connected products create opportunities for higher value employee contributions– from the front-lines up.

Today, over 80% of employees feel their skills aren’t being put to full use (Lumesse 2011). Employees want to do more, but it’s common for corporate technology investments to focus on improving the efficiency only of high cost knowledge workers. That’s changing. Connected devices can empower workers at every level to perform their jobs with greater efficiency, productivity, and even safety. Front-line workers are becoming information workers. That’s technology turning humans into extraordinary resources.

Organizations must give employees the systems and tools to make the most valuable contribution possible. When employees are able to solve customer problems they’re more engaged with their work. Decentralized decision-making and a set shared metrics gives not only front-line workers, but everyone in the organization, the opportunity to level-up. And finally, employees want to do more, they want to make the most valuable impact possible, and it’s your job to give them the tools to do so.

Keith Rabois, Partner at Khosla Ventures, puts it best, “It’s your job to rigorously ask: ‘how do I make people more successful? What things can I give them to make them more valuable per day?’ You have to create tools that enable people to make decisions at the same level you would make them yourself.”

Why You Should Choose Cellular for Your IoT Solution

You already know how ubiquitous cellular is, but did you realize it’s going above and beyond the device you have in your hand? Lower costs and reliable connections are driving cellular adoption in M2M and Internet of Things applications. According to Berg Insights, there are already around 187 million cellular connected M2M devices. Here are some of the top reasons our customers choose to go with a cellular solution for their M2M and IoT solutions.

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 9.53.59 AM
1. Ubiquitous Coverage
Cellular coverage is nearly everywhere. A recent ITU report suggests that the total number of global mobile subscriptions is approximately 6.8 billion – nearly the same as the estimated world population.

Cellular devices can be deployed anywhere that is in network coverage.  It can also be deployed in mobile applications where devices need to stay connected no matter where they are at (e.g. fleet/asset tracking), even across wide geographical areas.  Additionally, there is a growing population of picocell deployments that are enabling improved in-building coverage for shopping centers, large corporate buildings, subway stations, etc.

2. Easy Deployment
Cellular devices can be pre-provisioned by distributors or system integrators before shipment to the end-customer, so they connect to the network right out of the box.   No end user provisioning is required (e.g. setting up security to connect to a Wi-Fi access point)

Cellular devices are not dependent on IT infrastructure (e.g. Wi-Fi access point, corporate Ethernet, …).  Deploying Wi-Fi or Ethernet connected devices inside environments like hospitals or shopping centers can be difficult due to IT teams not allowing 3rd party devices on their network.  What if the IT network is updated or security settings change? Cellular connected devices ensure you retain complete control over your device.

3. Lower Support Costs
With cellular, the infrastructure is owned and managed by the cellular carriers, not the end-customer or product supplier.  This means no upfront infrastructure costs and reduced support costs. Because cellular connectivity does not depend on end-user managed infrastructure (Wi-Fi, ZigBee, etc.), product suppliers do not have to provide ‘helpdesk’ support services for basic connectivity issues (e.g. “My device won’t connect to the access point.  The security settings are not working….”).  Instead of deploying your own infrastructure, leverage one of the world’s largest communication infrastructures – the cellular network.

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 9.57.12 AM
4. Improved Reliability
Reliability is critical for many M2M applications, especially those involving security and real-time monitoring and alerts.  With cellular, you are leveraging a robust wireless network used by nearly 1/3 of the world’s population every day.  Cellular network outages are rare and if they do occur they are immediately noticed and acted on.  Consider a less reliable alternative — a device is connected to a consumer-grade Wi-Fi access point, maintained by the store clerk in a small gas station.  If the wireless connection fails, it could go unnoticed for extended periods of time and require manual intervention to resolve.

5. Lower Hardware Costs
Cellular module costs have fallen significantly in recent years. High-volume pricing for data-only modules is approaching sub-$10 for 2G GSM, sub-$20 for CDMA 1xRTT and sub-$30 for 3G UMTS. These price points are enabling a whole new class of devices and applications.

6. Lower Data Costsgodzilla
Data costs have also fallen significantly.  For connected machines that only need to report small amounts of data, connectivity costs can be <$1/month.  A vending machines that reports daily inventory clearly doesn’t need the same costly data plan as a consumer streaming HD music videos.

7. No Risk of Inflatable Godzilla Ruining Your Network
This isn’t a joke. One of our own customers has run into this problem. VSAT requires a satellite typically placed on the top of the building. But what happens when the store manager requests an employee go to the roof and tie up a giant inflatable Godzilla? The store employee probably isn’t a wireless communications expert and decides to use the satellite to anchor Godzilla. This can pull the satellite out of the direction it requires to connect — resulting in costly downtime.

Obviously this isn’t an epidemic, but with cellular you don’t need to worry about the direction your antenna is pointed.

Closing
Many of our customers are realizing the value provided by cellular connected devices today. In addition to providing a secure and reliable connection, it enables them to manage and monitor their network from anywhere. Here’s an example of how our customer, Monster Media, is using cellular to connect and manage digital signage around the world.

From 3D Mapping to Data Collection: XBee Gets Drones Off the Ground

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The commercial drone industry is still relatively young, but over the next decade, the civilian and commercial drone market is expected to more than double. Just this year, the FAA proposed legislation creating a process to allow the use of commercial drones in the US. These new rules would make the U.S. one of the most drone-friendly regions for commercial purposes. That Amazon Prime delivery via drone may be closer to reality than you think.

With multiple applications for drone technology like agriculture, public safety, photography, and a variety of industrial uses, a number of companies are emerging to capture these growing markets. In addition to the many commercial drone opportunities, researchers and makers are also turning to drones as the technology falls in price and becomes more affordable for small operations. Here are a few interesting companies and projects using XBee technology in their drones.

Draganflyx4esup_options_photo1
Draganfly is a unique XBee user. Their claim to fame? The first human life saved by a drone. They specialize in public safety applications as well as industrial inspection by providing tools for high resolution imagery and precision 3D mapping. They even offer customers with flight training courses — very important when you’re a flying a valuable piece of equipment hundreds of feet in the air.

Earlier this year, they announced a new application designed specifically for precision agriculture. The drone is equipped with a camera that simultaneously captures five discrete spectral bands, which provides useful data for monitoring crops and environmental health. The image generated can help farmers identify areas invaded by pests or becoming overgrown with weeds. Click here to read more about Draganfly.

PlexiDrone
PlexiDronePlexiDrone, developed by DreamQii Robotics, is a drone platform for aerial photography. Initially developed for use in the film industry, but the company expects to expand into industrial applications as well. The company’s Indiegogo campaign raised over 2 million dollars — breaking the record for largest canadian crowd funded project.

The PlexiDrone is unique in that it can be controlled via an Android or iOS device rather than a specially designed controller – drastically reducing cost. The users smartphone/tablet controller communicates to a base station over Bluetooth and that base station connects to the drone over an XBee. XBee provides reliable long range wireless to the drone capturing video or photos from the sky. DreamQii also provides developers an entire development kit, so they can create their own custom drone application. Read more about PlexiDrone here.

Monitoring the Amazon Rainforest
We have also worked with quite a few students and makers implementing XBee into their drone designs. Last year a team of students from Peru built an entire monitoring system capable of creating an wildlife inventory of the rainforest. This is a unique drone application in that the drone is used as a vessel for data collection.

Screen-Shot-2014-12-12-at-2.37.27-PMThe network consists of multiple nodes containing a motion sensor and camera. Whenever a node detects motion, an image is captured and the file is stored locally. The drone is programmed to fly around to each of these takeout points. Once the drone captures the images it returns to the city for more in-depth processing. Another interesting aspect of this project is the team created their a custom Arduino board to maximize battery life. Click here to learn more about their project.

City of Visalia Upgrades Public Transit with Verizon 4G LTE

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The city of Visalia had a cellular solution for their public transit system but it was built on a 2G network.  As 2G networks are slowly phased out over the next few years, coverage is becoming increasingly inconsistent.

With the impending shut down of 2G, Visalia needed a way to modernize their public transit system. They worked with Digi to deploy the TransPort WR44 R throughout their fleet of public transit buses, in order to provide their buses with high speed, 4G LTE connectivity.

This rugged cellular router connected over Verizon’s 4G LTE network provides multiple benefits to the city’s public transit system:

  • Security and safety with access to live video from the bus
  • Ability to offer value added services like free Wi-Fi to passengers
  • Reliable and secure connection to process ticket sales

In one month, customers downloaded roughly 540 GB of data across the entire fleet and an estimated 3,200-3,500 passengers accessed the free Wi-Fi. Overall, a reliable and high-speed cellular connection provides the heartbeat for the entire transit system and is guaranteed to last for years to come.

If you want to learn more about how Digi worked with Visalia to upgrade their public transit system, click here to read the full customer story.

A Better Way to Build Your Next Project: Software Tools for XBee

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The open source movement and strong maker community has led to the creation of a number platforms that give developers a quick and efficient way to create a proof of concept, prototype, or even a final product. We’ve discovered and created quite a few that involve XBee over the last several years so we put some of our favorites in one place for you.connect-devices-to-the-cloud (1)

XBee Java Library
You may remember we released the XBee Java Library earlier this year. This library was created in-house at Digi, so our customers can get to market more quickly with their Java based applications, but we also wanted to share it with the rest of you XBee developers out there. Feel free to make your own contributions! Download the library on Github.

XBee Arduino Library
A few years ago, Andrew Rapp created this extremely useful library for projects involving Arduino and XBee wireless communication. The project supports both Series 1 (802.15.4) and Series 2 (ZigBee) XBee radios. Another fellow XBee’er, Boris, supplemented this library by writing a helpful blog post to help get you startedThe library is available here on Github.

XBee Internet Gateway – XIG
Initially created by Rob Faludi to easily connect XBee to the Internet, the XIG runs on Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers as well as ConnectPort Gateways. If you’re looking to integrate your XBee networks with online databases, web pages, social networks, or other online services this is the starting point for your IoT application. The XIG is available for download here.

Rob has also compiled a list of all XBee libraries living out on the Internet including Max MSP and Python. You can view that on Digi’s Examples site here.

Third Party Development Platforms

In addition to some of the tools we’ve created at Digi, there are a number of companies solely focused on creating development platforms for rapid prototyping and product creation.

 

macchina.io
macchina.io is an open source software toolkit for quickly building embedded applications for the Internet of Things that run on Linux-based devices like the Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone. macchina.io implements a web-enabled, modular and extensible JavaScript and C++ runtime environment to enable applications to talk to various sensors, devices, and cloud services. The first release of macchina.io even includes support for XBee ZigBee radios.

Temboo
Temboo is a platform that simplifies interactions between multiple APIs, so you don’t need to spend hours combing through programming details, but rather focus on creating your IoT application. You can easily generate code in multiple languages for tasks like posting to Twitter, creating Google Calendar events, or more advanced processes like monitoring urban noise levels.

Once the code is generated it can simply be copy and pasted into an IDE. Temboo’s library contains thousands of Choreos that handle API interactions, work with databases, perform code utility functions, and more. Check out this video that walks you through building an XBee tank monitoring demo with Temboo Choreos.

NVDrones
Have you wanted to create and program your own Drone? NVDrones has the tools you need to create your one-of-a-kind UAV. With support for common languages like Arduino, Java and Javascript, the platform gives developers the tools necessary to create their own drone applications. Their API ensures quick development so you can focus your efforts on creating a unique and valuable product. Visit their developers site to learn more about NVDrones.

Looking for More 
Did we miss one of your favorite XBee development tools? Never fear. Just leave a comment below or let us know on Twitter at @XBeeWireless and we will add it to the post!

Recap: Internet of Things North America April 2015

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What happens when a couple hundred technologists, visionaries and business leaders get together in one place? Amazing conversation, new ways of utilizing big data actioned and experiences are shared. We saw it happen this week at Internet of Things North America, a new event that covers advanced connectivity and cloud based monitoring and control of devices, facilities, automobiles and enterprise operations.

An incredible roster of speakers covered IoT topics including:

  • iotnaDan Shey, Practice Director, ABI Research on The Industrial Internet in 2020 and Beyond
  • Maha Muzumdar, VP, Supply Chain, Oracle on IoT and Value Chain of Things
  • Matt Meshulam, TempoIQ  on How Will Your IoT Application Outlive the Hype?
  • Eric Uner, CTO, Redwall Technologies provided an IoT Security Primer
  • Matthew Mikell, Big Data Manager, IBM on a Model for Data Equity
  • Beverly Macy, Instructor, UCLA Anderson School of Management on Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud
  • Thomas Burns, Director for IOT Analytics Software, Intel on The Internet of Things and Manufacturing 

A Few Top Takeaways–

Organizational alignment is a key driver of Internet of Things solutions.
“One of the biggest challenges for organizations today? Alignment goals, measures, performance across functional groups.” - Maha Muzumdar, Oracle

Successful IoT strategies and systems consider the end result first.
“People aren’t buying the tools, they’re buying the end results. Like the saying, ‘we don’t want the hammer and nails we want the picture on the wall.'” - Matt Meshulam, TempoIQ

It’s time for new systems in the enterprise, not just for operational efficiencies, but for the productivity of employees.
“Legacy Tools are failing us…” - Beverly Macy, UCLA

We took the stage and shared how the systems that our customers like Clean Hands Safe Hands, ATEK and Heat Seek have implemented can not only revolutionize customer service, but put data in the hands of employees to set them up for success like never before. As technologists and business leaders, it’s our responsibility to utilize technology to equip great people to do their jobs even better. You can learn about more living Internet of Things solutions here.

Keep an eye out for a recap of our session, we’ll post it here soon.