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Introducing the XBee SX Module

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Welcome the latest addition to the XBee® family, the XBee SX! This is truly the muscle module of the XBee ecosystem. Don’t let the standard XBee surface mount form factor fool you, it packs a punch with 1-watt of output power. It’s a perfect embedded wireless solution for OEMs that depend on reliable wireless communication.

Some of the key specs you’ll want to know:

  • Maximum 1-Watt Output Power
  • 256-bit AES Encryption
  • DigiMesh Protocol

Just like every other XBee, it’s easy to use and configure with the popular software tool, XCTU. Here is XBee Product Manager, Matt Dunsmore, introducing the brand new module:

Want more details? Click here and visit the XBee SX product page.

Olsbergs Uses XBee to Make Construction Sites Safer

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Olsbergs is a leading manufacturer of electro-hydraulic control systems for cranes. Olsbergs was looking to improve efficiency and safety for construction crane companies and crane operators. They wanted to turn to radio remote-controlled hydraulics. They needed a partner that would meet ETSI standards, as well as the high standards of their own company.

Digi was the company that they turned to. Olsbergs needed a radio module that would be risk-free and precise. With so many of their trucks being used in cities and other populated areas, risk had to be minimized as much as possible. It would have to utilize the entire ISM band to enable more channels and provide more security. The solution was the XBee 868 Low-Power RF module for Europe.

With their new remote controlled hydraulics, truck cranes which previously required two operators, a spotter and a driver, now only require one. With Digi’s help, Olsbergs has improved safety, accuracy, and reliability for crane operators, while reducing costs and saving money for construction companies.

See the full story and video >>

Which Mesh Technology is Right for You? – Q&A Follow-Up

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Are there tutorials available for XCTU, or user manuals?xbee-zigbee (2)
Yes, there is a complete help system built into the XCTU interface. Visit the Digi YouTube page for video-based tutorials.

Can you program DigiMesh with legacy XCTU?
We recommend customers use the new and improved XCTU. Legacy XCTU may still work with some products, but it is no longer supported or updated for new releases.

Can I use the new XCTU on older versions of Xtend RF Radios?
Yes, but certain features of XCTU may not work with older versions of XTend radios.

Does hardcoding PAN ID and Channel as used in DigiMesh modules have any disadvantage?
Hardcoding the PAN ID does not have any significant disadvantage, but note that some products require the use of multiple channels, but the channel range can be selected and configured as desired.

Digimesh networks are configured by setting the Pan ID and operating channel. This method lends itself to very simple network formation as no association mechanism is involved. Zigbee uses an association process where routers and end devices receive the operating PAN ID and channel upon joining the network. One advantage of this system is that joining can be disabled.

For a network of 400 nodes, with up and down communication, which is preferable, ZigBee or DigiMesh?
Both mesh protocols can work for this network if configured appropriately. DigiMesh is slightly easier to architect simply because there is no need to select different node types.

Can we use your gateway and connect it to our cloud?
Yes, this is an option for most XBee modules.

Can out-of-the-box configuration items be modified via a broadcast or unicast in both ZigBee and DigiMesh?
Yes, ZigBee and DigiMesh nodes can be configured over-the-air.

What’s the range of these 900HP DigiMesh Kit modules?
Range for the XBee-PRO 900HP is up to 9 miles with high-gain antenna. This can be increased by adding additional hops to the network.

We are planning to use ZigBee Mesh network to collect the data from battery powered movable sensors. The sensors will be distributed in two physically apart buildings where there are no wireless connection from one building to another building. Could you please let me know the best way to setup the network, considering moveable sensors will move from one building to another building and should join the network as soon as they enter the range of ZigBee network in another building.
With ZigBee you would need to have some mechanism to instruct the module to leave the current network and attempt to join the other. This could be accomplished with a network watchdog timer that checks for the presence of a coordinator and if none is found will reset and join another network. XBee Zigbee radios also have a feature called join verification that can be set to check for the presence of a coordinator on a power reset and reset its network settings if none is found. Digimesh could accomplish this by setting both networks with the same PAN ID and Channel credentials, then moving from one network to the other would be seemless.

Any DigiMesh Kits including Raspberry pi projects?
We don’t have any Raspberry Pi projects in our current kits. However, there are plenty of RPi project examples on the web.

What comes in the kits that are on the screen?
ZigBee Mesh Kit:

  • 3 – XBee Grove Development Boards
  • 3 – XBee ZigBee Modules w/ PCB antenna
  • 3 – Micro USB cables
  • 2 – XBee stickers

900HP DigiMesh Kit:

  • 3 XBee Grove Development Boards
  • 3 XBee-PRO 900HP Modules for US/Canada
  • 3 Micro-USB Cables
  • 2 XBee Stickers

Do these modules require a Digi concentrator and/or cloud or are they compatible with 3rd party systems?
Digi Gateways can be used with our ZigBee and 900HP DigiMesh modules to connect them to cloud-based applications. ZigBee modules can also be used with 3rd party gateways, but there could be some compatibility issues depending on the implementation of the ZigBee protocol on the 3rd party gateway. Customers that need a gateway to connect their devices to an IP-based system are suggested to use Digi gateways.

When addressing a ZigBee node, is it required to use both the 64-bit address AND the 16-bit ID address?
Frames may be addressed using either the extended(64 bit) or the network address (16 bit). If the extended address form is used, then the network address field should be set to 0xFFFE (unknown). If the network address form is used, then the extended address field should be set to 0xFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF (unknown). If an invalid 16-bit address is used as a destination address, and the 64-bit address is unknown (0xFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF), the modem status message will show a delivery status code of 0x21 (network ack failure) and a discovery status of 0x00 (no discovery overhead).

If a non-existent 64-bit address is used as a destination address, and the 16-bit address is unknown (0xFFFE), address discovery will be attempted and the modem status message will show a delivery status code of 0x24 (address not found) and a discovery status code of 0x01 (address discovery was attempted).

What relative humidity or IP rating can the “raw” PCAs operate in?
0-95% humidity

Do you have any office in India which can support us in developing the application, across the table or over the phone?
Digi no longer has an office in India, but support is available through our US offices.

Is there a DigiMesh kit available for Europe (868 or 2.4)?
There is not currently a DigiMesh kit available for 868LP or DigiMesh 2.4 modules.

Does DigiMesh come with a cellular and or satellite gateway?
Yes, available in the ConnectPort X4 and X4H.

Is there a notion of sustained broadcast rate that can be claimed? Like 9600 baud, 19200, etc. What is expected of transmitting node, in terms of backing off?
Each node that transmits the broadcast will also create an entry in a local broadcast transmission table. This entry is used to keep track of each received broadcast packet to ensure the packets are not endlessly transmitted. Each entry persists for 8 seconds. The broadcast transmission table holds 8 entries. This process creates an approximate once per second maximum sustained broadcast rate. System generated broadcast events can also occur so careful testing should be performed to estimate any network’s specific throughput capabilities.

Can XCTU be used remotely?
XCTU can be used to configure locally connected nodes and ‘remote’ nodes connected to your network over-the-air.

What’s the difference between the 900HP modem and the Xtend modem?
They are similar in terms of performance and functionality. The 900HP modem is less expensive, and slightly lower range than the XTend.

Which antenna are recommended to maximize transmission across water?
High-gain directional or omni antennas provide strong performance across water and land. Note that over both water and land, the higher the antenna, the more likely you are to achieve unimpeded line-of-sight range.

What do you mean by complex deployment?
Large mesh networks are considered complex deployments. ZigBee networks can be slightly more complex than DigiMesh, simply because the node types need to be defined for every node on the network and there must be a powered coordinator defined for the network to operate properly.

ZigBee nodes: What if a coordinator stops working?
The coordinator can be a point of failure for a ZigBee network.

Can ZigBee module work like mesh?
Yes, ZigBee modules operate in mesh networks.

DigiMesh why no 433MHz?
Not a strong market opportunity to drive the creation of this product. If you have customers interested in this technology, please let the Product Management team know.

How do the modules differentiate between the line-of-site and a reflected packet?
Multipath signals can create destructive interference when they arrive out of phase with a direct signal at the receiving antenna. This generally results in fading or weakening of the received signal.

Is there a limit on the size of data that can be transmitted? Or a good practice / recommendation to deal with larger datasets?
If using API mode, there is a maximum payload size that can be included with each API frame. This size will vary with different versions of XBee module but can always be queried with the NP command.

With unicast will each node of a network repeat packets or does the mesh network only repeat packets on nodes that it knows are on the path to the final node?
Only modules involved in the routing of the data will retransmit the packet.

Which module you recommend for smart street lighting , and how is the communication traffic managed? Can every lamp on the network talk to each other?
We have intelligent street lighting customers using ZigBee and DigiMesh technology. In both network types, every lamp on the network can communicate with one another. Each technology has pros and cons, it comes down to customer preference.

Two part question:What is the advantage of directed broadcasting (i.e., defining a destination address)? Does this improve communication speeds of data to the ‘host’?
Directed broadcasting does not improve the communication speed of data to the host but it does simplify addressing as it allows you to address data to a specific module. Otherwise you would need an identifier in the payload of your broadcast packet to inform the desired module to reply. It also limits the amount of extraneous data that will be presented to host applications.

My question is why South America (Argentina) is not listed in market for 900HP Digimesh?
900HP DigiMesh modules can be used in Argentina, there are no specific certification requirements for that region.

I already got the zig bee mesh kit a couple weeks ago… I have an xbee shield for arduino, do I need anything else to get started?
Nope, you are ready to go build your own XBee-enabled prototype!

Is there any possibility to compress/decompress data before/aftrer zb/digimesh transmission?
The XBee radios are serial radios. Any binary data can be transmitted via an XBee Radio. A JPEG image is a good example of a compressed file that could be transmitted via an XBee.

Would you briefly compare these to the Wireless HART and ISA100 devices/standards?
WirelessHART and Zigbee share IEEE 802.15.4 as the basis of their physical layers. This allows them to use essentially the same hardware at about the same cost for transmitting and receiving. WirelessHART uses TDMA, which allots individual time slots for each transmission. ZigBee uses CSMA with collision detection. In WirelessHART, each node operates as a router, which is similar to that of DigiMesh.

Can I code the modules or must I use an external processor?
Digi does offer ‘programmable’ variants of both ZigBee and DigiMesh modules, which includes an 8-bit microprocessor onboard the module that can be programmed with a custom application. In most cases, customers use their own external microprocessor with our standard XBee modules.

Starbucks and Other Retail Outlets Offer Wireless Phone Charging with Digi Technology

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As everyday life becomes more and more dependent on smartphone usage, always ensuring that your battery is charged has become a necessity. Powermat provides wireless charging stations that offer convenience and security. Instead of crowding the lone wall with an outlet at Starbucks or always bringing your charger with you, Powermat provides an easy alternative. Powermat’s App even warns users when their battery is low and notifies them of the nearest charging station.

Powermat needed a technology partner with wireless expertise that could help them to connect thousands of networks distributed around the world and enable to administer them across their global network. Additionally, Powermat needed to integrate all that data into the end-user application. They sought a simple solution which would provide a secure connection to the cloud and data integration for partner businesses to connect with customers through the app.

Powermat-Content-Calendar-wo-October-19_East-Coast-Facebook-(1)

Each wireless charging station is embedded in tabletops and connected on-site with ZigBee Technology. The ZigBee technology makes the network simple and easy to deploy. It enables integration of data which allows users to find charging stations and enables businesses to offer targeted ads via the Powermat App.

ZigBee offers cost-effective local wireless communication on a massive scale. To enable the global network Digi created a custom SKU of the XBee Gateway. The new variant ships with the Powermat logo, additional security features, and Powermat’s custom Python application. Powermat is now the fastest growing wireless charging network in the world. They’re featured in many businesses such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, Dupont, and General Motors. And they can be found in cities across the globe such as London, New York, and San Francisco.

Read the full story on how Powermat powers phones around the globe with Digi here >>

The Future of Mesh Networking: XBee Thread Demonstration

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Digi is hard at work developing the next-generation XBee module based on the Silicon Labs EM3587 chip, which will support the new IoT protocol, Thread. Due to Thread’s unique advantages like easy commissioning and robust mesh capabilities, the new module will be a valuable addition to the XBee ecosystem. With that in mind, we thought you might want to get a behind-the-scenes look at what we’re doing with this new technology.

Our development team out in Lindon, Utah created this informative demonstration showing a network comprised of both Thread and ZigBee devices and how they can all be controlled via a mobile application.

This is just step one in our development process so stay tuned for updates. Check out these resources to learn more about Thread:

And, if you have any Thread-related questions shoot as a tweet at @digidotcom or @XBeeWireless. You can also visit the official Thread website for more information.

FogFinder Relies on Arduino and XBee to Tap into New Water Source

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No, it’s not possible to create water out of thin air. But, with a bit of engineering, scientists in Chile are turning foggy air into a reliable water source for nearby residents. The process is almost entirely natural—the sun desalinates the water, the winds push the water to a higher elevation, and gravity allows the collected water to flow back down to the village.

Using large fog collectors, which consist of mesh mounted on a rigid structure, to capture impacting fog water droplets from the air and tapping into the natural processes mentioned above, fog collection could be an economical way to gather and distribute clean water.

The fog collectors are typically installed on hillsides and remote areas where fog is abundant. These installations are especially common in arid climates in Chile where rain runs scarce. As fog passes through, the droplets impact the mesh fibers and collect in a trough below. One of the real challenges and opportunities for innovation lies in determining where to install these collectors, how to orient them, and understanding how efficient they are at collecting water from the air.IMG_0420

While at the Universidad de los Andes in Santiago Chile, Richard LeBoeuf, Associate Professor at Tarleton State University, and Juan de Dios Rivera, of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, developed a new type of sensor called the “Liquid Water Flux Probe” to measure the availability of water at current and potential fog collector sites. The sensor measures the liquid water content and speed of the fog and can be used to understand the optimal location and orientation for each of the collectors.

The sensor is part of a larger system called FogFinder, which Richard LeBoeuf developed in collaboration with Juan Pablo Vargas and Jorge Gómez at the Universidad de los Andes. Together they designed and engineered the FogFinder system, which includes wireless networking.

20151215_182827

With the primary challenge of measuring fog liquid water flux out of the way, the team needed to design a device capable of being deployed in extremely remote environments and easily retrieve sensor data. Since there is no power source to plug into out in the desert, the options are either solar or wind power. Due to their simplicity, a separate solar power system, comprised of a solar panel, battery, and charge controller, is used in conjunction with the FogFinder unit.

To facilitate the collection and transmission of sensor data, the team chose to build the foundation of FogFinder with Arduino and XBee. Both components offered a fast and easy way to get started prototyping the design. Each sensor node is comprised of an Arduino Mega and XBee module, and the team even designed and built custom boards to regulate voltage, interface the sensors and store data on a micro-SD card.

20151215_154618

The node collects data on the following parameters:

  • Liquid water flux
  • Humidity
  • Temperature
  • Flow-rate from fog collectors
  • Pressure
  • Wind speed
  • Wind direction

The team settled on using XBee for local wireless communication since it provided greater range and required less power than Bluetooth. The ZigBee protocol also offers the flexibility to create a mesh network and configuration settings to conserve power-saving valuable battery life. With external antennas and mountain top to mountain top placement of each radio, they have achieved a reliable 1 km link.

Once the data is collected, it’s sent to a remote server over a cellular network. Using a BeagleBone SBC and a cellular modem, data is taken from the local XBee ZigBee network and can be accessed on a remote computer. This data is then analyzed to assess the performance of the fog collector.

What’s next for FogFinder? As the team wraps up the prototyping stage, they’ll be conducting calibration in a wind tunnel to prepare for field tests.  Once the testing phase is complete, the team will work to deploy them as part of a pilot program and start connecting more Chilean residents to a clean source of water.

You can read more about the FogFinder project in the following articles:

The FogFinder project has received support from the Universidad de los Andes through its Fondo de Ayuda de Investigación, Andes Iron – Dominga, and the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

 

Introducing XCTU 6.3

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A new version of everyone’s favorite XBee configuration software, XCTU, is here! Among a few small updates like a refreshed look and feel, UI enhancements, and minor bug fixes, the XBee team has introduced three brand new features to the software. Here’s a look at what you’ll find in XCTU 6.3.


Command Line Interface Support
New to XCTU is Command Line Interface (CLI) Support. Now, users can execute the application in CLI mode without the graphic interface. This is primarily useful for scripting and automation purposes when managing large scale XBee deployments. The following features are supported within CLI mode:

  • List ports – A list of serial and USB ports can be retrieved in
    command line mode.xctu_welcome
  • Update firmware – Firmware of any radio device can be updated in this
    mode.
  • Load profile – Now it is possible to load profiles to connected
    devices through the CLI of XCTU.

Spectrum Analyzer
From within the XCTU interface, users can test and measure the spectrum of the radio’s band. The analysis displays average, maximum, and minimum values of each channel. This is helpful to determine which channel to set your XBee radios to and troubleshoot network issues.

Throughput Tool
With the Throughput Tool users can measure the maximum transfer ratio from one radio module to another within the same network. The tool provides three session modes and several payload configuration options to test different combinations and understand the performance of your wireless network.

Download
If you haven’t already updated from within XCTU, just click here to download the software to your computer. Have fun and if you have questions feel free to tweet us at @XBeeWireless.

XBee Tech Tip: Using the XCTU Spectrum Analyzer Tool

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XCTU 6.3 features a brand new Spectrum Analyzer tool. This makes it possible to measure and test the spectrum using only an XBee radio. The tool generates a report of the noise level for each channel within the radio’s frequency band. With these data points, XBee users can select the optimal channel for their XBee network and troubleshoot network issues.

In this XBee Tech Tip, we’ll take a look at how to run the Spectrum Analyzer tool. Below is a quick screencast that takes you through adding the XBee device to XCTU to running a spectrum analysis and sorting through the data points collected. The video is followed with more information on the tool such as configuring the test and analyzing the network noise levels.

To get started, first access the tool by selecting it from the Tools drop down menu.

Device selection
The first section of the tool contains the device selection control populated with the devices that you have added to XCTU. Select the radio module you want to use to perform the analysis.

Analysis Configuration
The analysis configuration panel is located next to the device selection control. This section allows you to configure the spectrum analysis process:
This is the list of available settings:Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 8.57.25 AM

  • Sampling interval (ms): Determines the time to wait in milliseconds before reading a new noise level sample of the RF channels.
  • Number of samples: Check this option to configure the number of samples to read in the spectrum analysis session.
  • Loop infinitely: Check this option to read samples infinitely until the spectrum analysis session is stopped manually.

When you have configured all the options, click Start Spectrum Analysis button to start reading samples and measure the noise level of each RF channel. You can manually stop the analysis at any time by pressing the same button, now displaying the text Stop Spectrum Analysis.

Data Presentation
When an analysis is started, the chart and channels list are filled with all the RF channels supported by the selected device. Note: the list of supported channels may vary depending on the device type and device region.

Channel Chart
This chart represents the noise level of all the RF channels. Each channel displays 1 bar with the current noise level and two tick marks representing the maximum noise level (green) and the minimum one (red).

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 4.20.16 PM

A blue line is also added to the chart indicating the average noise level of all channels. The spectrum analysis refreshes the noise levels of each channel continuously until the analysis ends or it is stopped.

Along the bottom of the chart, users can filter to hide or display the bars, the max and min noise values and the average noise level line.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 4.20.32 PM

Once the spectrum analysis reaches the specified number of samples or is stopped, you can click on each channel to get specific values (seen above). This control displays the current noise level of a channel as well as its average, maximum and minimum noise level.

The Spectrum Analyzer feature supports Digi radios with the following protocols:

  • ZigBee (S2C Modules)
  • 802.15.4
  • DigiMesh
  • XTend Legacy
  • XTend DigiMesh
  • Digi Point

What do you want to learn next?
We hope you found this tutorial helpful! Let us know what you’d like to learn in the next XBee Tech Tip: http://bit.ly/xbeetechtip

Contact a Digi expert and get started today! Contact Us