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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.

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.

[meteor_slideshow slideshow=”XLR-FAQ”]


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.

The Beer Industry Gets Crafty with the Internet of Things

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SteadyServe 1

What do the Internet of Things (IoT) and beer have in common? Well, there was the Budweiser Red Light, an automatic hockey light that’s programmed to go off when your favorite team scores a goal. Then, there was Heineken Ignite, an interactive beer bottle that pulsates to the beat of the DJ’s music. But, the startup SteadyServ has created a beer related IoT app that’s more than just a novelty. SteadyServ’s app, iKeg, saves bars time and money and helps distributors keep tabs on kegs and consumption levels. It even helps brewers know where and when their promotional dollars are turning into pints poured. Better yet, it ensures your favorite brew is always on tap and where to find it.

When Rob Tercek, a former creative director at MTV, was traveling with a layover in Indianapolis, he decided to grab a beer with longtime friend and local craft brewery co-owner Steve Hershberger. On a mission to serve his friend one of his own beers, it took Steve several bars to find one that had his beer on tap – bars that were supposed to have his inventory. “I’m disappointed, Steve. This is a problem, why haven’t you solved it yet?”

SteadyServe 4With the rise in popularity of craft beer, three new brewers come on line each week and there are over 3,000 beer distributors in the U.S. alone. Even with its rapid growth, the beer industry is one of the only “just in time” industries left. Knowing there is a huge market and an apparent problem that needed to be solved, Steve took on the challenge. SteadyServ was born.

A year later, the company has more than 4 patents pending, over $7.5 million in funding to date, and engineering teams working on hardware   and software globally. The team has evolved through four prototypes to have a commercially ready, “Apple-simple” system that allows bar managers and beer sales reps to manage all of their keg orders on a smart phone.

At the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) in October, the incoming Chairman of the NBWA addressed the audience of over 5,000 attendees with a bold statement: “This isn’t your grandfather’s industry.  It isn’t your father’s industry. Change is upon us. Change is certain.”

An Evolving Industry

Even bar and restaurant owners have noticed that the beer industry has traditionally been slow to adopt new technology. “We’re an industry that has been terribly resistant to change for probably 100 years. But we’re now ready and open for significant change,” said Carl Bruggemeier, Vice Chairman of SteadyServ and CEO of The CZH Hospitality Group. “Our inventory management systems are very lacking. In many instances, we don’t know what we have, we don’t know how much we sell, and we don’t know when we sell it. We lose sales because our customers want what we don’t have.”iKeg RFID

Currently, the bar manager heads to the refrigerator to count kegs to see how many are left. He or she lifts each keg to see how full it is—essentially making the ordering process a guessing game. Ryan Kellerman, Director of Beverage and Hospitality for Scotty’s Brewhouse, says he spends a minimum of two and a half to two hours a week, per location, taking inventory in order to place their orders. Many managers are still using a pen and paper to collect information that impacts the business’ supply. If the beer rep doesn’t get their order in time, the rep will place it for them-by guessing.

“Imagine if HP guessed at what Best Buy needed to fill its shelves on any given month without talking to the company or looking at any hard data,” said Steve Hershberger, Chairman & CEO of SteadyServ Technologies.

“On average, according to many in the industry, approximately 20% of every beer order placed is wrong. How would you feel if every Amazon order you received was wrong?”

How it Works

SteadyServ’s iKeg app completely changes how the industry does supply chain and inventory management; which benefits the bars themselves, distributors, brewers and, most importantly, us patrons.

Each keg is equipped with an RFID tag, which is attached to the keg just like a luggage tag. The tag information contains information like born on date, brewery name and delivery location. The keg also sits on top of a sensor. The sensor measures weight of the keg and how fast the weight is changing, which is a direct correlation to how much beer people are drinking. Keg information is paired with sales data, so the iKeg app knows exactly how much beer is poured and sold.

SteadyServe 2
The keg data is collected from each keg’s sensor and is aggregated by a ConnectPort Gateway. The gateway analyzes the data locally, then uses a Zigbee connection to get that data into the cloud. The iKeg application gathers information from the cloud and offers an interface that displays analytics for bar managers, distributors and eventually, patrons.

“Our whole business is built around solving problems with data,” said Joel Young, CTO of Digi International, a company that’s leading the way in Internet of Things solutions for businesses. “Who doesn’t love that this solution can optimize operational efficiencies and help people get more of their favorite beer?”

Your Favorite Tap at Your Fingertips

Not only do bars save time, money and pain in counting and lifting kegs, they’re not losing money to unhappy customers who expect their favorite drafts to be in stock. A version of the app will also become available to the public, so we can see all of the places nearby that offer our favorite brews. Maybe a Foursquare integration is in the future?

Currently, the system is in beta in the Midwest and will soon be expanding into other distributor franchises in the Midwest, South East and Western U.S. With another series of funding on the horizon, we should see the iKeg systems throughout North America within the next year.

Here’s to the Internet of Things, or the Internet of Thirst, for helping us never miss our favorite pint.

Retail Innovation Soars with Secure and Reliable Cellular Connections

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The web has raised consumers’ expectations of retail stores and transformed the purchasing process. Brick and mortar shops need to find ways to compete with the convenience offered by online shopping. Retailers are using wireless connected devices and new technology to create an interactive experience for their customers. In this video, learn how store owners are using cellular connections to make retail systems secure, reliable, and innovative.


Click here to learn more about Digi’s new cellular router, the WR11.

The New Patient Experience: Internet Connectivity Creating Healthcare Anywhere

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Last week, healthcare and technology innovators from around the United States came together to experience the future of healthcare at the Mill City Innovation & Collaboration Center (ICC), a new space created to showcase technologies, evaluate usability in simulated environments  and conduct community and practice-based research. The “Healthcare Anywhere” event focused on how healthcare providers can use information technologies, mobile applications and the Internet of Things to generate patient data for real-time monitoring creating a completely new patient experience and transforming the way patients and their healthcare providers interact. Real world, commercial-ready applications included a wearable, Internet of Things demonstration by AFrame Digital and Digi International.

AFrame and Digi came together to demo of AFrame’s MobileCare™ Monitor system, a wrist watch-like device that wirelessly communicates a user’s motion and location data to a cloud-based monitoring and alert system. The system’s capabilities include emergency call, impact detection, location tracking, along with activity and vitals tracking and trending. The solution uses ZigBee wireless technology, provided by Digi International, to connect to the network, and Device Cloud by Etherios to give providers an easy to use management portal.Health Monitoring on Tablet

The demonstration was installed in a simulated home environment to show attendees that data collection is a non-intrusive process.  AFrame Digital and Digi also demonstrated a patient app, intelligent mobile alerts and cloud-based care management tools that help seniors and patients stay safe at home, provide real-time feedback about a person’s health or well-being or give early warning when a person’s health begins to deteriorate.

“The Internet of Things paradigm is really about personalizing experiences,” said AFrame Digital’s Jill Thorpe, vice president for strategic initiatives. “Patient-generated data will influence healthcare the same way web navigation patterns and search criteria personalize consumer experiences on websites. We help healthcare providers leverage patient-generated data to personalize patient-directed content and enhance patient communication with their health care providers. Over time, combining sensor devices and patient-generated with powerful analytics and machine learning will help care providers get ahead of health problems before they become acute, enable more scalable care delivery models, and ultimately lead to better care and outcomes.”

“We believe that technology will reduce unnecessary face-to-face clinic visits, allowing physicians to see more patients and engage with their patients in new ways,” said Richard Tanler, Director of Mill City ICC. “Solutions offered by AFrame and Digi International are part of our hyper-connected world, that now includes apps for  managing our health and the health of loved ones.”

Panel Discussion

“Digi International’s products and services are used by our healthcare customers and OEMs to connect millions of devices in thousands of hospitals. The products and cloud services are being used to bridge the critical gap between healthcare information systems and a broad range of devices,” said Steve Popovich, vice president of global accounts, healthcare at Digi International. “We see new opportunities as healthcare devices become more mobile within traditional patient care facilities, for long term chronic illness monitoring and aging in place applications.”

In addition to live demos, the ICC hosted a roundtable dedicated to the topic. Panelists included representatives from Intel, Oracle, The Boston Consulting Group, and UnitedHealth Group and leaders from all local health systems represented in the audience.

The discussion included statements such as: 

“Right now, you’re collecting a lot of data and over the next few years, you’ll continue to share your behavioral footprint,” Deneen Vojta, UnitedHealth Group.

“Open data to entrepreneurs so they can create new ideas on new treatment models that will significantly open up new innovation,” Reid Oakes, Oracle.

“Reducing face to face visits by 40%. Reducing unnecessary face to face time to reduce scarcity,” Anurag Gupta, Boston Consulting Group.

“A visit starts in a different way today and in the future it could be done in a virtual space anytime anywhere at anytime,” Mark Blatt, Intel.

This event is the first of many expected at the ICC, and you can learn more about the center and upcoming events at: MillCityICC.org. The panel discussion will also be available. Stay tuned– we’ll be sharing it in the next two weeks.

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