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Today’s Industrial Internet of Things Solutions Are Built, Not Bought

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-Every industry and solution requires a
 

The article “Don’t hold your breath for the industrial IoT platform” by Cormac Foster caused quite the buzz when it made its debut on Gigaom last month. With rebuttals from industry players like Mike Dolbec, managing director of Venture Capital GE Software, we took notice.

What stood out the most? Despite the tensions expressed in reader comments, we agree with Foster and thought that some of the best points of the piece were overlooked.

What others overlooked is that Foster isn’t downplaying the role of the Industrial Internet of Things. He’s simply pointing to its enormity.

“The industrial IoT will eventually eclipse consumer markets, in terms of both the number of connected devices and the volume and value of connections. But the market’s potential is so large because it’s not just one market.”

We couldn’t agree more. The Industrial IoT is a mega trend, and its economic value add will show that in time. It is not a single market, but rather a market of markets. For example, our business at Digi International spans over half a dozen different vertical industries and even more underlying applications and use cases.

Different solutions may require different hardware approaches, networking technologies, cloud data storage, reporting and security requirements. We’ve had to learn the different languages of proprietary machines–becoming ‘machine linguists’ in the process.

To approach this vast “megatrend” landscape requires a versatile toolkit of wireless and embedded technologies and software and integration services, because each customer use case and scenario has its own optimized solution.

In the industrial world, you build an IoT solution, you don’t buy one. You might be able to go and buy a wearable at Best Buy or Target, but here in the Industrial IoT there’s no one-size fits all standard today. Furthermore, a lot of new entrants in the supplier space offer one point solution or one point product. They have a single hammer, so everyone’s problem is declared a nail. That’s why their ability to deliver value to customers is limited.

Industrial Internet of Things solutions today are about creating a strategic competitive advantage for your business. If it were easy to do–if you could just buy one off the shelf and implement it–would it be a real advantage? For how long? As early adopters of IoT realize the business benefits of lower costs or the ability to deliver superior customer service, laggards will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

As I said before, every industry and solution requires a different combination of technologies and approaches to get the job done. A solution for a city looking to reduce their electricity bill using a smart street lighting system is completely different than a medical device maker who needs to bluetooth-enable products. The same goes for someone deploying precision agriculture equipment, or industrial fuel tanks.

For example, wireless mesh networking technology often powers smart street lighting IoT projects, which can reduce electricity costs that can account for a big chunk of a city’s energy expenses. One of our customers’ systems, which gives city crews a view into every light and its status via a web application, helps cities save up to 85 percent on energy costs. And, with reduced CO2 emissions, it also helps to protect the environment.

The Bottom Line: There’s No Panacea or Single Standard today

Our IoT customer solutions span dozens of industries and hundreds of applications– each with different business goals and technology needs. So, yes, we have to agree with Foster. There’s no one Industrial IoT platform. We wouldn’t hold our breathe either. Internet of Things systems for commercial use are created with industry and application specifications in mind, as they should be. As Foster said, “the market’s potential is so large because it’s not just one market.”

Interested in learning more about today’s Industrial Internet of Things solutions? Here are a number of customers who are experiencing the benefits.

Home is Where the Heat is: Heat Seek is Helping NYC Keep Warm

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heatseekDecember is here, and with it, so are the single-digit temperatures. Many of us know how unbearable the cold can be during the dead of winter. Whether you’re dealing with it on your daily commute, outside taking the dog for a walk, or trying to get some groceries, the cold has a way of making you just want to get back to the warmth and comfort of your home. But, for many, this problem persists even when they’re home. Digi’s customer, Heat Seek NYC, wants to make this a problem of the past.

For those at the mercy of a landlord, resolving heating issues can be a lengthy and bureaucratic process. Did you know NYC handles over 200,000 heating complaints every year? In order to provide proof of poor heating, tenants are tasked with manually recording the temperatures of their apartments.

A group of New York City residents recognized this as a major public issue and founded Heat Seek NYC to efficiently address this overwhelming number of complaints and ensure no New York City resident has to spend winter in a cold home.

HeatSeekPartsTheir wireless sensor system automatically records apartment temperatures– streamlining the way NYC handles heating complaints and solves disputes between tenants and landlords.

Let’s take a look and see how Heat Seek built this wireless sensor network.

The sensor network is built entirely with off-the-shelf components. The low-cost temperature sensors connect via XBee using DigiMesh technology to create a reliable network that can easily connect throughout a building. Then, the team turned a Raspberry Pi into a cellular gateway enabling it to transmit temp. data, which is sent to a server to be accessed by residents, advocates, and lawyers. Additionally, Heat Seek is working to give the housing department (HPD) access to data to assist building inspectors. As the team transitions from prototype to a production version of their system they’re evaluating the ConnectPort X4 and Device Cloud for their connectivity and remote management needs.

This public record of heating complaints is used to generate The Cold Map.

BigApps_HeatSeek_blog

After winning the NYC BigApps Challenge and a successfully funded Kickstarter, Heat Seek has had a busy 2014 getting the business off the ground. The goal is to install 1,000 sensors throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx this year!

Not only does Heat Seek provide a system of accountability, but they also enable landlords to heat their buildings more effectively. Want to learn more about Heat Seek? Check out a demo and see how a landlord can use it to reduce heating violations and keep tenants warm.

Yantra 3.0 Connects Technology with Cultural Traditions in Nepal

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This guest blog post has been authored by Sakar Pudasaini, co-founder of Karkhana. Sakar founded Karkhana in 2012 after meeting co-founders Sunoj Shrestha, Pavitra Gautam, and Suresh Ghimire at a Google Developer Group Bar Camp. Since then, the company has been creating innovative ways for students to learn through experimentation, collaboration, and play in the classroom. Visit Karkhana’s website to find out what’s next!

When we decided to turn Yantra from just a robotics competition into an Art|Tech|Science festival we had no idea what such an event would involve. We knew our goal was to create an event that fostered learning by connecting our culture’s values and traditions to new technology and artwork. So with that in mind, we set out to create a festival that featured art that the people of Nepal could relate to, while being fun to interact and play with. And, we are glad it ended up looking pretty cool! You can see for yourself in the video below:

Karkhana‘s teachers, all of whom are tinkerers, had worked on lots of geeky projects but we had no experience creating art. What we needed was to identify the right collaborators. When we were put in touch with Artree Nepal, we found exactly what we were looking for. A team of visual artists – sculptors, painters, printmakers and animators – they were genuinely curious about how they could bring more interactivity into their work.

As the Artree and Karkhana teams began to talk we found a connection around the idea that we could dig into our cultural heritage for inspiration. Could we take an object familiar to millions of Nepalis and reinterpret it someway? Can we help younger people rediscover the brilliance of things they discounted as not-modern by infusing technology? Could we make ‘high tech’ seem less daunting for the older folks by using the familiar? After a bit of conversation we did a little brainstorm and came up with a bunch of ideas.

Several ideas were appealing but none had the simple elegance and strong emotional appeal of the mane (prayer wheel). Not only is the mane a familiar sight in many stupas, monasteries and shrines around the country, it is also fun to play with. Each of us present at the brainstorming session had a fond memory of playing with the giant mane at the Swayambhunath stupa as kids. So we went off to do some field observations…


So now we had the device and the interaction, but we needed the narrative. What story did we want to tell? The story mattered even more because of the nature of the prayer wheel. The traditional mane has a mantra carved into it (and hundreds of mantras inside). It is believed that when the mane completes a revolution the net effect is equal to having said each of those mantras once. We needed to come up with not just a story, but also a mantra, we believed in enough and wanted others ‘say’.

 

It did not take long to realize that all the collaborators believed in learning by playing and exploring. So the mane would tell a story of kids learning while doing fun stuff like running experiments, chasing butterflies, and making things. The video below shows you the end result. The mane is a combination of plastic and copper, of modern materials and older metalwork techniques.


We have also repurposed the mane as a user-interface that controls animation. Each of the copper reliefs has a corresponding animated story that plays when you turn the mane. If you turn it fast, the animation moves fast. When you slow it down, the animation slows. And when you spin the mane backwards, you see the story in reverse.

YANTRA TupperwareOk. Now for the geeky stuff. To make it work we used an accelerometer/gyro sensor, an Arduino, two XBee radios and bit of code in Processing. The whole set up inside the prayer wheel was encapsulated inside a incredibly sophisticated casing i.e. a cheap tupperware box  ;-)

The Artree team drew the characters and the different settings for each story. Mekh Limbu, the lead animator, then took photos of the different settings and moved the characters to perform various actions accordingly. His team then used the different photo frames to make the animation using Adobe Flash. We then extracted the different frames from the animation and placed them into different folders. Then we used Processing to load the image sequences once the XBee (connected to the laptop) received serial data from the XBee transmitter (inside the mane).

You can find all the code at: https://github.com/dipeshwor/yantraMane

 

This Week in the Internet of Things: Friday Favorites

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The Internet of Things is developing and buzzing all around us. Throughout the week we come across innovative projects, brilliant articles and posts that support and feature the innovators and companies that make our business possible. Here’s our list of favorites from this week’s journey on the Web.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 2.02.29 PM

5 Ways Product Design Needs to Evolve for the Internet of Things | Harvard Business Review

Elements of Connected Products by Jordan Husney | Slideshare

How Formula One Teams are Using Big Data to Gain an Edge | Forbes

Internet of Things as Art: How Sensor can Transform Public Spaces | Biz Journal

10 Enterprise IoT Deployments with Actual Results | Network World

Please tell us in the comments below or Tweet us, @DigiDotCom- we would love to share your findings too. You can also follow all of the commentary and discussion with the hashtag #FridayFavorites.

Future of Healthcare: Life Science Intersecting with the Exponential Increase in Computing Power

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Life science is intersecting with the exponential increase in computing power, and as President and Managing Partner of Google Ventures (GV), Bill Maris sees great opportunities for new technology in the field. Today, Maris addressed a crowd of entrepreneurs and change makers at one of Chicago’s greatest startup and technology hubs, 1871.

Bill MarisAs we see with our customers’ Internet of Things deployments, every sector, from life sciences to retail and transportation, exponential increases in computing capacity open doors for advances that few see coming.

Maris summed up how technology has grown over the last 20 years: “What is 320,000 times better than it was before? Tech.”

As Maris pointed out, today we all have a device in our hands that connects us to the sum of human knowledge. And, the capacity of computer technology is on an exponential curve. In a world where you’re on an exponential curve, everything changes very quickly.

Pulling a page from Slack Founder Stewart Butterfield, Maris shared two photos to make his point. First, he showed a photo of the crowd at the 2008 presidential inauguration. How were people documenting the experience? With cameras— cameras with film. Fast forward to 2012, and how did people document that event? Digitally, with their phones. Each photo shows thousands of people with cameras and phones respectively. The pictures, side-by-side, paint the radical change that happened in less than four short years.

What does this have to do with technological advances in life sciences?

Everything, because the field of life sciences is currently experiencing this exponential curve, as it somewhat has in the past.

In the 1800s, Bloodletting basins were used to collect blood that was taken from a patient to cure or prevent illness and disease. When the basin was full, the patient was thought to be treated. In the 1950s medical professionals used the “iron lung,” a negative pressure ventilator. Today, the negative form of pressure ventilation has been entirely replaced by positive pressure ventilation or biphasic cuirass ventilation.Then, in 1957, the first chemical synthesis of penicillin was completed.

Today, exponential curves are steeper than ever. The Human Genome Project is a great example. In 2002, people thought it was impossible to sequence the genome to 100%. Here’s how the evolution looked: 1990: 0%; 2002: 1%; 2003: 100%.

So, what does the world look like in 2034? “Think about those exponential curves, and apply that math. This could mean diagnoses before you know you’re sick. You don’t change the oil in the car only when the car breaks down,” Maris said.

A major theme of Maris’ talk about the future warned that we should also look to make sure that technology is distributed and that its creators and adopters consider access. In our work, we’ve seen companies use technology as a means of creating access— a project by Orange Business Services and Almerys, Cardiauvergne, being a great example.   

In today’s world of exponential curves, what’s your business doing to ensure your evolution? How are you using computing power to impact patient and customer outcomes and revenue? We saw Maris’ talk as an invitation to beg the question. We’d love to hear about your innovations in the comments section below.

More on the innovations of Digi customers around the globe.

Bill Maris founded Google Ventures in 2009 and oversees all of the fund’s global activities. GV is one of the most active investors in the world, with approximately $1.6 billion under management, more than 250 portfolio companies and offices in Mountain View, San Francisco, Boston, New York, and London. The fund’s early track record includes investments in pioneers like Uber, Nest, DocuSign, and Cloudera; IPOs like Foundation Medicine and RetailMeNot; and exits to industry leaders like Facebook, Twitter, and Yahoo.

Photo credit: Hyde Park Angels

Let Your Imagination Run Wireless with the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit: Your Idea Deserves a Prototype

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Automated homes, drones, interactive art installations– XBee can be found nearly anywhere. And, more and more devices are using XBee to connect to the cloud. Connecting a device to the Internet should be simple, that’s why we built the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit. XBee_Dev_Board_w_XBeeWith an XBee ZB module and an XBee Gateway, it’s easy to connect your robot, vehicle, sensors, or anything else to the Internet.

Maybe you want to build a mesh network to monitor the health of your garden or perhaps, you have a top secret idea for your business, but you’re unsure where to start. Here are a few examples to help familiarize yourself with the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit and go from idea to prototype and transform your imagination into reality:

3 Simple XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit Examples

Potentiometer
Potentiometer’s are ubiquitous when it comes to building with electronics and they make great starting point when familiarizing yourself with new technology. Here, we’ll connect this analog input to the cloud, so you can view the values on your Heroku-hosted dashboard. Potentiometers can be used for setting a level, determining an angle or just as a simple user interface adjustment. Nicknamed “pots,” these components are variable resistors. With a simple twist you can alter the amount of voltage that flows out through their center pin.

Push Button
Want to control the light in your room from where you’re sitting? If you answered yes, this example is a great place to start with the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit. Remote control of a button is perfect for projects that require user input, or anyplace you need to detect a change in device state. One you’ve built your circuit, you’ll be able to view the status of the button and control it from your web interface.photo (17)

Temperature 
Temperature monitoring is another great starting point with analog sensing. In this example we use everyone’s favorite temperature sensor, the TMP36 low-voltage linear sensor, which is included with your kit. After you’ve built this simple circuit, you can view the temperature on the dashboard.

Let’s Get Started
These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about what is possible with this new XBee kit. You can find all of these examples and more here, and check out the XBee Gallery to find what others have built with XBee.

Interested in getting an XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit? Head over here.

XBee Tech Tip: Connecting to the IoT with XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit

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This Tech Tip is brought to you by Digi Applications Engineer Mark Grierson, who will take you through the steps to connect an XBee Smart Plug to the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit and manage it from the XBeegateway.herokuapp.com web application.

The XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit is the easiest way to connect to the Internet of Things (IoT). It features a sample web application that lets users remotely activate various outputs on the development board including LEDs, a vibration motor, a bar graph gauge and an audio buzzer.

In addition, users can build their own circuits on the development board to sense temperature or light, switch on and off other devices via a relay, turn on and off additional LEDs and more. The web application code is open-source, available for anyone to download and use as a learning tool.

The purpose of this article is not to teach you how to set up and use the kit. There is an excellent online user’s guide that will step you through that process found here. http://ftp1.digi.com/support/documentation/html/90001399/90001399_A/Files/kit-getting-started.html

This article assumes that you have set up the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit and have followed the instructions in the getting started guide.

Using the XBee Smart Plug with the New XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit

Now that you have seen how easy it is to web enable just about any device, you may be wondering about Digi’s boxed ZigBee devices such as the XBee Smart Plug, XBee Sensors, AIO and DIO adapters, etc. Can you use these devices with the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit? Absolutely!

1)     Introduction

Using the XBee Smart Plug is an easy way to intelligently monitor and control connected electrical devices. This example uses the XBee Smart Plug and allows you to control the AC relay as well as read and monitor the AC current sensor, the Temperature Sensor and the Light Sensor.

The three sensors generate voltage outputs that are passed to the XBee’s analog-to-digital converter (ADC). These readings are then sent via Device Cloud to the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit’s online dashboard application where you can control and monitor the XBee Smart Plug right in your web browser.xbeegateway1-259x300

2)     Assemble the Parts

To complete this exercise you’ll need:

1 – XBee Gateway

1 – XBee Smart Plug

1 – Device Cloud Accountxbeegateway2-300x300

 

3)     Connect the XBee Smart Plug to the Gateway and Configure

You’ll need to ensure the XBee Smart Plug is connected to your XBee Gateway. If your XBee Smart Plug is new and has not connected to a ZigBee network, this should be as simple as plugging it in while the XBee Gateway is powered up.xbeegate3-201x300

The Green Association (ASSC) light will flash once the XBee Smart Plug has joined a network.

You can then go to the XBee Network tab in the configuration section of the Gateway’s web UI to ensure the smart plug has joined.

deviceconfic1

If the XBee Smart Plug does not show up, click on the “Discover XBee Devices” button to have the XBee Gateway perform a network discovery. If the XBee Smart Plug still does not show up and the ASSC light is flashing on the XBee Smart Plug, this means that the XBee Smart Plug has joined another ZigBee network and must be reset using a 4-button press of the Reset button. Consecutive button presses must occur within 800 milliseconds of each other for the reset to occur.

xbeegateway4

When the reset is successful, the ASSC light will go steady as the XBee Smart Plug looks for a new network to join and will flash again once it joins. Return to the Gateway web UI and click discover to see the XBee Smart Plug is now joined to the XBee Gateway.

Once the XBee Smart Plug has joined the XBee Gateway, configure it by clicking on the extended address of the Smart plug.

deviceconfig2

After a few seconds, the settings of the XBee Smart Plug will be displayed. Click on the Input/Output settings tab and:

  1. Check the Detect box for D4 (D4 is used to toggle the AC outlet)
  2. Ensure that the IR parameter is set to 5000ms
  3. Click the Apply button to save changes 

deviceconfig3

4) View It!

You will use the XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit’s web application to configure three widgets for viewing the temperature current and light readings from your sensor. You will also configure a widget to control the AC relay.

Log in to the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit web application: https://xbeegateway.herokuapp.com/#/login

dcscreen342

The Outlet Widget

First we will create the outlet control widget.

Use the Add Widget button to create a new display widget.

dcwidget

Choose On/Off Switch Widget for the widget type.

Add a label such as “XBee Smart Plug Outlet.”

Choose your XBee Gateway and module by selecting their ID.

Select DIO4 as the output stream and check the device configuration to make sure it is configured properly. Your screen should look like the following.

createnewwidget

Save the changes to see your new Widget on the home screen.

You should now be able to turn the XBee Smart Plug AC outlet on and off using the widget.

The Current Draw Meter Widget

Next we will createa widget to measure the current draw on the XBee Smart Plug. The concepts used to build this widget are the same for the light meter and temp sensor built into the XBee Smart Plug. Only the Input stream and transform will be different.

Use the Add Widget button to create a new display widget.

dcwidget

Choose Gauge Widget for the widget type.

Add a label such as “Current Draw.”

Choose your XBee Gateway and module by selecting their ID.

Select AD3 as the Input Stream and check the device configuration to make sure it is configured properly.

Enter the following formula into the Input Transform:

Enter “((((value/1024)*1200)*(156/47)-520)/180*0.7071)*1000″ into the Input Transform to transform the input from millivolts to milliamps. The formula in brackets converts the millivolt reading into AMPS. The herokuapp application is constrained to whole numbers and will convert a decimal result to the nearest whole number. To make this data more meaningful, we then multiply this value by 1000 to convert to milliamps. The following knowledgebase article is the source for this info: http://www.digi.com/support/kbase/kbaseresultdetl?id=3522#Adapters

Enter mA into the Units field.

Enter 0 for the Low value and 8000 into the High value (the XBee Smart Plug is only rated for loads up to 8 amps).

You screen should look like the following:

widgetsettings

Save the changes to see your new Widget on the home screen.

The Temperature and Light widgets are made using the same procedure as the Current widget with a few small changes.

For the Light Widget use the following:

Label=Light Meter

Input Stream=AD1

Input Transform=(value/1024) * 1200

Units=Lux

Low Value=0

High Value=1000

lightmeter

For the Temperature Widget use the following:

Label=Temperature

Input Stream=AD2

Input Transform= (((((value/1024)*1200)-500)/10)*1.8)+32 for Fahrenheit

= (((value/1024)*1200)-500)/10 for Celcius

Units=Fahrenheit or Celcius

Low Value=0

High Value=150

5) Use It!

Now you can use the XBee Smart Plug to control any AC appliance up to 8 Amps! Additionally, you can monitor the amperage being used along with the Ambient light and temperature around the XBee Smart Plug.

In my screenshot below, I have a 60 watt lamp connected to the XBee Smart Plug.

widget dashboard

Using a variation of Ohms law “P=VxI” we can see that this 60 watt bulb should draw about 500 milliamps at 120 volts. 60W/120V=.5Amps or 500 mA. My meter is showing 494 mA, which is just about right on! Feel free to try other widget types. Use a Bar Graph or Line Graph instead of a Gauge widget.

Now that you have completed this exercise, use what you have learned to add the XBee LTH Sensor, Wall Router or Analog Adapter.The formulas you will need for the transform can be found in this article: http://www.digi.com/support/kbase/kbaseresultdetl?id=3522#Adapters

This Week in the Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things is developing and buzzing all around us. Throughout the week we come across innovative projects, brilliant articles and posts that support and feature the innovators and companies that make our business possible. Here’s our list of favorites from this week’s journey on the Web.USWATERAUTO

Water Plants Embrace the Cloud | Automation World

Heat Seek NYC App Gives Brooklyn Tenants Ammo vs. Icy Apartments | NY Daily News

The Future of Cities: The Internet of Everything will Change How We Live | ForeignAffairs.com

A Guide for the Evaluation and Selection of Single Board Computers | All-Electronics

Forrester’s Top Emerging Technologies to Watch, Now Through 2020 | Forrester Blog

Please tell us in the comments below or Tweet us, @DigiDotCom- we would love to share your findings too. You can also follow all of the commentary and discussion with the hashtag #FridayFavorites.