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Digi Goes to Space

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NASA’s Robonaut is quickly becoming a valuable addition to the International Space Station(ISS) . The robot is able to perform routine maintenance tasks and dangerous operations, freeing astronauts to focus on research and make the most of their limited time.  The second-generation Robonaut(R2), is currently deployed on the ISS.   RobonautWeight

One problem still persisted with the Robonaut- wires were required for power and control. NASA reached out to Digi to help alleviate this constraint.  Using a Digi ConnectCore Wi-i.MX53 and a battery stored in its backpack, the Robonaut is now controlled over a Wi-Fi connection and all wires have been eliminated. This allows the Robonaut to be controlled by ISS crew members as well as from NASA Mission Control Center on Earth.

The ConnectCore module is already qualified for extreme industrial environments, but additional testing was needed to simulate the conditions of space. Independent testing for temperature, vibration, and shock were all performed to ensure the module could survive the trip to outer space.

The Wi-Fi connectivity brings about a number of benefits in addition to wireless control. Video can now be transmitted from the four cameras mounted on the Robonaut- two on the torso and two on the legs. Additionally, a number of  data points are logged and stored on an SD card, which can be viewed by the ISS crew and ground personnel to monitor the robot’s performance.

Going forward, NASA hopes to make more upgrades to the Robonaut that allow it to assist crew members on space walks! And take a look at the video posted below, which is a nice overview of the Robonaut project.

Bike Sharing & M2M: Digi Provides Wireless Network Solution for Tel Aviv Bike Rental, Tel-O-Fun

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Tel-O-Fun

Digi Enables Fast Communication Between All Bike Rental Terminals in Tel Aviv, Tel-O-Fun

Following the success of public bike rental systems implemented in many European cities such as Paris, Amsterdam and London, the city of Tel Aviv in Israel wanted to provide a similar rental scheme for its residents and visitors. The system, Tel-O-Fun, is initiated by FSM Ground Services Management and provides over 1,700 bikes spread over 170 docking stations in and around the city of Tel Aviv and Jaffa.

Every day, close to ten thousand journeys are made using the bike-sharing system in Tel Aviv. There is a terminal at each docking station, where users are able to purchase subscriptions, rent and return bikes. The bike can be released at, and returned to any station, at any time, all year around.

In order to identify a customer and release a bike for its use, every terminal needs to be connected to the main control center. “Every action enacted at the different terminals in the street needs approval of the main system,” explains Ofer Sela, CIO and CTO at FSM. “Communication needs to be reliable and fast in order to give the right service to the city and the scheme’s customers.”

Connecting Large Numbers of Devices with a Fast Communication Link

FSM wanted a wireless networking solution to provide the communication network for the terminals. It meant a faster solution deployment than a wired connection, and one that would not require costly roadwork involving council permits and road disruption.

The temperature in Tel Aviv goes up to 104°F in summer, with high levels of humidity from the sea. Since it could reach possible temperatures of 122°F within the terminals, Tel-O-Fun was looking for a rugged technology solution, able to withstand the humidity and high temperatures of the working environment.

While looking for companies to enable its solution, FSM contacted Orange as a network partner. As a result of the telecom company’s strong relationship with Digi as its established technology vendor, FSM decided to evaluate the Digi product range for a suitable solution.

A 3G Connection with Digi’s ConnectPort

After testing different connectivity solutions, FSM chose Digi’s ConnectPort for its solution, as the range has multiple Ethernet ports to support terminal functionality. The routers are also fully PCI-DSS Compliant – crucial as the terminals process payments from the bike users.

The ruggedness of the Digi router was another crucial factor in the decision– FSM needed a durable solution for the field.

“Tel Aviv is by the sea and even the harsh conditions of the city, such as the heat, rust and humidity, are not a problem for Digi’s routers,” said Ofer Sela.

 A Solution with Possibilities for the Future

“I have been very positive about the results Digi delivers,” said Ofer Sela. “We are also confident that the hardware will support future potential features of the bike rental system. For example, we hope to add Voice Over IP customer support to the terminals so customers can interact directly via voice and video to customer support staff.”

After the solution’s great success in Tel Aviv, FSM is planning to expand Tel-O-Fun to other cities in Israel, and even to other countries. “We will definitely use Digi’s equipment again since there have been no issues with connectivity, nor the Digi equipment in the field. The solution is always working, and working well,” concluded Ofer Sela.

Digi Helps Wildlife Research Institute Study Bear Hibernation with Remote Monitoring Solution

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The business of connecting machines may seem as far from nature as you can get. But, this remote monitoring system is a great reminder that machines are incredible tools we can use to learn more about the things we care about– in this case, bears.

Digi developed a remote monitoring solution for the Wildlife Research Institute (WRI) that allows the Institute to monitor bears in their dens during hibernation. One particular bear, Lily, has hibernated deep in the Minnesota woods where there is no access to landline Internet service. To establish a camera uplink to Lily’s remote den, WRI is using the Digi TransPort WR21 wireless router which provides a high-speed Internet connection over Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network.

“We are allowing the Wildlife Research Institute to gain valuable insights into the activity of bears during hibernation by establishing a 4G connection in the wilderness,” said Joel Young, senior vice president of research and development and CTO of Digi International. “We have connected hundreds of thousands of remote devices throughout the world, and this application is a great example of how technology can be used to take control of widely-deployed assets.”

Using the video uplink, researchers could see how Lily prepared for birth during hibernation and how she reacted to the cubs just after birth. A second camera was also installed outside of Lily’s den that records activity near the den during warmer months.

Digi also helped the WRI connect scales that detect when a bear is present in the den. When the bear steps on the scale, weight is recorded and the sensors trigger the camera to begin recording. 

“It’s incredible that with a small amount of money and effort, these low-tech devices have been made smart just by adding connectivity,” said Jim Stroner, a research program volunteer and special products development manager with Digi International. “This application is a great example of how connected devices can impact society, and we are extremely pleased to be a part of this exciting and valuable research.”

Jim’s photo of Lily even won the 2013 Winter Nature Photo Contest and was featured on Science Friday. You can see all of Jim’s photos on his website, StronerWildlife.com.

You can also read Verizon’s post on the system here.

Now, we ask you– if you could remotely monitor anything what would it be?

Wireless Sensor Networks For Industrial Automation via SourceTech411

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Wireless Sensor Network (Credit – iShare)

SourceTech411 published a great post on wireless sensor networks for industrial automation. Digi has created many end-to-end solutions for the industries SourceTech mentions below. These solutions have saved time and money by creating operational efficiencies and, in many cases, the solutions create new revenue streams all together. SourceTech’s post is a great overview or introduction to the industrial internet.

 

Wireless Sensor Networks (WSN) for industrial automation and applications are becoming more prevalent in most industrial industry segments.

Mature industries such as Refineries (Oil and Gas), Water (Waste Treatment and Delivery) and Energy (Electrical Generation, Natural Gas Distribution) have migrated from wired to wireless sensor networks over the past decades to take advantage of the cost benefits and infrastructure advancements. New industries in Healthcare, Hospitals and Green Energy are implementing wireless sensor networks and arrays in novel applications.

Digi International is unique in the list above in that they provide a complete end-to-end solution which includes the nodes, wireless transceivers, routers and gateways, and a cloud service to monitor the wireless sensor network. They can also incorporate sensors and nodes from other vendors to create a completely inter-operable system.

Read the Full Article on SourceTech411

 

Digi and the Intel Intelligent Systems Framework

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Digi International is utilizing the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework to deploy a wider set of solutions with contributions from the Intel ecosystem to help solve business problems and tap into a much larger market. Joel Young, senior vice president of research and development and CTO of Digi, describes why we are supporting the framework and the advantages of developing with common standards for manageability and interoperability.

video via Intel

Big Data Tip: Don’t Save Everything via InformationWeek

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Big data is all about gaining insights from very large and diverse volumes of information. But often organizations make the mistake of trying to collect every bit of data that’s available to them, no matter how inconsequential.

This record-it-all approach is a waste of resources and money. A smarter solution is to decide beforehand what data is essential to your operation, and then take the necessary steps to collect, process, filter, and analyze it, says Joel Young, senior VP of research and development and CTO of Digi International, a machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions provider.

Founded in 1985, Digi International has evolved from a supplier of multi-port serial adapter cards for servers to a cloud platform for connecting devices. The company’s cloud-based iDigi product, for instance, allows organizations to connect and manage device networks.

In a phone interview with InformationWeek, Young said that companies are often overwhelmed by big data, particularly if they lack a clear definition of how they want to use it. Machine-to-machine communications, which may involve hundreds, if not thousands, of devices spread across a wide geographic area, can exacerbate this problem. “When you have a device that’s sending information every second or minute, and you have a hundred thousand of these, you get a lot of data very quickly,” said Young.

Some companies aren’t confused by big data because they have a clear idea of what they want to do, and how they want to do it. “Others are lost,” Young said.

To avoid the problem of having too much data — much of which an organization may never analyze — some big data soul searching is in order. “What problem are you trying to solve? You’ve got all this data, what do you want to do?” asked Young rhetorically. “A lot of times there’s a whole lot of data you may not even need.”

Once a company identifies the business problem it wants to solve, it can decide which data it needs, and establish rules for gathering that information. “One of the biggest problems I’ve found with big data is that people record way, way more than they need to,” said Young.

A vending company that Digi International worked with recently had a big data problem with its old coin-operated vending machines. The firm had two major issues with its vending hardware, which totaled about 50,000 machines, many deployed in remote locations.

Read the full article by Jeff Bertolucci on InformationWeek

Digi sees a future in linking machines via StarTribune Business

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Digi International has made money for 39 straight quarters — so, of course, it’s reinventing itself.

The Minnetonka-based company sells electronic hardware used to connect machines. While that sounds a lot like the “DigiBoard” serial port products of the distant past, Digi today bills itself as “Your M2M Solutions Expert.”

Unpack that tag line — and Digi’s use of “Solutions” tells you what has changed.

For years, Digi was a product company, in the business of selling products primarily through distributors and mostly to engineering managers at its customers. That’s who made Digi products into a solution.

Now Digi is ramping up efforts to sell an end-to-end solution, working closely with end users to make the data coming from machines something they can actually use.

“M2M,” the other part of that tag line, is shorthand for “machine to machine,” and that is one big opportunity. It’s the technology that takes data from something as commonplace as a convenience store air pump and then routes it through a network and into the hands of a business decision maker.

Last week General Electric Co. made a splash by releasing a white paper predicting massive productivity gains in the coming “Industrial Internet” of connecting to spinning jet engines or a GE freezer. GE’s was just one of a number of recent papers to point to a booming potential market for M2M products and services to create this “Internet of things.”

It’s still early to know how this turns out for Digi shareholders, but it’s how well-managed companies continually reinvent themselves even if they are making money.

“Yes, it’s a company in the middle of a transition, but a transition that began about a decade ago,” said Tavis McCourt, an analyst with Raymond James & Associates. “It is a very slow and deliberate transition. They have not gotten rid of good cash flow businesses or overinvested in growth businesses.”

Joe Dunsmore came to the company as CEO in October 1999, and the story he told was one of first stabilizing the company and then looking for growth within Digi’s traditional distribution channels.

In the middle of the last decade, Digi began its move to wireless with a product approach called “drop in networking,” devices used to connect where wires were impractical. This initiative was a bit of a test, Dunsmore said, as “we fundamentally did not know where the adoption [of this technology] would take.”

But the emerging market of M2M was becoming clearer, and McCourt said this whole time Digi was generating cash flow from its core business to pay for the “very broad-based set of technology assets” needed for a broader M2M strategy, like buying a wireless technology design shop in 2008 with more than 30 engineers.

It also introduced iDigi cloud services to make it easy to bring data from machines to one accessible spot and to build applications to use the data.

To really get going in solutions, Digi needed the capability to sit down with end users and work through the business process changes enabled by connected machines. That’s the solution, and it meant adding people to do that.

That led to Digi recently acquiring Etherios Inc., a small Chicago reseller and consulting firm working with Salesforce.com. Buying a reseller may seem like a curious move even for a hardware producer in transition to solutions, but Salesforce.com has turned itself into a very large provider of cloud-based applications, including for customer service.

The Salesforce vision is of customers’ employees all connected to a social network that includes suppliers and customers. And, apparently, machines like coin-operated convenience store air pumps.

That’s the part that interests Dunsmore. Now preventive maintenance, adjustments to the pump’s performance, firmware updates, coin pickups and a host of other things can be easily executed.

Dunsmore said “machines have feelings, too,” meaning they will tell you how they are doing if you are set up to listen. So here is the future: A district store manager gets a Facebook-like status update from the compressor on one of his food freezers, something like “I am tired, I think I may fail in the next 48 hours.”

Read the Full Article on StarTribune

EVE Project Connects XBee to Open Source IoT

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The EVE project, from Ciseco out of Nottingham, United Kingdom is a plug in board for the new Raspberry Pi mini computer. The hardware and software together will create a server for connecting various wireless device protocols to a single point. It features an XBee socket for connections to ZigBee, ZigBee Smart Energy, 802.15.4, WiFi, long-range 900 MHz, DigiMesh and 868 MHz radios.

The Raspberry Pi EVE board is the reference hardware for the IoT Toolkit gateway. It’s a work in progress, and is currently raising funding for development on Kickstarter. Presently they are more than 2/3 of the way to their goal, with time to spare. Cisesco’s Miles Hodkinson and I spoke jut the other day about the project and the possibilities for talking to a Raspberry Pi that’s 28 miles away with the new XBee-PRO 900HP. Sound interesting? You can help fund EVE.

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