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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.

The Emerging Requirements for Next-Generation Single-Board Computers

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With the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine computing, application demands are increasing. From medical diagnostics and transportation to precision agriculture and entertainment, engineers today are challenged to find new ways to design in greater intelligence, connectivity, and performance. Not to mention that it’s required to do so while cutting costs, power consumption and size. Single Board Computers (SBC) are an ideal platform for quick and focused product design. They continue to evolve in sophistication, and the range of possibilities continues to expand.  As those capabilities grow, so do the choices for design engineers.  But what are the factors that matter most in SBC evaluation and selection?

Design needs always vary by application criteria, industry, and deployment environment, but the following criteria can serve as a springboard for the evaluation of SBC options.

  1. Processor Platform

At the heart of every SBC is the underlying application processor platform. Traditionally, the majority of SBCs were based on x86 platforms and somewhat derived from the typical desktop PC motherboard form factor. This is still evident in some of the form factor variants that are being utilized—Pico-ITX, Mini-ITX, microATX, EmbATX, and others. They range from “standalone” models to stackable solutions, like PC/104, to specialized “blades” for use in rack systems. ARM-based System-on-Chip (SoC) platforms are becoming more capable with an extended reach into the x86 performance bracket, low power consumption, broad operating system support and cost-effectiveness, the SBC now also is an extremely viable option for a host of new applications as well as potential replacement for existing x86 based solutions.

  1. Form Factorindustries_industrial_agriculture

SBCs are available in a wide variety of available “standard” form factors and continue to shrink, giving designers much greater latitude in how they create innovative devices and applications that can leverage a much higher level of computing power.  For instance, it’s possible today to create a compact SBC built on an ARM-based System-on-Module (SoM) solution with integrated, pre-certified 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity in a footprint of just 50×50 mm, only 5-7 mm high. Such an SBC can provide scalable single to quad core Cortex-A9 SoC performance with a complete set of integrated peripherals and interfaces, from storage (SATA, SD) to user interface (up to four display, capacitive multi-touch). A level of computing power and flexibility paired with dramatically reduced power consumption and at a price point that was unthinkable at that size just a few years ago.

In addition, choosing an SBC design based on a SoM provides an almost seamless migration path to direct component integration once an application warrants a custom carrier board design due to increased volume and/or application-specific customization requirements. Given that the SoM stays the same when used on the customer board design, software transition is in principle minimal and the SBC may also act as a reference design for the customized product development effort.

  1. Reliability, Longevity, Availability

SBCs are often used in very specialized and environmentally challenging embedded applications. Specific industry standards related tests for temperature, shock, and vibration will ensure that the platform is able to operate reliably without failure.

The selection of components an SBC is designed with also has a significant importance in respect to product long-term availability. For example, a product like Digi International’s ConnectCore® 6 SBC is built using industrial temperature rated components, which contribute to overall reliability and long-term availability of parts.

Digi’s SBC is also built around the scalable ConnectCore 6 SoM. The ConnectCore 6 SOM is a Freescale i.MX6 based surface mount multichip module with integrated wireless connectivity. It eliminates the need for high-density module connectors, expensive multilevel board designs. It also increases durability in rugged environments and offers a unique long-term availability approach for embedded, industrial-grade Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Last but not least, it also enables you to move to a fully integrated, customized product design utilizing the single-component SoM without the traditional design complexities of a discrete design approach.

  1. Low Power Consumption

Today’s ARM-based SBC designs – even those that leverage quad-core processors – can achieve excellent power efficiency in both mobile and fixed-power applications. The inherent design advantages of the ARM platform and its advanced power-saving modes enable you to minimize and tune power consumption for applications, load, temperature, time of day, users, and other application specific criteria.  What’s more, it also helps you create thermally sound designs appropriate for the usage environment without the mandatory need for active cooling, which affects design complexity, longevity and most importantly reliability over time.

  1. Connectivity

The Internet of Things (IoT) is pervasive throughout almost all applications in virtually all vertical markets. Fully integrated and complete connectivity options must be considered and designed into a product from the beginning. Options include: Wi-Fi connectivity link to an existing network, serving Wi-Fi connectivity to clients connecting to your product for configuration or services, Bluetooth Classic for user device integration, Bluetooth Low Energy for data acquisition from low-power sensors, or even Ethernet for mandating wired network connections.

With connectivity comes the need for security and trusted communication. The next generation of SBCs are equipped with Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities and fully pre-certified 802.11a/b/g/n (2.4 and 5 GHz), software and driver support enterprise-grade Wi-Fi security such as WPA/WPA2-Enterprise, cellular connectivity, and other options to ensure your device is tied into larger computing grids. The SBC can be integrated into any existing IT environment.

Lastly, taking advantage of a secure cloud-enabled software platform such as Device Cloud allows you to build products for the IoT almost immediately, without any need to develop a costly and proprietary cloud infrastructure.

  1. Open Platforms

Most SBCs support industry-standard operating systems, including Linux, Android, and Microsoft Windows Embedded Compact. This reduces learning curves and costs while reducing risk and accelerating development activities.

However, engineers invariably want to customize and refine their device designs as well as make sure that access to relevant software and hardware design components is available right from the start. Be sure your chosen SBC provides full and royalty-free access to source code of the software platform support.

On the hardware side, access to functional and verified reference designs is as important as choosing a supplier that is established and present both locally and globally with their own and partner resources.

industries_medical_medical_devicesMedical Devices

For manufacturers in the life sciences industry, innovation is a non-negotiable requirement.  Product complexity—including the inherent need for products to have seamless wireless connectivity—continues to grow, making it essential to have efficient designs that leverage reliable components with the power and simplicity that reduce points of failure, including support for the long product lifecycles in this industry.

Medical and healthcare devices need to become connected in order to create efficiencies in areas such as patient safety, reimbursement, or even asset management/tracking. The complex and lengthy regulatory approvals further drive the need to shorten time-to-market and focus on core competencies instead of spending time on basic core system design efforts.

The right SBC or SoM solution plays an integral role in bringing innovative medical products to market quickly. As a result, device manufacturers are increasingly relying on them for devices such as infusion pumps, ventilators, implantable cardiac defibrillators, ECGs, bedside terminals, patient monitors, AEDs, and more.

Precision Agriculture

Today, farmers are able to more finely tune their crop management by observing, measuring, and responding to variability in their crops. For instance, crop-yield sensors mounted on GPS-equipped combines can use industrial-grade, ruggedized SBCs and SoMs to measure and analyze data related to chlorophyll levels, soil moisture – even aerial and satellite imagery. It then can intelligently operate variable-rate seeders, sprayers, and other farming equipment to optimize crop yields. Wireless connectivity for cellular or Wi-Fi network connectivity plus sensor integration through technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy adds a powerful, real-time connectivity to agriculture that drives a new level of efficiency.

Transportation

With focus on operational efficiency and safety, transportation applications are driving the need for connected and intelligent devices.

In situations that require rugged reliability that eliminates vibration concerns, embedded SBC and SoM solutions play a valuable role. In taxis, solutions can help optimize electric vehicles by controlling engine components while providing a fully integrated, state-of-the-art in-vehicle operator interface. In buses, monitoring systems can report emissions levels and the solution can operate fare-collection systems. On a commercial vessel, embedded solutions power connected navigation systems or highly sophisticated fish finders.

Consider taking advantage of connected SBCs and SoMs when building your next product. Significantly reduce your design risk while shortening your time-to-market, without sacrificing design flexibility.

 

The Pool Makes Headlines Around the World

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The Pool, built by Jen Lewin, is an interactive light sculpture connected with XBee. It’s been a busy year for Jen as she’s been touring around the world sharing The Pool everywhere from Singapore, to Australia to Burning Man. Here are a few recent articles and videos that detail the travels of one of our favorite XBee projects.

[Video] Jen Lewin: Artist dazzles with light and sound installations | BBC

An Exclusive First Look at the Other-Worldly Art of Burning Man 2014 | Huffington Post

Festival of Lights Illuminates Downtown Cleveland | Design Boom

Sustainable Art Glows Bright in Singapore | NBC News

You can learn more about The Pool in the XBee Gallery. Check out Jen Lewin’s website and like her on Facebook to get more information on what she’s working on. Maybe you’ve been lucky enough to see The Pool first-hand? Share your photos with us at @XBeeWireless.

The Pool by Jen Lewin: XBee Art at i Light Marina Bay Festival

 

The Straits Times
Jen Lewin’s project The Pool, is stealing the show at this year’s i Light Marina Bay Festival. The festival aims to promote environmentally-responsible behavior and artists are incorporating recyclable materials and energy efficient lighting in their interactive art installations.

The Pool consists of over 100 interactive pads that emit colorful light and react to users’ movements. As participants move across the installation the pads send out colors and blend together to create a stunning visual display. Each pad has a simple set of rules that reacts to information being sent to and from sensors on every pad throughout the Pool. More than 100 XBee 802.15.4 radios send this information wirelessly from an Arduino in each pad that creates the colorful reactions. The project is monitored and updated remotely using a Digi ConnectPort X2e XBee gateway via Device Cloud.

The Pool was even featured on the front-page of The Straits Times, Singapore’s most widely read newspaper. Congrats Jen! The next stop for The Pool will be at Vivid Sydney May 23.

Check out Jen Lewin’s website to see more of her work.

XBee Controls Adam Savage’s Robugtix Spider

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A Hong Kong based company, Robugtix, makes bio-inspired multi-legged robots. That’s right, robotic, XBee-enabled, spiders. And, it just so happens that this eight legged robotic is a favorite of Adam Savage, host and famous maker on the show MythBusters. It was even featured on his YouTube series, Inside Adam Savage’s Cave.

The realistic (and slightly terrifying) arachnid is a 3D printed robot that is extremely lightweight and can very closely mimic the biological movements of a spider. It’s controlled wirelessly by joysticks on a remote control with XBee. The remote includes four joysticks for complete control of the robot, so you can do more than just move left/right and forward/back.

Enhancing Vehicle Telematics with Mobile Devices

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A common application of Internet of Things technology is vehicle telematics. Knowing how your fleet is functioning, where they are located, as well as drivers’ time spent on the road is all crucial for managing a successful fleet.

Quite often, the solutions necessary to monitor these data can be cumbersome, expensive, and take time to be implemented. And what if regulatory standards change?

To solve the problem of lengthy and costly implementations, Digi developed the Wireless Vehicle Bus Adapter, or WVA. It is simply plugged into the vehicles diagnostic port and reads out the data you need via a web services API. Simple solutions that tap into existing infrastructure like these have the ability to quickly turn data points into tangible value for businesses.

The ubiquity of high performance mobile devices is eliminating many of the barriers that can make the implementation of a sensor network difficult. The advancement of smart phones and tablets have simplified establishing these networks through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. This eliminates the need to install cables and develop expensive and proprietary technology. Additionally, well designed user interfaces on mobile devices can create improved functionality and usability.

Learn more about the WVA here.

XBee Piano on Adafruit’s Show and Tell

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On this week’s installment of Adafrauit’s Show and Tell, Jianan shared his project he built for Duke University’s Hackathon. With a team of three other students, he created a giant piano that can be played with with user’s feet.

The build consists of large pads set on the ground that detect pressure and relay signals to the computer. Attached to the a computer is an Arduino Uno with an XBee. XBee relays the signal from the piano to the computer and firmware on the Arduino converts the raw data into a standard MIDI file. A software instrument within Logic Pro then reads this MIDI file and generates the sound.

There is also a remote control that can be used to adjust various parameters. The user can enter a ‘tutorial’ mode, which will show you how to play songs by illuminating LED lights on the correct keys. You can also adjust an attached potentiometer to select between 16 different instruments.

In the video below, you can watch a full demonstration of this giant piano.

 

Adafruit Industries hosts a weekly Show and Tell over Google Hangouts. This is a great resource to gather ideas for new projects. Add Adafruit to your circle to view their Hangouts.

Disneyland Creates New Experiences with Digi Technology

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Disney’s World of Color has always been a favorite among Disney Land attendees, and a recent update to the show has made it an even more unique and immersive experience. In 2012, Glow with the Show was introduced as a way to bring a new level of interaction between the show and audience.

Glow with the show is the result of thousands of audience members wearing hats that each contain LED lights in each of the hat’s ears. The hats are synched together to flash and change colors. The Disney Tech Crew is able to control the colors of the hat’s ears from one central location. From this spot, commands are broadcasted via infrared. Each hat contains an infrared sensor, which reads the signal and the LED lights respond accordingly.

The device that makes Glow with the Show possible is Digi’s System-on-Module, ConnectCore, which serves as a base station for the light show. Signals are sent to the ConnectCore via Ethernet and the module broadcasts the infrared signal out to the hats. The effect of thousands of hats synched together creates an ocean of color that washes over the audience and creates exciting special effects.

The hats have also been a part of Cars Land, Mad T Party, Fantasmic, and even the nightly firework display Magical. As you walk through different areas of Cars Land, the hats will change in response to the environment. Future plans are  to incorporate Glow with the Show with more areas within Disney parks. Glow with the Show hats are bringing Disney fans closer to their favorite characters and audiences are becoming a part of the show.

We often hear of M2M technology being a solution for business inefficiencies, but here we see it can be also used to create unique and immersive experiences.  Wireless connected devices can be used to create exciting experiences, by making it easier to integrate into our lives and providing a higher level of interaction.