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Illinois Institute of Technology Students Bring Connected Solutions to Life with XBee

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Urban gardens that send text alerts when vegetables are ready, autonomous drones, solar powered mesh networks—these innovations aren’t just ideas, they’re real projects that students at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) created in less than eight weeks.

The Interprofessional Projects Program (IPRO) at IIT gives students the opportunity to work with teams across multiple disciplines to bring ideas to life.

“The IPRO program prepares students for the practical challenges they will face in a changing workplace—emulating a cross-functional team.” The program aims to give students hands on experience and create real solutions for the complex issues. 

Students from IIT’s programs including engineering, science, business, law, psychology, design and architecture complete nearly 90 projects via IPRO every year.

Jeremy Hajek, a professor at IIT has students learn about and work with XBee. First his class reads Building Wireless Sensor Networks by Digi’s Chief Innovation Officer, Rob Faludi. Then, they bring their own connected ideas to life.

One group used Digi’s XBee and Arduino to power a solar power mesh network.

“XBees are radio modules that communicate to each other, being able to be set up any topology including point-to-point, star and mesh, and can go much further than Bluetooth. The router and endpoint collect data and send it to the coordinator, which is in charge of all of the data that passes in its network. XBees are useful to a bunch of purposes, we used them not only for monitoring temperature data and displaying it on the monitor, but also uploading this new data on a web server.”

Just like we hear XBee customers say so often, the students mentioned that they selected the XBee because it’s cost effective and easy to use. “It just does exactly what we need it to do,” one of the students said.

To take the project a step further, another group created an Android and Google Glass app to display the data collected by the network. The team pointed out how this could be used by maintenance professionals, landlords and building operators to truly keep their finger on the pulse of facilities.

Digi customers are in fact using XBees to collect and access data to better businesses today.

Similar to some of the solutions that students put together for urban agriculture, DigiBale created a foundational communications system in the form of a “Farm Automation Starter Kit” that can be used to collect data for agriculture processes.

The kit includes ConnectPort X2 Gateway, three Digi XBee-PRO 900HP modules, a subscription to Device Cloud and a smartphone application. Its an ideal setup for creating a mid-sized mesh network that provides accurate soil moisture measurements and converts two electrical devices into automated and remotely managed devices. It enables farmers and growers to setup a system with simple scheduling and activation configuration to devices and access to statistics and activity history of all sensors and devices.

RMONI too, selected XBee due to its ease of use. “We’re not RF experts. We don’t want to worry about the RF design, so it was very convenient to source XBee and get the support of Digi’s partners and resellers to get to market quickly,” said Bart Meekers, CEO, RMONI.

RMONI uses the XBee to track the environment around food and medication while it’s in transit and on store shelves. This helps to ensure safety and quality. Even the slightest increase in temperature while handling the products can lead to deterioration, invalid results and considerable loss in revenue, so this is a vital application.

Schréder created Owlet, a solution that uses mesh networking for intelligent street lights. Each light is equipped with a high performance LED array and a XBee ZigBee module. The XBee modules enable groups of lights to form a ZigBee mesh network, which connects to a cellular WAN—a Digi ConnectPort X4 cellular gateway.

Innovators, whether they’re some of Digi’s bigger XBee customers or students, agree that XBee is the most easy and to-the-point way to add wireless communication to a solution.

Off-the-Shelf Components Connect NASA Wireless Experiment

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Did you know NASA’s XBee network that was deployed 200 miles above Earth was constructed completely out of off-the-shelf components?

As part of a NASA initiative to efficiently experiment with new ideas and technologies, the development team created their entire network out of commercial off-the-shelf components.  Using devices like Arduino and XBee, the engineering team was able to create a network to reliably gather critical data on Exo-Brake technology.


An Arduino Mega processed data and acted as the gateway’s engine, which connected the local XBee network to the long-range Iridium satellite uplink. As seen in the diagram above, the gateway was placed within the payload of the Exo-Brake and gathered sensor data from three XBees-3-axis acceleration, temperature and pressure. Data was then sent back down to mission control for analysis.

You can read more about the launch at these links:

Digi’s Golden Birthday: Celebrating 30 Years of Connected Technology

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Today marks Digi’s golden birthday! Over the last 30 years, a lot has changed and more is on the way, so for a little fun, we decided to take a look back at Digi’s history. When was XBee invented? When did the Digi diamond logo come into existence? All those answers and more are below. Here’s to 30 more years!


Customer Showcase: Wireless for Today’s Connected City

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Every day Digi works with customers around the world to deploy connected solutions that businesses rely on. From the ability to monitor device health to using data to make more informed decisions-connected devices are modernizing business operations. Here are a few of the many companies we are proud to work with.

EMTEST | Public Transitcss-featured-emtest (1)
As city populations continue to grow and public transportation demand rises, public transit agencies are finding innovative ways to handle the influx of passengers. Implementing wireless technology at ticketing kiosks and on-board displays helps streamline operations while also helping to improve the overall rider experience.

EMTest, a technology solution provider for transportation, uses the ConnectCore® 6 as the engine that powers its Emlines system. The ConnectCore 6, based on Freescale’s i.MX 6 applications processor, is a compact module that provides engineers all of the features necessary to build unique wireless applications.

EMTest gives transit operators the ability to facilitate ticket sales more efficiently, optimize vehicle routes—and it provides passenger Wi-Fi. With the fare collection system tied into the rest of the operations team, riders are provided with information such as next stop, travel times, and transfer information. The data collected is also essential for more efficient fleet management.

Owlet Nightshift by Schreder | Connected LightingRoundabout at twilight
As cities deploy LED street lights to cut energy costs, they’re also turning to wireless technology for data collection and remote monitoring for their street lighting.

Utilizing Digi wireless technology, Schréder developed the Owlet lighting solution, which enables cities to retrofit out-of-date lighting infrastructure with long lasting intelligent technology. Within each light is an LED array along with a Digi XBee ZigBee module. The XBee radios create ZigBee mesh network-connecting all of the city’s street lights wirelessly. Data from each light is then sent to a single point, a cellular XBee Gateway, which then  connects to a cellular network.

The XBee Gateway allows the city to monitor and control lighting with Owlet’s web-based management tools. Also, municipalities don’t have to wait for a citizen to report an outage or check lights via scheduled inspections. The lights themselves can tell the city when they need to be serviced or replaced.

AddÉnergie | Electric Vehicle Chargingcss-inline-addenergie
Electric vehicles are a rapidly growing market, and with it, so has the need for charging. AddEnergie specializes in providing charging station networks for electric vehicles. The company provides the charging infrastructure for both the Electric Circuit and the VERnetwork™, the two largest charging networks in Canada.

AddEnergie uses XBee modules to connect stations throughout entire parking lots and a single gateway is used at each lot to enable cloud connectivity. In addition to relying on Digi wireless technology, AddEnergie uses the ConnectCard i.MX 28 as the brains of their system.

The system includes proprietary software, PowerSharing™ and PowerLimiting™, which interface with Digi products and notify the charging stations when energy should be lowered to help reduce costs.

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

XBee Takes Flight at NASA Wallops Flight Facility

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You may remember this post from last year sharing the upcoming NASA experiment involving XBee. Well, after a few delays (launching rockets is complicated!), XBee finally took flight. XBee-Launch-Space

Early in the morning on July 7, NASA launched a NASA Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket from their Wallops Flight Facility. Onboard the rocket was an experiment testing Exo-Brake technology. XBee was used to collect sensor data including temperature, air pressure, and 3-axis acceleration parameters.

NASA is considering Exo-brakes as a possible solution for returning cargo from the International Space Station (ISS), orbiting platforms or as possible landing mechanisms in low-density atmospheres. This was one of many tests used to analyze its effectiveness, but the first to incorporate an XBee connected sensor network. If you would like to read more about the Exo-brake, check out this article.

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We’ll have more coverage coming soon including video interviews with the engineers involved. In the meantime, you can learn more about the experiment in the articles linked below:

NASA’s Official Announcement on the Launch

Wireless-in-Space: How NASA Testing is One Small Step for Planetary Internet | Wireless Design Mag

IoT Tech Goes to Space with NASA | IoT Evolution

Have any questions about the launch or the technology involved in the experiment? You can reach us on Twitter at @XBeeWireless or comment below.

Digi Employee Hackathon: Lindon Edition v2

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Another Digi employee hackathon has come to a close! Rob paid a visit to our team out in Utah to hold a hackathon with Digi’s development staff. This continues what has become a tradition at Digi over the last couple years.

Each event has led to the creation of a number of product improvements and other fun and whimsical projects. Another important benefit is that it gives everyone a chance to collaborate with those they don’t normally work with on a day-to-day basis.

Here’s a look at the winning project.

AT Command Database
The winners of our recent hackathon created an incredibly useful tool for both developers inside our company and for our customers. The team’s final prototype is a new centralized system for managing XBee, XTend and our other radios’ AT command info across our entire wireless product line. Digi’s wireless products use these AT commands to manage setup, networking, security, sensors, actuators, battery use, diagnostics and many more functions.

There are hundred of useful commands that need to be managed, tested and shared between our products, libraries, software and documentation. In addition, the commands are implemented by our partners in third-party products and tools. Changes, updates and corrections to the commands need to be kept in sync across all these implementations, and absolute accuracy is essential.


Prior to Team AT-DB’s creation, the process for maintaining up-to-date AT command information involved lots of coordination and double-checking. We also needed a more efficient way to accurately process updates when changes occur, and share these with our partners and customers. Each command has a specific syntax, description, parameters and defaults. Certain commands must be implemented differently for different protocols. Details matter!

Here are the main benefits the group demonstrated with their new prototype:

  • The ability to audit radio descriptors and test firmware updates against a single, authoritative source.
  • Automatic synchronization services for Digi software like XCTU, and also for third-party software development partners.
  • Electronic documentation support functions and enhanced support for automated testing.
  • A user friendly front end interface that can be enhanced as new use cases arise.

Hackathons keep us creative and excited about our work as it’s an opportunity to try out new ideas. Successful prototypes like this one inspire and help implement the innovative systems necessary to making and maintaining Digi’s mission-critical products.

Check out this page to see other projects and ideas developed at past Digi Hackathons.

Introducing the Official XBee Library for mbed

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The mbed platform is a popular tool for engineers developing new Internet of Things devices. It is both a platform and operating system for internet-connected devices based on 32-bit ARM Cortex-M microcontrollers. ARM mbed provides rapid development, ease of use, efficiency, security features, and support for a wide range of add-on components including Digi’s wireless solutions. Our team of XBee experts has created a special library to easily connect mbed projects using XBee radios.mbed_logo

The new library supports XBee 802.15.4 and XBee ZigBee modules so developers are able to create simple point-to-point projects or complex mesh networks for their devices. On the mbed website you can find detailed instructions on how to implement the library into your mbed device.

We have also included ready to use examples so you can get started quickly. Click here to access the mbed XBee library.


In addition to the mbed library we have two other official software libraries for XBee development:

There are also a slew of third party libraries created by the XBee community:

For for more information on mbed, you can visit their site. Have any questions about the XBee library itself? Just shoot us a message at @XBeeWireless or comment below.

Look What I Made: XBee Project Gallery Update

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We come across amazing XBee projects every day, so we wanted to remind you that we’re constantly updating the XBee Project Gallery. Here are just a few of the latest additions.


With the help of XBee technology, Chris James of the R2 Builders Club has created compact hand held remotes that control a workable R2-D2 robot. The remotes give the user control of servos, motors, sound playback and more. R2-D2 is finally a reality. May the force be with you.

GPS Trackers
Damon Williams, a sergeant for the Texas State Guard individually created 30 GPS trackers with the XBee-PRO 900HP and the help of Google Maps. The XBee technology allows him to track the whereabouts of his fellow soldiers during a natural disaster. Amidst the noise, weather conditions, working environment, and limited cellular coverage there aren’t too many options to keep in touch with his soldiers. Therefore, his innovation has helped him to communicate with his soldiers and relay potentially life saving information to them.

Taylor Swift LED Dress
During Taylor Swift’s her 1989 world tour she has been spotted wearing a dress with flashing Adafruit’s Neopixel LED lights controlled with XBee. With the help of James Devito, the designer of the dress, she will continue to wear this dress for the rest of her tour as she performs for millions of fans around the globe.

Do you have an XBee project you would like featured in the XBee Project Gallery? You can submit your own or someone else’s project here.