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Monitor Hurricanes With a DIY Auto-Tweeting Weather Station via Wired

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Image: Juan Peña/Sparkfun

With Hurricane Sandy roaring towards the East Coast, the world is again turning to Twitter to get instant, personal weather reports and photos directly from those affected by the storm. The ability of Twitter to spread pinpoint, as-it-happens information is the exact reason it shines so bright in the face of natural disasters (and civil strife). But for those directly experiencing the hurricane’s dangerous conditions, mindfully tweeting weather updates can quickly become a secondary concern at best.

With the accessibility of easily configurable, low-energy-consuming technology, we can mitigate part of that problem by building a not-too-tricky, self-tweeting weather station. It’s probably too late to put one together for Hurricane Sandy, but for upcoming weather situations it’s a good way to help keep people informed with data and details.

One of the easiest approaches to the project involves setting up an Arduino-controlled weather monitoring system. The easily programmed, modular ability of the Arduino platform allows for a variety of add-on sensors to be utilized, including temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. These sensors can be found pre-built onto one Arduino board, as is the case with SparkFun’s USB Weather Board, which adds the capability for its data to be recorded or shared via its USB output, or wirelessly with an optional Xbee or Bluetooth module.

Sparkfun Weather Board Image: Juan Peña/Sparkfun

Read the Full Article on Wired

 

Make Your Own with the XIG: The Cat Doorbell

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About the author: Don Schleede currently manages the iDigi security office. Don has worked in the IT field for 25 years. He has served as a Chief Technology Officer for 12 years in mid-sized level financial and technical companies. For the last 7 years, he has exclusively served in security roles as a Senior Security Analyst, Engineer, and Architect. Don holds a number of certifications such as the CISSP, MCSE, RHCE, CCNP, CEH and others. Today, he works in at Digi International, where his love of embedded things, microcontrollers and security can be expressed.

Why a Cat Doorbell? 
Recently, a friend of mine moved. This friend has a few cats who like to go outside. Because of their new surroundings, we weren’t sure that the cats would know where to return to. One night, all the cats except for one came back home. While the cats have been trained to come in when they hear a whistle, this cat must have been out of whistle range– doing whatever cats do. It was getting to be a cold night so we were worried. We did notice that the cats would stand at the door when they were ready to come in, but of course, we would have to see them standing at the door and open it for them. In the morning, we found one cold kitty waiting at the door. No major harm, but we felt guilty for not letting the cat in– the idea of the Cat Doorbell was born.

Here’s how I made the Cat Doorbell and how you can make your own. 

Supplies:
I didn’t want to get too in depth and design our own board for this project, so I used standard parts that I had around. Here’s what I picked from my supplies:

Instructions:
This was assembled as a prototype. For longer term operation, I would suggest mounting things better, and using a level converter for the data pins.

1.  First, I wired up the PIR sensor to the end of the box. The PIR sensor fit perfectly where the waterproof Cat-5 connector was, so I added some crazy glue. I connected the GND and 5V lines to the Arduino, and I connected the sensor line directly to the Arduino, pin 7.

2. I glued the Piezo to the bottom of the box, and I soldered in a 1Kohm resistor in series and plugged it into the Arduino, pin 8.

3. I used some pins to solder the XBee Series 2, which was already programmed with a XIG configuration to the 3.3v and GND lines.

4. Next, I connected the data lines to the Arduino pins 5 and 6. I have heard that the data lines of the XBee Series 2 are not 5v tolerant, but I know many people who have connected these to Arduinos without a problem. For more information, see Rob Faludi’s web page at http://www.faludi.com/bwsn/xbee-level-shifting

5. With some double side tape, I taped the XBee to the side.

6. With the XBee using the XIG, I have a Digi ConnectPort X4 gateway in my house. I loaded the XIG code onto the gateway and validated that the communication works with the XBee. You can find more information on the XIG project here.

7. Next I programmed the Arduino, the program follows this flow:

  • Look for activity on the PIR sensor
  • Send a URL string to the XBee (is used the SoftSerial library)
  • Beep the Piezo like a doorbell
  • Wait 60 seconds. Don’t want multiple activations.
  • Go back to step 1

The URL that was called went to a server that is hosted at Rackspace. The URL is actually a PHP web page, that will interface to SMS to my cellphone (via email). After testing and validating, I put the device outside so it would detect when a cat (or anything else) is at the back door. To call this complete, I waited for a bit for one of the cats to come back. And, sure enough, I got an SMS message on my phone. I went and opened the door and a cat proudly walked in.

Have questions or comments about the Cat Doorbell? Let me know in the comments section below or on Twitter. As I iterate the Cat Doorbell I’ll continue to update this post.

Technology for Connected Art Exhibits a Model for Innovative Business

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We’ve been sharing a lot of information about Connecting Light, the art installation that will span the length (73 miles) of Hadrian’s Wall in England. The project is certainly exciting and inspirational, but a truly amazing aspect of the project is the sweeping scope of the technology used.

The same Digi International technology used to create the communications network that transmits audience-generated messages represented as pulses of brightly colored light over 73 miles is also used to create networks that save lives and protect business assets.

Connecting Light is driven by Digi International’s iDigi Device Cloud, Programmable XBee radios and ConnectPort X4 cellular gateways. Digi Professional Services helped to design the network architecture as an Internet of Things solution.

How the Technology Works for Connecting Light

Audience members can send text messages to the Connecting Light application which lives on the iDigi Device Cloud. The iDigi Device Cloud sends those messages to ConnectPort X4 cellular gateways which then “speak” to specific balloons filled with Programmable XBee Radios along the wall. The artists can then easily monitor each balloon’s status and manage the light patterns through the Connecting Light Web site, and spectators can control the balloons with their mobile phones.

 

How the Technology Creates Business Solutions

Connecting Light is a perfect example of centrally controlling remote devices. As with Connecting Light, Digi creates systems for businesses that allow anyone with an Internet or cellular connection to communicate with a remote device. For example, it’s the same advanced infrastructure that hospitals use to monitor patient ventilators, infusion pumps or dialysis machines, and that forward-thinking power utilities use to network their entire grid.

The system was assembled by Digi Professional Services team in the same way they connect dynamic message signs along highways, smart thermostats for utility networks and patient monitoring devices for assisted living facilities.

 

The iDigi Device Cloud is available free to anyone, for up to 5 devices. So, what are you waiting for? You can sign up for iDigi here.

See what people are saying about the much-anticipated art installation, Connecting Light, here.

Digi XBee Examples Site

Our brand new Digi XBee Examples project site just went live! Check out  the first tutorials that Matt Richardson and Rob Faludi have published on Digi’s instructional library site: examples.digi.com.

Right now we have a big pile of different sensors, lights, motors, scent emitters and more that just came in. We’re going to demonstrate XBee hookups for ‘em all, then show how they can be linked to one another, hooked up to computers and connected to the Internet. From breathalyzers to joysticks and from wind sensors to fluid meters we’re creating a modular toolbox that should jumpstart all kinds of innovative and practical XBee projects. Come and see the beginnings:

 

Keep informed about new tutorials by following the RSS feed.

 

Maker Faire XBee iDigi Garage Demo

Jordan Husney and I created an electrically-operated scale model garage to demonstrate the XBee-iDigi Garage Door Opener for one of the projects we’ll be featuring at the Digi booth for Bay Area Maker Faire 2012 this weekend. It’s an example of building the “12,000-Mile Universal remote” project from Make Vol. 30. With this project you can push any button in your house from anywhere the world using your mobile phone. The project uses a Digi XBee® module in an open-source hardware design with the XBee Internet Gateway (XIG) and the iDigi® Device Cloud to work its home-improvement magic.

Thanks to Scott Kilau (Android controller), Margaret McKenna (web application), Joel Young (underwriting) and Joetta Gobell (car artist) for their invaluable contributions to this project. See you at Maker Faire!