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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 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. 

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 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.


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.”

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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.


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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The Future of Mesh Networking: XBee Thread Demonstration

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Digi is hard at work developing the next-generation XBee module based on the Silicon Labs EM3587 chip, which will support the new IoT protocol, Thread. Due to Thread’s unique advantages like easy commissioning and robust mesh capabilities, the new module will be a valuable addition to the XBee ecosystem. With that in mind, we thought you might want to get a behind-the-scenes look at what we’re doing with this new technology.

Our development team out in Lindon, Utah created this informative demonstration showing a network comprised of both Thread and ZigBee devices and how they can all be controlled via a mobile application.

This is just step one in our development process so stay tuned for updates. Check out these resources to learn more about Thread:

And, if you have any Thread-related questions shoot as a tweet at @digidotcom or @XBeeWireless. You can also visit the official Thread website for more information.

Digi Goes to Nuremberg for Embedded World 2016

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At last week’s Embedded World, we made two exciting announcements. First off, this summer we’ll begin shipping the ConnectCore 6UL development kits. This tiny module, based on the NXP i.MX6UL processor, is just 29mm x 29mm. The CC6UL’s low-power consumption combined with high performance and easy wireless integration will make the module a true game-changer in the Industrial IoT space. More info on the ConnectCore 6UL module is available here.

cc6ul-dimensionsWe also announced a new XBee module in order to support the emerging wireless protocol, Thread. The module will be made available this spring and allow our customers to start designing and testing Thread networks. Thread is an exciting new wireless standard created to improve network reliability, security and power efficiency. We are extremely excited about this new member to the XBee family. Click here to read more about Thread.

Customer Demos
In our booth, we shared the numerous ways our customers are using Digi embedded technology today. Featuring the ConnectCore 6 module, we had our customers Fraser Nash and Furuno on display. Fraser Nash builds zero-emissions taxi cabs for the city of London, while Furuno provides a next-generation platform for commercial marine navigation. Watch the video below to see the Furuno demo in action.

Another fun demo we had was the Parallax ELEV-8 Quadcopter. The quadcopter is equipped with an XBee based telemetry system. Along with the quadcopter, Parallax provides free software to graphically view data from the device such as battery voltage, pitch, orientation, throttle position, and much more. Attendees could power up the quadcopter, pick it up, adjust the throttle, and see all of the telemetry data streaming live on a laptop.


Digi Partners
As we explored the show floor we found an awesome IoT demo in the Digi-Key Electronics booth. It was a wireless sensor network application featuring XBee, Nimbelink cellular module, BeagleBone board, and the Exosite cloud platform. This was truly an end-to-end IoT solution from sensor to cloud.

And just 5 steps away from that end-to-end IoT demo was a wireless charging demo which used XBee to send display information and charging status data between the two devices.

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Our partner, Mouser, held a development tool giveaway at their booth and one of the prizes was an XBee Wireless Connectivity Kit. Klaus Peitzch was one of the XBee kit winners and he has already started putting it to use! Check out his blog post where he shows how to get started with XBee enabled wireless communications.

img_0370Thanks to everyone that stopped by at Embedded World. It was a valuable show for us and we enjoyed connecting with our partners and customers from around the world!

Here are more links sharing the Digi happenings at Embedded World:

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