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Are You Ready for an LTE World?

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M2M applications have thrived using 2G, which offers low-cost certifications and modems and delivers single antennas. Faster 3G still offers single antenna options for simplicity and economy. Yet, now as both are gradually phased out, we live in an increasingly LTE world.

What does this portend for M2M applications that link via cellular networks? LTE is faster than 2G and 3G and, consequently, generally requires more expensive modems, certifications, and dual antennas. What about small devices like sensors whose implementations are viable because of their low cost?

In this white paper, M2M In An LTE World, you’ll discover that the future looks bright for M2M devices of all sizes in an LTE world.

The reason: the release of Cat M, a new LTE standard optimized for M2M devices. Cat M relies on single antennas and runs on the smallest, lowest cost and power LTE modems. In M2M In An LTE World, you’ll understand why LTE Cat M will be a boon for low-end M2M communications.

Get the whitepaper >>

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Solar Power Continues to Provide Electricity to Rural Residents in Africa

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Devergy Logo 300pxIn a previous blog post, we shared Devergy and the work they’re doing to connect underserved areas to reliable and affordable electricity. The company was founded in 2012 and has quickly grown a customer base that loves their affordable and clean energy solution.

In short, Devergy is installing solar grids to power remote villages in Tanzania. The solution involves XBee to connect the entire grid to measure energy consumption, enable remote monitoring, and through an XBee gateway, connect to the global cellular network. Access to solar energy allows residents to stop spending significant amounts of money on kerosene for lighting, phone charging and dry-cell batteries for radios. And, saving money isn’t the only benefit, the solar electricity improves air quality and provides businesses the opportunity to operate for longer hours.

We last checked in with Devergy two years ago and since then, they’ve continued to find success and grow a sustainable business. They acquired funding from Acumen, OPES Impact Fund and HERi Africa which is crucial to fund their expanding operations. And, their customer base is growing with new villages in Tanzania. Currently, the Devergy solar solution is operating in 12 villages: six in the region of Mbeya (with expansion happening daily), five villages in the Morogoro region, and Matipwili (the first village).

The team is growing too! The full-time staff has quadrupled since 2012, and they are constantly hiring in the villages to help with sales, installations, and maintain a close relationship with the communities they serve. By the end of 2016, the plan is to have 7,000 households connected!

To get more technical details on how wireless technology like XBee is helping Devergy provide energy across Tanzania, read their customer story here. To learn more about the Devergy mission, click here and visit their website!

A Comparison of LPWAN Technologies

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The rise of connected devices has placed an emphasis on low power wireless communication. Like we outlined in our previous post about LTE categories, the need for connecting simple devices like sensors and actuators is rapidly increasing. You’ll typically hear these types of technologies referred to as Low-Power Wide-Area Networking or LPWAN.sigfox-logo

These technologies are all intended for use to connect low cost, low power, and low bandwidth devices, but there are some subtle differences which we share in this post.

SIGFOX
SIGFOX is suited best for the lowest bandwidth applications with extremely tight energy budgets. What’s unique to SIGFOX is that it is an entirely separate network for IoT devices. Currently the infrastructure is up and running in Western Europe and San Francisco with pilot programs in South America and Asia in progress. It’s an open standard operating over the sub-GHz frequency bands (868 MHz in Europe and 900 MHz in USA) and any radio provider can use it.Logo-LoRa-300x185

LoRa Technology
LoRa is a technology developed by the chip manufacturer, Semtech. It offers fairly decent bandwidth compared to other LPWAN tech. Since it requires the use of Semtech’s chip, it’s not considered an open standard. LoRa has received traction in the European markets and there are a number of deployments today. 

NB IoT
The requirements of NB IoT have just been finalized as of early 2016. This new narrowband radio technology provides an appropriate LTE category for low-bandwidth IoT devices. It leverages the existing infrastructure of LTE and GSM network providers to facilitate low bandwidth communications for IoT devices.logo-Transparent

LTE-M
LTE-M is part of Release 13 of the 3GPP standard, to lower power consumption, reduce device complexity/cost, and provide deeper coverage to reach challenging locations (e.g., deep inside buildings). This standard will improve upon NB IoT in terms of bandwidth. It also boasts the highest security of LPWAN technologies.

Digi CTO Joel Young takes a closer look at how these LPWAN technologies compare:

 

Starbucks and Other Retail Outlets Offer Wireless Phone Charging with Digi Technology

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As everyday life becomes more and more dependent on smartphone usage, always ensuring that your battery is charged has become a necessity. Powermat provides wireless charging stations that offer convenience and security. Instead of crowding the lone wall with an outlet at Starbucks or always bringing your charger with you, Powermat provides an easy alternative. Powermat’s App even warns users when their battery is low and notifies them of the nearest charging station.

Powermat needed a technology partner with wireless expertise that could help them to connect thousands of networks distributed around the world and enable to administer them across their global network. Additionally, Powermat needed to integrate all that data into the end-user application. They sought a simple solution which would provide a secure connection to the cloud and data integration for partner businesses to connect with customers through the app.

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Each wireless charging station is embedded in tabletops and connected on-site with ZigBee Technology. The ZigBee technology makes the network simple and easy to deploy. It enables integration of data which allows users to find charging stations and enables businesses to offer targeted ads via the Powermat App.

ZigBee offers cost-effective local wireless communication on a massive scale. To enable the global network Digi created a custom SKU of the XBee Gateway. The new variant ships with the Powermat logo, additional security features, and Powermat’s custom Python application. Powermat is now the fastest growing wireless charging network in the world. They’re featured in many businesses such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, Dupont, and General Motors. And they can be found in cities across the globe such as London, New York, and San Francisco.

Read the full story on how Powermat powers phones around the globe with Digi here >>

Digi Employee Hackathon: Cloudy with a Chance of Hacks

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It’s been a while but we’re back with another Digi hackathon! Digi Chief Innovator, Rob Faludi, traveled down to our Rochester office to see what projects our Device Cloud developers could bring to life. The teams explored ways to expand Device Cloud’s capabilities, get hands-on with XBee connected sensors, and have fun doin’ it! Here’s a quick look at the projects created.

Team PB&J: Working with XBee Connected Sensors
For the parents out there, you might want to listen up. This project transformed a motion sensor into a complete system capable of tracking childrens’ mischievous late evening/early morning adventures. The infrared (IR) sensor detects distance and is placed in such a way that if a child gets up and out of bed at night, the parents can be alerted and take proper action.

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The IR sensor was installed on the child’s bedroom doorway so it can determine if the child leaves the room. To enable wireless connectivity, the sensor is connected to an XBee module and connects to Digi Device Cloud through an XBee Gateway. Within Device Cloud, the team configured a data condition alarm which fires when movement is detected. Once the alarm fires based on the set data point, an SMS is sent to the parents’ mobile device and the necessary actions follow.

Team Lizard: Device Cloud Improvements
In this post we’ll only skim the surface of the enhancements the team made to the Digi Device Cloud platform. The primary change they made to Device Cloud was how the platform handles monitors. Monitors are a way for Device Cloud customers to be notified when events or changes occur on Device Cloud. This could be a newly provisioned device, data uploaded to a data stream, changes to device configurations, etc.. These are all considered “events.”

When a server generates an event, the event is saved in Cassandra and forwarded to the Device Cloud server with the customer’s monitor. The event is sent along to a customer’s monitor application.

The team wrote a simple bit of code to enable customer’s to monitor for only truly exceptional events. These changes bring performance improvements to Device Cloud since servers detecting events can filter prior to saving or sending the event through the cluster.

Quiet Hours for alarm notifications is another feature they built into Device Cloud. There are certain use cases when customers want to be made aware of triggered Device Cloud alarms immediately but only at certain hours of the day. The team made a simple addition to the alarms configuration menu allowing customers to easily set their “quiet hours.”

Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 11.55.30 AM

 

In addition to making the Device Cloud platform better, faster, stronger, Team Lizard had time to spare and created an iOS application. The primary focus of the mobile application is to make adding devices into accounts a more streamlined process. With just a smartphone, users can scan a label on the device and it is securely added into the user’s account.

We’ve assembled a few images to give you an idea of what the application would look like:

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Team Bald Monk: ELK Evaluationlogo-elastic
ELK (Elasticsearch, Logstash, and Kibana) is a collection of open source projects and a comprehensive tool for analyzing and visualizing large amounts of data. It’s a turned into a popular industry solution for log aggregation. Team Bald Monk took the tool for a test drive to explore how it could function within the Digi Device Cloud environment.

The goal of this event was to give everyone an opportunity to work on an idea they’ve had kicking around for a while whether it be an improvement to a Digi product or just gaining experience with a new technology. Hackathons offer valuable time to explore what’s out there and provide inspiration for innovative ideas.

Click here to view our entire archive of Digi Employee Hackathons!

 

IER Shares 100% Electric Vehicles During COP21

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IER, a subsidiary of Bolloré Group-one, is a French industrial designer seeking to build solutions that improve the flow of goods and people worldwide. Working in the electric vehicle market, IER is a major contributor of intelligent and connected charging solutions. IER possesses the expertise to provide charging infrastructure for electric cars for individuals, companies, public and private parking facilities, car sharing services, and urban public transit.

In anticipation of the COP21, a Paris-held climate conference targeted at limiting global warming, IER decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to showcase their technology. Attendees of the conference would be riding small buses to get around to different parts of the conference. IER’s six-meter long Bluebus can carry 22 people and drive 120km in a full day of use.

ier-inline-photo

With limited time, IER needed to take a modular approach to the problem. They needed one base controller board that could be used both in the telemetry box and in the charging station controller. IER’s Bluebus as well as the charging stations were fitted with Digi’s ConnectCore 6. The module provides communication (wi-fi, Bluetooth, a.o) to charging stations and the outside world. The module provides for easy production and integration.

With IER’s modular approach and the ConnectCore 6, IER was able to quickly reduce cost to their current systems and position themselves for future growth and expansion. The Bluebus, now a 12-meter model, has now been introduced to the public on the Champ-de-Mars and is at the forefront of a Parisian plan to eliminate diesel buses in Ile-de-France by 2025.

Read the full story IER story here >>

The Evolution of LTE for IoT and M2M Devices

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When you hear LTE you probably start thinking of fast speed, high bandwidth, HD video, your favorite apps…lots of data. But, LTE can also be dialed back to create power-efficient cellular connected devices. This is a useful solution for connecting IoT devices like sensors and actuators to the Internet since they don’t transmit lots of data and operate under strict energy budgets.

Did you know there’s more than one type of LTE?

Within LTE there are multiple categories as defined by the global cellular standards body, 3GPP. Some of the categories are still in the process of being developed but one thing is clear, there will be split in the evolution of LTE. In one direction, LTE will continue to increase speed and bandwidth for smartphones and other data-hungry applications.  In the other direction, we’ll see cellular providers accommodating machine-to-machine communication with LTE designed for low power, low data, and low cost.

In the video below, Digi CTO, Joel Young, provides an in-depth look into how LTE technologies are evolving to accommodate the various needs of cellular connected devices.

We’re still in the early days of LTE for machines, but more advancements in LTE for M2M/IoT are on the horizon. Check out our technical brief “M2M in an LTE World,”  for more details on how these LTE categories differ and what it means for M2M/IoT product designs.

Enlight Teams with Digi to Create Smarter, Safer, and More Cost-Efficient Lighting Environments

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For ten years, Portugal-based Enlight has been working to meet ever-increasing municipal demands for higher levels of control, monitoring, and energy-efficiency. Enlight designs and deploys sophisticated urban lighting systems around the world.

EnlightAmong the highest areas of demand for cities are their networks of thousands of street lights deployed throughout the urban landscape. For cities, street lighting can cause maintenance headaches, safety concerns, and become surprisingly expensive. Increasingly, cities are turning to external partners to handle city lighting. Enlight saw the opportunity to provide smart solutions for monitoring, energy control, and maintenance.

Today, Enlight devices meter all electrical parameters of a light and they can send notifications about burned-out bulbs and other maintenance issues. To enable monitoring and control they built their own network and created a smartphone app. The Enlight engineering team worked with Digi’s API framework. It was a fast and easy solution which enabled communication for all their smart lighting devices.

Enlight’s street lights contain a smart device that controls light. It communicates through a mesh network to a local control box on that street. At the control box, Digi’s cellular gateway manages all the street lighting groups assigned to it using programmed instructions from a centralized operations center. This enables remote control, monitoring, and large-scale data collection for lighting systems in municipalities around the globe.

Read the full story and see a video that gives a tour of Enlight’s control box >>

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