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Australian Researchers Improve Indoor Air Quality with ZigBee Based Sensor System

As the cost of energy rises and environmental concerns move us toward new sources of energy, how do we ensure we make the most out of every watt? There are a number of companies and organizations emerging to address this truly global issue.

University of Sydney Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) researchers Tom and Alex Parkinson, built SAMBA to help solve the balancing act between comfort and reducing energy consumption. SAMBA is a platform comprised of remote sensors deployed throughout commercial office environments and a web interface for data visualization. The system collects data points — enabling building managers to improve IEQ and save costs.

The platform is made possible by wireless technologies like ZigBee mesh networking and cellular data communications. Additionally, recent advancements in sensor technology have made it possible to create sensor nodes capable of measuring a variety of parameters, while maintaining a small form factor and remaining affordable.


How SAMBA Works
Within each node you’ll find sensors to monitor thermal comfort, acoustics, lighting, and indoor air quality. Processing at each node is handled by an ATmega328 chip running an Arduino sketch. A cool feature of the node is a flash memory chip. This helps prevent any data loss in case there’s a network failure by allowing data to be stored locally. Once the data is collected it hops from XBee to XBee until it reaches the central hub. Data is sent from each node at an interval of once every 5 minutes.

The central hub/cellular gateway is currently a Raspberry Pi with a cellular module. The gateway does some minor processing before sending data over the cellular network to SAMBA’s server. Due to the mesh networking capabilities of the sensor nodes, it is possible to just have one central hub per building. This makes the solution extremely cost efficient. As the team works to take this to production and scale their operation, they’re evaluating replacing the Raspberry Pi with the XBee Gateway.


Click to Watch Video 

Why ZigBee
The development team chose to use ZigBee for a multiple reasons. For one, the mesh networking capability makes the deployment of nodes more flexible and, in many cases, only one central hub is needed per building. Another factor was the development tools at their disposal like the open source Arduino library for the XBee ZigBee Radios. You can access that library here. This library helped them to cut down development time significantly.

The SAMBA crew is already getting some nice recognition throughout Australia. Just last week, Green Cities included them on their list of Weapons of Mass Creation! To learn more about the University of Sydney’s Indoor Air Quality Lab, click here visit their site.

Devergy Expands Solar Power Possibilities in Africa

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Did you know that roughly 1.7 billion people are not connected to a power grid? In Sub-Sahara Africa, the number is around 500 million. For many, the infrastructure simply doesn’t exist. The modern day conveniences we take for granted such as being able to read at night, cooking on the stove top and refrigeration can be a hassle, or close to impossible, with no access to a reliable source of electricity.

The challenges of installing a power grid in remote and undeveloped areas can be numerous, so how do we reimagine how to deliver reliable electricity and move past the traditional power grid system? Thankfully, Devergy is solving this tricky problem. Using solar power and wireless technology, Devergy has built a sustainable business that’s helping villages in Tanzania and Ghana meet their energy needs.download

Who is Devergy?
Founded in 2010 by Fabio De Pascale, Gianluca Cescon and Daniel Ponz, Devergy is a social enterprise committed to providing an affordable and reliable source of energy to low-income people throughout Tanzania.

Their customers live in rural areas of the country where a power grid is nonexistent and residents do not have the money necessary to purchase a personal solar home system.

Residents in Tanzania typically spend between 6 and 25 USD per month on kerosene, phone charging, and dry-cell batteries for radios. After the installation of Devergy’s solar grids, residents spend as much as 20% less than what they were spending on kerosene for lighting and 50% less for phone charging. Not only does Devergy provide a clean, renewable and reliable source of energy, but it’s also substantially more affordable.

The service is based on village-sized energy micro-grids, which provide solar power to households and small businesses; it allows the users to connect lights and appliances such as radios, TVs and refrigerators. With the smart micro-grids, the usage of installed power is up to 70% more efficient than with equivalent solar home systems.

The key feature of the system is an energy meter that powers the household or business with a pre-paid pay-per-use approach, where customers top up their credit by using a mobile commerce platform, such as Vodacom M-Pesa. This is just like the system you would use to top-up a pre-paid mobile phone.

How it Works
Devergy uses Digi XBee technology for the communication network in its grids. Hundreds of nodes are connected with XBee–making the solar micro-grids smart, cost effective, and manageable. Devergy relies on XBee modules for its smart meters and is using Digi’s ConnectPort X4 for its ZigBee to GPRS gateways. Fabio, co-founder of Devergy says, “The plug and play, flexible nature of the Digi product was fundamental to get our services to the market faster.”

Devergy’s customers receive an unprecedented service thanks to a system that is designed to require no user maintenance and is remotely monitored for faults, so that the reliability and availability of the service is unmatched. Local representation of the company is ensured by the appointment of a village agent, selected based on recommendation by the village committee and trained by Devergy to perform technical support and sales. This ensures the customers always have a well-known and trusted counterpart to deal with.

Devergy has successfully connected more than 800 customers since 2012 to reliable, clean and safe electricity with a service sufficient to satisfy their needs for many years to come.  Currently, they are active in two regions and quickly growing their customer base. In addition to Tanzanaia, the Devergy grids are also licensed to third parties in Ghana, where they power 3 villages.

Visit Devergy.com to learn more about what they do!

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.


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.

Energy Gets Smart with the Internet of Things

As the weather gets warmer, you might be thinking about your energy bills. So are innovators, technologists and environmentalists who are working to use the latest technology to decrease energy consumption and lower costs for individuals and businesses alike. Energy is one of the sectors that can be impacted the most by the Internet of Things- another great area where connected products can improve business effeciencies, our lives and our planet. Here’s how.

“A smart thermostat can reduce a home’s heating and cooling costs by 10% a year…”-US Department of Energy

You’ve probably heard the terms smart grid, smart meter and smart thermostat. But, what are their roles in helping us conserve energy? Internet enabled products such as a thermostat or smart meter connected to a cloud platform can be used to gather large amounts of data for analysis. They can manage our home’s devices from anywhere. After analyzing data, we can modify, or have our machines modify, energy usage to ensure our household is running as energy efficient as possible- saving money without sacrificing comfort. The data provided can also eliminate the frustrating guessing game of what the coming month’s energy bill will be. Tracking usage allows us to know the amount of our bill down to the nearest penny before it arrives in the mail.

An ounce of prevention…

Smart Energy

Another benefit of monitoring energy use is the ability to proactively resolve issues if an appliance begins to run poorly. Imagine if your utility company could notify you of a water leak or issue with your furnace and dispatch a service worker to fix it- all before it turns into a severe issue and costly repair.

Connected products are changing what it means to be energy efficient.

According to the US Department of Energy, 54% of your utility bill is made up of heating and cooling. Many businesses are taking this idea and delivering a simple, yet valuable, service to homeowners giving us greater control of our thermostats.

For example, EcoFactor is using the Internet of Things to make customers’ homes smart. The company’s internet enabled thermostat responds to personal preferences, seasonal changes and even weather forecasts. EcoFactor’s utilizes Device Cloud to offer their own cloud based software which is fully automated, so customers never have to worry about adjusting their thermostat.

Demand response (DR) programs also help to save money and prevent outages on the energy grid. EcoFactor’s thermostat uses energy in the most efficient way possible by responding to current demand along the power grid. We can also optimize our own behavior if we know when peak hours fall, so maybe you wait to do the laundry once peak hours have past to save money.

Several smart grid pilots have been springing up in the past few years due to funding from the federal government. It is also proving to have a large impact on the recovering economy. Recent numbers from SmartGrid.gov show that $2.96 billion has been invested to support new Smart Grid projects, which has resulted in economic output totaling $6.8 billion. The Smart Grid is an enormous opportunity both economically and environmentally.

Earlier this year, Ecofactor announced its participation in a 15,000 home National Grid smart grid pilot in Worchester, Massachusetts. The smart grid technology will be fully deployed by 2014. EcoFactor’s data analytics and demand response events will maximize the energy usage of the pilot’s participants.

Led by Batelle Memorial Institute, currently the largest smart energy pilot in the US is the Pacific Northwest Smart Grid Demonstration Project with over 60,000 participants. This $178 million project aims to quantify the costs and benefits of smart grid technology, advance cyber security, and bring to light smart grid business models. The pilot will run for 5 years in 5 Northwest states including Idaho, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, and Oregon. Technologies used in the pilot include smart meters, programmable thermostats, and load control devices.

The Internet of Things is making homes smarter, energy bills smaller and customers happier. Connected products have simplified the process of managing business and home energy consumption and have made it more affordable. Conserving energy no longer means just turning the lights off when we leave home- it means using data and smart devices to inform us on how to save energy. Saving the planet also means saving money, so what will you do this summer to reduce your energy use?

The Meter in the Web: Cloud-Based Energy Services

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Smart energy is an extremely important part of what we do here at Digi International. We believe that technological innovations have the power to save our planet. That’s why we’re excited to announce our participation in the Smart Home and Metering Summit 2012 on October 17 in Ludwigsburg, Germany.

For those headed to the event, here are five topics presenter and Digi’s energy expert Andreas Rueckriegel will discuss. And, for those who cannot make it to Germany for the conference, these five topics will give you an idea of how Digi is at the forefront of latest technology in cloud-based energy services.

1. Smart Metering in Germany is turning around technical and legal regulations blocking further dynamics in the field of residential energy management solutions. Although smart meters are widely seen as the only base for any further smart energy services, Digi can demonstrate alternatives.

2. Digi shows a technical and commercial offering that can easily enable energy management services in combination with smart meters. These can be managed independently as to not touch the strict regulations of regulated smart metering.

3. Combining two of the most pioneering trends in our industry – Cloud Computing and the Internet of Things – Digi provides an innovative platform which can be used by utilities and energy service providers to design web-based product solutions for their end customers.

4. The technical architecture is existing and ready-to-use by leveraging cloud advantages and features. By having iDigi in the heart of the solution you can – even for a limited number of devices in the field – provide a full professional solution that’s reliable, scalable, safe and low-cost.

5. You will see best-practice implementations like the renowned E-Energy E-DeMa project that is using the cloud-based solution of Digi, the iDigi Device Cloud. E-DeMa is a joint project between SWK, RWE, Siemens, Miele, ProSyst, the universities of Bochum, Duisburg/Essen and Dortmund and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Dortmund. These groups are working to develop and demonstrate an e-energy, locally networked, “energy marketplace of the future” using cutting-edge information and communication technology. The realizations of further energy service offerings like a solar monitoring apps or an energy control app is becoming increasingly easy and cost efficient. You can read a case study on the E-DeMa project here.

Will you be attending the event in Germany? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter. We’d love to answer your smart metering questions and meet you at the event!

Connecting Light System Diagram

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Here’s how the Connecting Light system is created from Digi equipment for the 73-mile-long installation of 400 giant illuminated balloons on Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. The huge network will go live tonight for an crowd expected to bring traffic along the 80-mile World Heritage site to a crawl as thousands of spectators flock to the interactive event. Connecting Light is a perfect example of a large-scale system for centrally controlling remote devices—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 technology required for Connecting Light was assembled by Digi Professional Services—our solutions experts who network dynamic message signs along highways, smart thermostats for utility networks and positive train control systems for railroads. Putting all these different devices online is arguably the next big revolution for the Internet. Organizations are starting to demand visibility to their remote assets along with centralized control for everything out in the field as their competitors begin benefitting from the systems currently being put in place. It’s an exciting time to be involved with this stuff!

The diagram above shows how Programmable XBees, ConnectPort GSM mobile routers and the iDigi Device Cloud all work together to form a reliable backbone behind a breathtaking artwork that spans England’s coasts.It is also available as a PDF.


Radiator Labs in the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition: Efficiency and Comfort using XBee

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Radiator Labs, a New York City hardware start-up, has developed a simple technology to improve radiator heating. The technology eliminates overheating to make your apartment more comfortable while saving energy at the same time.

We’re excited about their technology, which uses XBees– the team also plans to use iDigi in their next pilot iteration. The Radiator Labs team will be pitching their plan before a panel of expert judges for the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. To show our support, we are on a mission to help them get “likes” for their video and spread the word.

Here are two ways you can help: 

1. Watch and “like” their video:

2. Share the video: You can click here to tweet the Radiator Labs video

What current projects are you excited about? We’d love to hear about projects that you’re passionate about too!

Next Generation ZigBee Smart Energy Gateway and iDigi, Making the World a Greener Place

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Have you heard? This week marks the release of the Next Generation ZigBee Smart Energy Gateway, the ConnectPort X2e. You might be wondering, what does this mean for me? For the industry?

The X2e provides a simpler path for innovators to create devices that make our world a greener place– both for homes and businesses. Now these systems can be rolled out to a wide user base while increasing ROI.

“These lower cost gateways provide a faster adoption pathway to the iDigi Device Cloud, which makes building robust energy applications easy,” explains iDigi CTO Joel Young.

The newest addition to the ZigBee family, the ConnectPort X2e, is an economical and enhanced version of the ZigBee Smart Energy gateway. The gateway connects ZigBee Smart Energy devices from a Home Area Network (HAN) to an energy service provider via broadband. Additional memory and processing power for over-the-air updates make it easier to establish and maintain large Smart Energy device deployments.

All Smart Energy gateways feature the iDigi Device Cloud, allowing the devices to easily and securely integrate energy consumption data, such as energy use on a per-home basis, into new and existing applications. The ConnectPort X2e for Smart Energy automatically connects to the iDigi Device Cloud for easy installation and management of connected devices and is programmable in iDigi’s application framework.

The ConnectPort X2e’s additional processing power allows support for more complex local energy efficiency applications, and the increased memory enables support for the impending ZigBee Smart Energy 2.0 standard. The gateway also runs the open platform Linux operating system.

Want to get involved? Interested in making your own smart energy device? Here’s more information on ZigBee.

What energy smart devices and data consumption information would you be interested in seeing?