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Customer Showcase: Wireless Technologies Create Foundation for Disruptive Businesses

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Every day Digi works with customers around the world to deploy connected device solutions. Businesses across a variety of industries are realizing the value provided by internet connected assets. From the ability to monitor device health to delivering media relevant to a local audience, connected devices are modernizing business operations. Here are a few of the many companies we are proud to work with.

Monster Media
Digital Signage is a rapidly growing industry as 4G LTE becomes more prevalent and consumers expect a more interactive experience with signage and digital displays.  Monster Media is a leader in this relatively new industry. The company specializes in delivering dynamic and interactive media to high traffic venues like college campuses, conferences, sporting events, and much more.Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 12.47.38 PM

The team was in need of a quick and simple way to connect their digital displays to the Internet in order to provide relevant and fresh content out to the world. Cellular connectivity was an obvious solution due to its the ease of deployment. Wi-Fi is another popular solution for digital signage, but often adds complexity due to coordinating with local IT as well as taking on additional security-related risks. Cellular connectivity also makes mobile assets a non-issue since no cabling is required and zero dependence on other infrastructure. With these advantages in mind, Digi TransPort WR21s are now found inside each of Monster Media’s kiosk providing a secure and reliable cellular connection

In addition to a reliable connection for delivering content, Monster Media is able to use the Digi Remote Manger for updating device configurations and firmware from the company’s NOC.

US Water
US Water provides a variety of engineering services, equipment, and field services. To enhance their offering and further differentiate themselves from larger water treatment firms, the company wanted an advanced monitoring solution that could reduce operation costs and enable their field service team to focus on high value tasks.css-thumbnail-us-water

Utilizing XBee ZigBee Modules and cellular connected gateways, their remotely connected sites give U.S. Water an easy way to monitor customers’ usage of chemicals, tank levels, and additional insight into their supply chain. Digi also partnered with Verizon to create a data strategy that made sense for their business.

Clean Hand Safe Hands 
Washing hands is one of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce the spread of disease. According to the CDC, in 2011 there were 721,800 hospital-acquired infections. Clean Hands Safe Hands saw this as opportunity and created a wireless system to remind hospital employees to clean their hands.chsh-logo-300x118

The entire system is made possible by a combination of three wireless technologies: ZigBee, Bluetooth, and Cellular. Employees’ badge reels are Bluetooth-enabled so the hand sanitizer dispensers can record when hands are washed. The dispensers are all connected by a ZigBee mesh network and data is sent to a single cellular take out point via the XBee Gateway.

The XBee Gateway enables cloud connectivity, so hospitals can easily generate reports on their compliance and remotely monitor devices.

 To learn more about how Digi customers are changing their respective industries, visit our customer story page here.

Cellular Connections You Never Knew Existed

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You drive into a gas station and notice the LED sign that reads how high the Powerball® is this week. You pull up to the pump and make a mental note to buy a ticket. As you wait for your tank to fill, the screen on top of the pump shares today’s weather and a few specials you can find inside. Then, you walk into the gas station to buy that lottery ticket. The lottery register greets your purchase, and you’re ready to move on with your day—hopefully with the winning ticket in your pocket.

During your time at the gas station did you ever consider how many wireless connections were at work? Probably not.

When you do think of wireless connections, it’s likely Wi-Fi hotspots or smartphone payment tools like Square that come to mind. However, there are many little-known and less visible ways that retailers and service providers use 4G LTE connections to make operations work. From digital signs to lottery terminals, wireless connections help make our world go around in ways you may have never imagined. They’re all working to create an experience for you as a customer and a return for merchants and manufacturers. Let’s dive deeper into a few applications where invisible wireless “workers” are impacting your retail environment.

Lottery TerminalsScreen Shot 2014-07-15 at 10.20.07 AM

Tucked behind the counter at your local convenience store, you’ll find that signature register or lottery terminal. You might just think of this as the machine that prints your easy-pick, but if the terminal gets disconnected the vendor is on the hook for much more than your ticket alone. It’s up to the store to ensure the machine is up and running at all times, so no revenue is lost. In fact, the damage can add up to more than all of the numbers on your ticket combined. For that reason, many of these terminals are connected to a datacenter with both a satellite and a 3G or 4G LTE connection.

Although the vast majority of lottery revenue is returned to players in prize money, the remainder pays for the operation of the lottery—including paying the retailer for hosting the lottery terminal. More importantly, the lottery also contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to state budgets. In 2012 in the state of Minnesota alone, $124M was contributed to funds such as environment and natural resources, game and fish, metropolitan parks and trails, zoos and infrastructure. The State Gaming Commission authorizes one vendor to operate their entire statewide lottery. In exchange for that level of access, the commission holds the gaming contractor accountable to maintain a high service level. If terminals aren’t able to communicate, the gaming contractor can be held accountable for damages of $20 per minute or more—per terminal.

Tire Air Vendingairtire

Hopefully, it’s your lucky day and you have a winning ticket in your pocket, but in the case that your day started out rough and your dealing with a flat tire, you can pull up next to an air-pump kiosk. Don’t have change? No problem. Swipe your credit card and the transaction is sent over a cellular connection.

While the connection makes payment collection more convenient for you, there’s a lot more at stake than meets the eye. In the past, technicians had to phisically visit every single machine to empty the coin bin– whether it was full or not. Not, a cellular connection enables the machine to report back how full the coin bin is, along with the health of the machine. This saves the manufacturer millions of dollars in employee and transportation costs, and it ensures all machines are up and running properly creating even more revenue– not to mention better customer service for the retail operations that host these machines.

In many cases, manufacturers experience a loss between money collection and revenue that makes it back to the business. In one example, receipt reconciliation loss was $11M per year. In the first year, a connection improved that loss by 80%, providing a bottom line impact of $8.8M. Lack of pick-up optimization (sending someone to collect the money after the machine is already too full to accept more coins) created an annual loss of $5.5M; that was improved by 50% and impacted the bottom line by almost $3M. Downtime, which caused the most significant loss at $12M per year, was improved by 30%. With numbers like these, an air vendor could easily double the value of the system in one year alone.

Charging Stations & Digital Signs

Have you ever charged your mobile phone while enjoying a cup of coffee at Starbucks? If you have, you know that finding a free plug in a packed coffee house can be hard. These charging stations can be even more valuable at the airport —we’ve all fought for that prime spot in the flight gate waiting area. Now, Monster Media has created a digital experience to accompany the convenience. You’ll see a digital ad while your phone or laptop is being charged. That content is delivered by a 4G LTE connection—the same type of connection that can also deliver information to the display screen on a gas pump.

Wireless charging stations are a huge value-add to customers, and in Starbucks’ case they encourage people to stick around longer—which leads to more coffee sold. For advertisers, this value can be paired with their message—a message that might even be specific to your currently location. Similarly, at the gas pump, customers have the convenience of catching the news or relevant information while pumping gas, and gas stations are able to advertise deals to lure customers into the store to make purchases.

Bottle Recycling Machine

For some of us, returning bottles is a well-known past-time. But for many states, reverse vending machines are becoming common-place. In either case, the system enables consumers to recycle, make money and keep neighborhoods clean. Recycling is so popular today that machines can fill up fast, which causes downtime. How does the vendor know when the machine is full? A cellular connection to HQ. recycling-logo

rePLANET added a cloud connection to their recycling center solution. Without a wireless connection to the machine, a technician would have to drive hours, costing the company hundreds of dollars. Now, with a wireless VPN connection, the machine reports its capacity remotely. The technician’s PC can be remotely controlled with the cellular connection to get updates and new configurations. The new method costs less than 20% of the cost of drive time and shipping and takes about 10% of the total time previously required to correct problems.

So, the next time you pull up to a gas station or visit a store, take a closer look at the digital sign, lottery terminal, air pumps and bottle recycling machines—you won’t be able to see the wireless connection, but you can be sure that it’s working for you and for the stakeholders who put it there. Those wireless connections are making your life easier and more interactive, and driving revenue and extreme savings for organizations all around the world.

Want to learn more about how businesses are using cellular technology? Check out this story to see how Tel-O-Fun is using cellular connections to handle bike rental payments in Tel Aviv.

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!

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.

A Simpler and More Intelligent Internet of Things with Digi and Temboo

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The ongoing drought in the western United States underscores the importance of maintaining and conserving a reliable supply of fresh water—whether for drinking, irrigation, fire control or manufacturing, reliable water storage is essential. Of course, half the battle in maintaining a water supply is managing it: once a tank system has been installed and filled, water must be properly distributed when it is needed and retained when it is not. If tanks are remote and many are spread over a wide area, monitoring them can become a costly and time-consuming obligation.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 12.03.09 PMThese are the sorts of challenges that Digi and Temboo are overcoming by building a more intelligent Internet of Things. A network of Digi hardware running Temboo Choreos is flexible and smart—devices can be programmed to execute a wide variety of processes, and be reprogrammed without being interrupted. This is a solution that combines ease of automation with the trustworthiness of manual control. To illustrate the solution’s benefits, and demonstrate how the whole system works, we’ve built a model of the water tank problem. This system puts Temboo and Digi to work, keeping water levels right where they ought to be.

Our tank monitoring solution uses an XBee ZigBee radio to wirelessly exchange sensor information and remote control commands using Digi’s new XBee Gateway, a programmable device that joins ZigBee mesh networks to the Internet. A small Temboo client written in Python is installed on the XBee Gateway, allowing it to connect to over one hundred different web services using Temboo Choreos. With Temboo, the memory constraints of the small devices in the network cease to be an obstacle to intelligent behavior, as much of the code required to execute complex processes is offloaded to the cloud.

In our model, a sensor attached to the XBee radio monitors the water level of our tank, and sends those readings to the XBee Gateway. If the tank leaks and the water level falls, a response is triggered on the gateway. First, the gateway uses Temboo’s Yahoo Weather Choreos to check the forecast for rain. Temboo’s Nexmo Choreos are then used to telephone the relevant individual with an automated voice message that gives a real time rain forecast and offers a choice of actions to take by entering a number on the phone’s keypad.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.56.33 AMIf a storm is on its way, there is an option to ignore the alert. If the leakage does not need to be urgently addressed, there is an option to schedule a maintenance event for the future, which the Temboo program on the gateway handles via a Google Calendar Choreo . If the situation is urgent, however, there is another option to activate a backup pump at a different point in the XBee network and refill the tank.  Of course, all of this will only work properly if the sensor and gateway are powered on and functioning, so our system needs to be prepared for any loss of connectivity—if, for any reason, transmission of the level of water in the tank stops, another Temboo Choreo will file a Zendesk ticket to alert support that the system needs attention.

The most exciting thing about this model, however, is that it is only a small example of a massively scalable system. XBee technology can connect hundreds of different devices in a much larger network, and Temboo’s Library contains over two thousand other Choreos that can be used to execute an immense variety of tasks. Modifying the behavior of the Temboo program on the gateway to, for example, switch notification services is just a matter of changing Choreos, a simple task.  Digi’s hardware and Temboo’s software are coming together to build a lighter, smarter and much easier to use Internet of Things.

Demo created using:

Are you using Temboo or XBee in your Internet of Things application? You can share how you’re using wireless technology by tweeting us at @XBeeWireless and @Temboo.

Where in the World is the Robonaut Today?

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Last year we shared how Digi helped NASA’s Robonaut go wireless. Since then, NASA’s robot has undergone a series of upgrades. Just last month, SpaceX delivered legs that will be mounted to the Robonaut, so that it can move around the station, making it even more valuable to the ISS crew. There are even new products being spun off from the original design like the Robo-Glove. Here are a few Robonaut-related articles that have been published recently to get you up to speed on the ISS’s newest crew member.

robonaut2-trailer-02-21-2011
NASA Upgrades Humanoid Robot in Space | Computer World
“The 300-pound humanoid robot working on the International Space Station is in the midst of getting a series of upgrades, including new processors and software, in preparation of having a pair of legs attached to it.”

NASA’s Robo-Glove Up for License for Iron Man and You | Slash Gear
“The glove is made to amplify the abilities of the wearer, not entirely unlike that of the glove of Iron Man in the Marvel Comics universe. This glove allows its user to blast through tasks that require high hand strength – grasping and repetitive tasks especially.”

Robonaut Upgrades, Spacewalk Preps & Cargo Ops for Station Crew | Product Design and Development
“For the next phase of testing, Robonaut will be outfitted with a pair of climbing legs to enable it to move around the station. These legs, which are equipped with end effectors to allow them to grip handrails and sockets, were delivered to the station during the SpaceX-3 cargo mission in April.”

Google Tech to Bring 3D Mapping Smarts to NASA’s Space Station Robots | Computer World
“Google said Thursday that its Project Tango team is collaborating with scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center to integrate the company’s new 3D technology into a robotic platform that will work inside the space station. The integrated technology has been dubbed SPHERES, which stands for Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites.”

Have you found an interesting article about the Robonaut? Share it with us on Twitter at @digidotcom using the hashtag #Robonaut. You can also learn more about how Digi enabled Wi-Fi communication in our NASA customer story, here.

Digi XLR PRO Webinar Questions and Answers

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We had a number of questions at our Digi XLR PRO webinar and unfortunately there was not enough time to answer all of them. We’ve combed through the submitted questions and have put together some of the most commonly asked questions in this post, including results from our field testing.

 

Video: Is it possible to send live IP video on this system?

Yes, in IP bridging mode the radios are capable of streaming rates in excess of >1 Mbps which is sufficient for many video streaming applications.  We have tested by streaming YouTube videos and Netflix through the radios in a point to point link.

Security: How does the Digi XLR PRO address data security?

The XLR Pro radios support 128 bit AES encryption. By default, encryption is always used, but the key is never displayed. If you enter a new encryption key, the key must match on all devices on the network.

Power Consumption: Can this be used for battery powered remote devices?

Receive Current: 300 mA @ 9 V; 230 mA @ 12 V; 120 mA @ 26 V
Transmit Current: 950 mA @ 9 V; 840 mA @ 12 V; 400 mA @ 26 V

The packaged radio is not designed with low current draw as the primary concern. With an appropriately sized battery/solar panel combination it may be successfully deployed in non-mains powered applications. It is the intent to make low current draw much more important in the OEM module design.

Punch2 vs FHSS: How does Punch2 Technology compare to the more common FHSS?

Many radios in the unlicensed 900 MHz band use frequency hopping spread spectrum (FHSS), which transmits data at multiple frequencies using a hopping pattern. The transmitter hops among different frequencies to combat fading and interferers. The channels may have different levels of interference and fading, allowing communication on some channels but not others. The diversity of operating at multiple frequencies results in improved communication reliability.

Conversely, Punch2 Technology uses a wide bandwidth for each bit of information that is transmitted. With this method, each bit of information leverages frequency diversity across the band—as opposed to the hit-and-miss approach of FHSS with individual packets. Compared to FHSS, Punch2 Technology provides superior resistance to signal fading without resorting to frequency hop synchronization. It also requires no beacon frames or time synchronization frames, resulting in decreased network traffic. The advantages of Punch2 Technology arise from the characteristics of the chirp signal as well as several digital-signal-processing techniques that enhance performance and reliability.

Click here to view a detailed technical whitepaper on Punch2 Technology.

Network Topology: What type of network configurations does the XLR PRO support?

The radios support 2 types of transmissions:

Unicast - To transmit to a specific radio:

  • When using transparent mode, set DH:DL to the SH:SL of the destination radio.
  • For API mode, set the SH:SL address in the 64-bit destination address field of the API frame.

Broadcast - To transmit to all radios:

  • For transparent mode, set DH:DL to 0x000000000000FFFF.
  • For API mode, set the 64-bit destination address fieldto 0x000000000000FFFF
  • The scope of the broadcast changes based on the delivery method chosen.

The radios do not support Mesh but do support repeated serial packets up to 4 hops. We suggest reading the XLR PRO networking methods chapter of the User guide starting on page 30 for more details.

Field Test Results
During the webinar we shared some of the results from the field test we performed with the Digi XLR PRO and other long range 900 MHz radios. We have more details in this report. Click here to download the official results.

Digi Delivers Live View of Pittsburgh’s Bald Eagles

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Bald Eagles have returned to Pittsburgh after a long absence. Their return has received a large amount of attention as this is seen as a sign of the improved environment in the Pittsburgh area. The nest of the once endangered raptors sits on a steep bluff above the Monongahela River in Hays near Pittsburgh’s Southside.  PixController and the Pennsylvania Game Commission are streaming live video, so you can watch the eaglets grow up every day and at any hour. They even received a feature on NBC Nightly News, which you can watch below.

 
Digi teamed up with PixController to create a wireless solution that provides a 24-hour feed of the Hays Eagles. A Digi TransPort WR21 connected to Verizon’s 4G LTE network streams live audio and video to the organizations website, so thousands can check in and see what the eaglets are up to at anytime. The stream has already accumulated over one million views!

The Eagles hatched in early April and they’re growing quickly, so make sure you check out the live stream before they fly away. Click here to watch the live feed.

Digi helped build a similar solution for the Wildlife Research Institute to aid their study of bear hibernation. Read more about that project here.