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Illinois Institute of Technology Students Bring Connected Solutions to Life with XBee

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Urban gardens that send text alerts when vegetables are ready, autonomous drones, solar powered mesh networks—these innovations aren’t just ideas, they’re real projects that students at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) created in less than eight weeks.

The Interprofessional Projects Program (IPRO) at IIT gives students the opportunity to work with teams across multiple disciplines to bring ideas to life.

“The IPRO program prepares students for the practical challenges they will face in a changing workplace—emulating a cross-functional team.” The program aims to give students hands on experience and create real solutions for the complex issues. 

Students from IIT’s programs including engineering, science, business, law, psychology, design and architecture complete nearly 90 projects via IPRO every year.

Jeremy Hajek, a professor at IIT has students learn about and work with XBee. First his class reads Building Wireless Sensor Networks by Digi’s Chief Innovation Officer, Rob Faludi. Then, they bring their own connected ideas to life.

One group used Digi’s XBee and Arduino to power a solar power mesh network.

“XBees are radio modules that communicate to each other, being able to be set up any topology including point-to-point, star and mesh, and can go much further than Bluetooth. The router and endpoint collect data and send it to the coordinator, which is in charge of all of the data that passes in its network. XBees are useful to a bunch of purposes, we used them not only for monitoring temperature data and displaying it on the monitor, but also uploading this new data on a web server.”

Just like we hear XBee customers say so often, the students mentioned that they selected the XBee because it’s cost effective and easy to use. “It just does exactly what we need it to do,” one of the students said.

To take the project a step further, another group created an Android and Google Glass app to display the data collected by the network. The team pointed out how this could be used by maintenance professionals, landlords and building operators to truly keep their finger on the pulse of facilities.

Digi customers are in fact using XBees to collect and access data to better businesses today.

Similar to some of the solutions that students put together for urban agriculture, DigiBale created a foundational communications system in the form of a “Farm Automation Starter Kit” that can be used to collect data for agriculture processes.

The kit includes ConnectPort X2 Gateway, three Digi XBee-PRO 900HP modules, a subscription to Device Cloud and a smartphone application. Its an ideal setup for creating a mid-sized mesh network that provides accurate soil moisture measurements and converts two electrical devices into automated and remotely managed devices. It enables farmers and growers to setup a system with simple scheduling and activation configuration to devices and access to statistics and activity history of all sensors and devices.

RMONI too, selected XBee due to its ease of use. “We’re not RF experts. We don’t want to worry about the RF design, so it was very convenient to source XBee and get the support of Digi’s partners and resellers to get to market quickly,” said Bart Meekers, CEO, RMONI.

RMONI uses the XBee to track the environment around food and medication while it’s in transit and on store shelves. This helps to ensure safety and quality. Even the slightest increase in temperature while handling the products can lead to deterioration, invalid results and considerable loss in revenue, so this is a vital application.

Schréder created Owlet, a solution that uses mesh networking for intelligent street lights. Each light is equipped with a high performance LED array and a XBee ZigBee module. The XBee modules enable groups of lights to form a ZigBee mesh network, which connects to a cellular WAN—a Digi ConnectPort X4 cellular gateway.

Innovators, whether they’re some of Digi’s bigger XBee customers or students, agree that XBee is the most easy and to-the-point way to add wireless communication to a solution.

Digi’s Golden Birthday: Celebrating 30 Years of Connected Technology

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Today marks Digi’s golden birthday! Over the last 30 years, a lot has changed and more is on the way, so for a little fun, we decided to take a look back at Digi’s history. When was XBee invented? When did the Digi diamond logo come into existence? All those answers and more are below. Here’s to 30 more years!


XBee Tech Tip: Using Remote AT Commands to Toggle an IO on a Remote XBee

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This Tech Tip is brought to you by Digi Applications Engineer Mark Grierson.

Using API mode it is possible to send commands from a transmitting radio to a receiving radio. This allows for module parameter registers on a remote device to be queried or set.

One useful application of this feature is to toggle an IO on a remote radio from a high to a low state. In this manner the radios can be used as a wireless relay to control a wide variety of remote devices.


In this tutorial we will be using XCTU to create and send 2 distinct API frames. One frame will toggle the remote radio’s IO high, and the other will toggle the remote radio’s IO low. You could easily program a micro or other piece of hardware to issue these commands.


To perform this tutorial you will require the following materials:

  • 2 – XBee 802.15.4 RF modules.
  • 2 – Interface boards (USB or RS232) *the use of DEV boards (XBIB-U-DEV or XBIB-R-DEV) will allow the use of onboard LEDs to observe output
  • 1 – PC with XCTU software installed. Click here to download.
  • Serial or USB cables to connect interface boards to the PC


Select one radio to operate as your Base and one to operate as your Remote.

Both radios are programmed with the default settings with the following exceptions. API is enabled on the Base radio (AP=1), D4=4 on the remote radio

In this example my radios have the following factory set 64 bit addresses:









Connect the base radio to the PC and launch XCTU. Connect the radio to XCTU by clicking on the Add Devices icon and selecting the appropriate com port and settings and clicking finish.

The Radio will now be listed on the left side of XCTU as in the following screenshot.

Open the Console mode of XCTU by clicking on the Console icon.

Open the serial connection with the base radio by selecting the Connect icon.   The image will change to the connected status.

The Console should indicate that it is opn as an API Console.   If it is showing that it is an AT console, return to the module settings tab and ensure API is enabled (AP=1)

In the Send a single frame section open the “Add a frame” dialog box by clicking on the  .  Rename your frame name to Low, then click on the Packet generator icon  to open the packet generator.

We will now use the built in API frames generator to create two remote AT command (type 0x17) frames paying close attention to the structure of this frame as outlined in the API section of the Product manual. One frame will set the remote radios Digital output High and the other will set it Low.

Select “0x17 – Remote AT Command” as the frame type and then set the 64 bit address to the SH and SL of the remote module.  Set the AT command to ASCII D4 and the Parameter value to HEX 04 as in the following screenshot.

*Please note that the command D4 (bytes 17 and 18) is issued as 44 and 34. 34 is the hex equivalent of the ASCII character 4. The parameter value setting for D4 (byte 19) is issued as 04 and 05. This is the hex equivalent of decimal 4 and 5 respectively.

Click OK and the frame contents will appear in the Add API frame to the list dialog box as follows:

Click on Add frame.

Repeat the procedure for your set high frame changing the parameter value to 0x05 and create a second frame with a frame name of High

Click on Add frame.

Your API console should now look something like this:

Here are the frames configured for the address of my radios. Your packets will contain the address of your remote radio and the checksum will be different.

Note: I have chosen to toggle DIO4 as it is connected to LED 3 on the XBIB-DEV board and allows easy viewing of the toggle process without the use of a voltmeter or scope.

Command to set DIO4 high:

7E 00 10 17 01 00 13 A2 00 40 55 F4 98 FF FE 02 44 34 05 95

Command to set DIO4 Low:

7E 00 10 17 01 00 13 A2 00 40 55 F4 98 FF FE 02 44 34 04 96

You can now send the commands to the base radio which will in turn send remote commands to the remote radio to set its digital output D4 (Pin 11). Do this by highlighting the appropriate frame (high or Low) and clicking on “Send selected frame.”

The LED associated with the D4 pin should go off and on as you send these two frames. You may also verify the state by connecting a multi-meter to Pin 11 of the module to check its voltage state as it is toggled from High to low. The pin should read about 3.3v when high and about 0 volts when low.

You can also view and parse the frames and their corresponding response packets in the Frame log section of the display. A status of 0x00 (OK) indicates that the frame was sent successfully and acknowledged by the remote module.

If you do not receive a response frame please check your API packet for accuracy.

Note: This article is written using the XBee 802.15.4 radios but the concepts are applicable to all of the XBee radio lineup that offer API mode.

XCTU 6.2 – Linux Support and More

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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.

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!

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.


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.”

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 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 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.

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!

Look What I Made: XBee Project Gallery Update

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We are always finding amazing XBee projects. From interactive musical landscapes to creating virtual reality - the imagination 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!


Thermo Mapping Device
This system makes creating a graphical representation of an object’s temperature possible. It’s comprised of three cameras placed around an object so the user can map out an object’s temperature in three dimensions. The graphic is displayed on an LCD display that is powered by Arduino.

Project Anywhere
Virtual reality is rapidly becoming more prevalent but many systems are too expensive for consumers. Project Anywhere is addressing this by using a smartphone as the primary interface, 3D printed parts, and other off-the-shelf components like Arduino. This drastically reduces the cost of the system — making it more accessible to consumers.

Felted Terrain
Felted Terrain is an interactive landscape that users can touch to generate sound. The installation uses fabric woven with conductive thread so a Lilypad with XBee can be woven into the design. As users touch parts of the landscape, XBee sends data to computer to create a tone based on where the user touched.

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.