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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.

monitor_combination

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.

 

R2-D2
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.

A Better Way to Build Your Next Project: XBee Hardware Tools

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The open source movement and strong maker community has led to the creation of a number platforms that give developers a quick and efficient way to create a proof of concept, prototype, or even a final product. Here a few especially handy hardware platforms for developing XBee projects that we think you might find helpful.

Waspmote
The Waspmote is a sensor mote that gives developers a simple way to create wireless sensor networks connected over XBee. The mote supports all the same network topologies as XBee, so it is possible to create complex mesh networks as well as simple point to point communications. In addition to network flexibility, the motes primary feature is reduced power consumption, which makes it ideal for sensors running on battery.waspmote_mote_runner_24 (1)

What makes the Waspmote especially awesome is the fact that Libelium has developed their own sensor boards that plug directly into the Waspmote–eliminating the need to solder anything or dust off your box of breadboards and jumper wires. They have industry specific sensors boards that are equipped with the sensors needed for a specific applications like Smart Water, Agriculture, Smart Cities, among many others. Visit the Libelium home page to learn more about the Waspmote.

Arduino FIO
The Arduino FIO board was created by Shigeru Kobayashi and SparkFun Electronics in an effort to simplify the process of making a wireless Arduino project. With connections for a LiPo battery and an XBee socket right on board, the board has everything you need to create anything from a lightning sensor to a programmable swarm of robots.

arduino fioPerhaps the most useful feature of the FIO board is the ability to upload sketches wirelessly. Gone are the days of completely tearing down your project so that you can plug it into your computer! Check out this information guide for information on programming Arduino over XBee.

Apitronics
Apitronics is an open platform that enables farmers to collect sensor data via connected sensors deployed throughout farms, greenhouses, and gardens. The data is collected from remote nodes placed around the farm and is aggregated at a central hub. The data can be accessed at a local web page and helps farmers monitor environmental conditions, which allows them to make more informed management decisions.apitronics

With less than 10% of farms using sensors today, the goal is to give small and mid-sized farmers the tools necessary to gather quantitative data–reducing waste and maximizing crop yields. But this platform isn’t just for those with a farming day job, this can be used to monitor your backyard gardens as well! Visit Apitronics website to learn more about their open source agricultural efforts.

duinoPRO
Taking your prototype to production is an issue many start-ups and design teams struggle with. As Arduino has become nearly synonymous with the word prototype, engineers are increasingly in need of an efficient way to turn their Arduino based prototype into a scalable product. DuinoPRO is aimed at the lean start-up community or anyone looking to leverage the highly supported Arduino platform to create a prototype they plan to scale to relatively large volumes in a surface mount facility.

duinoproMaybe we Missed Your Favorite?
Did we miss one of your favorite XBee development tools? Never fear. Just leave a comment below or let us know on Twitter at @XBeeWireless and we will add it to the post!

XBee-PRO 900HP Creates a Mesh Network With the Power to Save Lives

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When you’re at work, how do you typically get in touch with your family if you need to contact them?

You most likely call or send a text message from your cell phone. For the most part, you have your phone on you, and you know they have their phone on them and are accessible.

What if, instead, your family is the Texas State Guard and you’re managing a natural disaster? Your soldiers are out in the field providing relief and support–how do you get in touch? How do you keep track of their location? Certainly amidst the noise, weather conditions, working environment, and limited cell coverage there aren’t too many options.

Damon Williams has experienced this issue firsthand as a Sergeant for the Texas State Guard.

“For the longest time I wasn’t able to monitor where my soldiers actually were. There was no way to know exactly where they were located.”

By day, Damon is a senior firmware engineer at Molex. Using his technical background, he set out to solve the issue he faced while serving his community: how can a soldier’s location easily be communicated from the field?

Damon entered Molex’s Innovation Challenge, an internal competition where employees compete against one another in a bid for the next great Molex innovation.

A typical entrant in the Molex Innovation Challenge creates a presentation and some design mock ups. Having personal stake in the game, Damon turned his idea into a reality. As a long-time maker, Damon knew the XBee product line well and realized the XBee-PRO 900HP would enable him to use mesh networking. He developed a working prototype of 30 personal GPS trackers.

“This is something I believe in. I have soldiers in the field. This is something that we’re constantly up against. For example, right now my bags are packed and in my truck. We’re on alert because of the flooding in Texas.”

An individual carries one of the small trackers. Their exact location can be seen in real time from the command center through video using a Google Maps overlay where pins represent the trackers.

TXSG_DPS

Damon says that this system wouldn’t be possible without the XBee-PRO 900HP. “In addition to using mesh networking for reliability, I went with the 900 for the range. Our packet sizes are very small, so we have real quick blips for data transmission.”

The XBee-PRO 900HP allowed for:

  • Mesh networking instead of cellular
  • Ease of integration
  • Ability for the system to go into sleep mode to conserve power
  • Small packet delivery
  • Accelerated system design speed
  • Integration of all of the modules together
    • Maestro GPS module
    • Bluetooth transceiver
    • Microchip controller

gumPowered by two AAA batteries, the trackers can run for four days (96 hours) with updates every 90 seconds–or for up to two weeks with hourly updates. The trackers are as small as a couple packs of gum.

Although the prototype didn’t take first place in the Innovation Challenge, Damon has implemented the system for his own team and others. He has personally funded and built 130 trackers that are out in the world today. The trackers are used by The National Guard and search and rescue teams including the City of Austin.

“Anytime someone goes down range they have a tracker on. I have a laptop that hooks up to a panel of video screens, and I have a satellite image. There’s a dot and name for every soldier. Commanders love it because they always know where their soldiers are,” Damon explained. “We had a soldier injure himself at night last year, because we knew where he was we could get help in a few minutes versus searching for hours.”

The system also works great for volunteers and first responders. He hopes it will catch on in other applications like firefighting, search and rescue and wide area damage assessment.

Koch Industries now Molex’s parent company, has also expressed interest in funding the project under its innovation division.

Today, with help from the XBee-PRO 900HP, Damon always has eyes on his family. He hopes that others will be able to do the same. For a complete look at the system check out the website: pointsgps.com.

This isn’t the first time the XBee has been used to save lives. Draganfly, a drone used by public safety agencies, selected the XBee-PRO 900HP too. After K-9 units were unable to locate a family lost in the woods while hiking, an infrared-equipped Draganflyer X4-ES unit was sent out to locate the family. Five units were purchased by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Nova Scotia and now respond to emergency response calls, crime investigations, traffic scene reconstruction and search and rescue operations. Draganfly is the first recorded civilian small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) to be credited with saving a life.

XBee Tech Tip: Using Remote AT Commands to Toggle an IO on a Remote XBee

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This Tech Tip is brought to you by Digi Applications Engineer Mark Grierson.

Using API mode it is possible to send commands from a transmitting radio to a receiving radio. This allows for module parameter registers on a remote device to be queried or set.

One useful application of this feature is to toggle an IO on a remote radio from a high to a low state. In this manner the radios can be used as a wireless relay to control a wide variety of remote devices.

Overview

In this tutorial we will be using XCTU to create and send 2 distinct API frames. One frame will toggle the remote radio’s IO high, and the other will toggle the remote radio’s IO low. You could easily program a micro or other piece of hardware to issue these commands.

Setup

To perform this tutorial you will require the following materials:

  • 2 – XBee 802.15.4 RF modules.
  • 2 – Interface boards (USB or RS232) *the use of DEV boards (XBIB-U-DEV or XBIB-R-DEV) will allow the use of onboard LEDs to observe output
  • 1 – PC with XCTU software installed. Click here to download.
  • Serial or USB cables to connect interface boards to the PC

Procedure

Select one radio to operate as your Base and one to operate as your Remote.

Both radios are programmed with the default settings with the following exceptions. API is enabled on the Base radio (AP=1), D4=4 on the remote radio

In this example my radios have the following factory set 64 bit addresses:

Base:

SH=0013A200

SL=403199EB

AP=1

Remote:

SH=0013A200

SL=4055F498

D4=4

Connect the base radio to the PC and launch XCTU. Connect the radio to XCTU by clicking on the Add Devices icon and selecting the appropriate com port and settings and clicking finish.

The Radio will now be listed on the left side of XCTU as in the following screenshot.

Open the Console mode of XCTU by clicking on the Console icon.

Open the serial connection with the base radio by selecting the Connect icon.   The image will change to the connected status.

The Console should indicate that it is opn as an API Console.   If it is showing that it is an AT console, return to the module settings tab and ensure API is enabled (AP=1)

In the Send a single frame section open the “Add a frame” dialog box by clicking on the  .  Rename your frame name to Low, then click on the Packet generator icon  to open the packet generator.

We will now use the built in API frames generator to create two remote AT command (type 0x17) frames paying close attention to the structure of this frame as outlined in the API section of the Product manual. One frame will set the remote radios Digital output High and the other will set it Low.

Select “0x17 – Remote AT Command” as the frame type and then set the 64 bit address to the SH and SL of the remote module.  Set the AT command to ASCII D4 and the Parameter value to HEX 04 as in the following screenshot.

*Please note that the command D4 (bytes 17 and 18) is issued as 44 and 34. 34 is the hex equivalent of the ASCII character 4. The parameter value setting for D4 (byte 19) is issued as 04 and 05. This is the hex equivalent of decimal 4 and 5 respectively.

Click OK and the frame contents will appear in the Add API frame to the list dialog box as follows:

Click on Add frame.

Repeat the procedure for your set high frame changing the parameter value to 0x05 and create a second frame with a frame name of High

Click on Add frame.

Your API console should now look something like this:

Here are the frames configured for the address of my radios. Your packets will contain the address of your remote radio and the checksum will be different.

Note: I have chosen to toggle DIO4 as it is connected to LED 3 on the XBIB-DEV board and allows easy viewing of the toggle process without the use of a voltmeter or scope.

Command to set DIO4 high:

7E 00 10 17 01 00 13 A2 00 40 55 F4 98 FF FE 02 44 34 05 95

Command to set DIO4 Low:

7E 00 10 17 01 00 13 A2 00 40 55 F4 98 FF FE 02 44 34 04 96

You can now send the commands to the base radio which will in turn send remote commands to the remote radio to set its digital output D4 (Pin 11). Do this by highlighting the appropriate frame (high or Low) and clicking on “Send selected frame.”

The LED associated with the D4 pin should go off and on as you send these two frames. You may also verify the state by connecting a multi-meter to Pin 11 of the module to check its voltage state as it is toggled from High to low. The pin should read about 3.3v when high and about 0 volts when low.

You can also view and parse the frames and their corresponding response packets in the Frame log section of the display. A status of 0x00 (OK) indicates that the frame was sent successfully and acknowledged by the remote module.

If you do not receive a response frame please check your API packet for accuracy.

Note: This article is written using the XBee 802.15.4 radios but the concepts are applicable to all of the XBee radio lineup that offer API mode.

XCTU 6.2 – Linux Support and More

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If you’ve opened up XCTU recently you may have noticed a prompt to update. Among many performance upgrades, version 6.2 of XCTU has a variety of new features and most importantly we now support Linux!Linux

Here are the release notes for XCTU 6.2:

Serial Console Tool
The Serial Console tool has been included within the Tools drop-down menu of the main toolbar. This tool allows you to interact with your radio modules without having to discover and add them to the list of radio modules.

  • Added a control in the consoles toolbar to see and manage the serial port flow control lines.
  • Added a new recording feature to XCTU consoles that allows you to record all the sent and received data in a log file with CSV format.
  • Status icon of consoles tabs now changes depending on the status of the console to display the following actions: connected, disconnected, sending and receiving data.

API Console Frames Filter 
Added a new frames filtering option in the API console in order to filter the frames of the table. This allows you to filter down to specific packet types and even look at packets being sent or received from a specific device on your XBee network.

Firmware Release Notes Viewer
Included a new feature that allows users to explore and read the Release Notes of the released XBee firmwares in all the firmware list controls.

Documentation Updated With More Graphics and Video
We’ve also done a massive overhaul of our documentation which includes step-by-step walkthroughs of each feature as well as some videos like this one on updating firmware:


With XCTU documentation being moved to an online system we can guarantee up to date information and facilitate its access outside XCTU. Additionally, a PDF copy has been included in the tool, so you can access the documentation while working without an internet connection. Click here to access the new resource.

Download
If you haven’t already updated from within XCTU, or you’re a Linux user that has patiently waited for XCTU, just click here to download the software to your computer. Have fun!

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NVdrones Gives Developers a Platform to Quickly Create Drone Applications

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NVDronesThe core idea for creating the XBee was to create a module for wireless communications that gives our customers the option to choose the best wireless technology for the job. Whether you need long-range communication spanning many miles using the 900MHz band or mesh networking with ZigBee or more data throughput using Wi-Fi. The XBee enables us to offer our customers wireless flexibility to meet their needs.

NVDrones is helping developers integrate XBee for wireless communication in drone designs. The team aims to give software developers all the necessary tools to create drone applications.

They created a board that is plug-n-play compatible with top drone platforms and an XBee socket that allows developers to simply plug in their XBee of choice (check out the image below). By default, they offer the XBee PRO 900MHz, which is ideal for drone applications considering it’s substantial LOS range — enabling autonomous drones. This autonomous operation is controlled by the apps created with the hardware and easy-to-use SDKs.

NVDrones

With library support for Arduino, Android, and Javascript, their platform was meant to be user-friendly for all developers no matter their background — even those with limited or no hardware experience. If you have an itch to start creating a drone application, but lack experience, this is a great starting point.

You can check out their developer website at developers.NVdrones.com. They’ve just launched and are taking pre-orders now.

Employee Engagement: The Purpose Behind IoT Systems that You Might Be Missing

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Today, technology can help organizations achieve amazing things, especially Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Preventative maintenance, the elimination of machine downtime—it’s all great. But, with all of the technology talk, we often forget that it’s our job as business leaders to use technology to drive and scale human connectivity.

It’s our business leaders’ job to use technology to take our resources from good to great and from efficient to extraordinarily efficient, because data alone can only do so much. Data puts us in the position to evolve customer service, but real change also stems from your greatest assets: your employees. When we equip and empower employees to be successful at their jobs, they also become happier and more engaged. And while happiness may seem like a fluffy concept, it’s a key driver of employee productivity. With U.S. businesses losing $450-$550 billion dollars a year due to active disengagement (Gallup 2013) happiness that creates engagement is no small win.

So now I have to ask: Have you thought about how the Internet of Things and employee engagement go hand-in-hand? If not, it’s time to start. Here are three key ways IoT systems can better your business through employee engagement.

iot
 

1. Empower employees with data.

Data that employees can utilize for customer services makes for better outcomes. Those better outcomes make for more encouraged and engaged employees.

Connected products create an opportunity for employees to know more when disgruntled customers call in about a problem, and they’re equipped with more than just a transcript to help.

Employees who have greater insight can resolve issues faster and more frequently, leading to greater efficiencies and first-call resolutions– not to mention happier customers.

Access to real-time data can also help to surprise and delight customers. Just remember,  that surprise and delight will soon turn into an expectation. Better outcomes and surprise and delight aren’t just great for customer service, but it makes employees feel more successful at their jobs too. Remember, passion and engagement comes from being empowered and enabled to be good at what you do.

2. Engaged employees act like owners.

When employees are empowered to make autonomous decisions, they feel (and act) like owners– giving managers an opportunity to level-up.

Access to actionable data gives front-line workers the information they need to take autonomous actions and experience emergent leadership. With more employees making real-time decisions, time spent in the “chain of command” decreases. Those on the front-lines feel more empowered, while managers and more strategic employees have more time for higher-level activities—a chain reaction that increases engagement levels throughout the organization.

Connected products also help organizations align employees to its mission and goals. By understanding the company’s desired outcomes, employees can make decisions based on clearly-defined goals—not guesses.chsh-logo-300x118

One solution, Clean Hands Safe Hands (CHSH), empowers hospitals to use a set of company-wide metrics for hand hygiene compliance. With the CHSH system in place, staff badges are equipped with a sensor that tracks all hygiene events. Data analytics and reporting allow hospitals to benchmark performance, identify opportunities for coaching and praise, and share a dashboard of hospital compliance guidelines. This transparency helps create good habits and change behaviors. It can also lead to a reduction in healthcare associated infections by 40-70%. With that kind of reduction, a 200 bed hospital with the system installed can save up to $1M per year (CHSH 2015).

3. Connected products create opportunities for higher value employee contributions– from the front-lines up.

Today, over 80% of employees feel their skills aren’t being put to full use (Lumesse 2011). Employees want to do more, but it’s common for corporate technology investments to focus on improving the efficiency only of high cost knowledge workers. That’s changing. Connected devices can empower workers at every level to perform their jobs with greater efficiency, productivity, and even safety. Front-line workers are becoming information workers. That’s technology turning humans into extraordinary resources.

Organizations must give employees the systems and tools to make the most valuable contribution possible. When employees are able to solve customer problems they’re more engaged with their work. Decentralized decision-making and a set shared metrics gives not only front-line workers, but everyone in the organization, the opportunity to level-up. And finally, employees want to do more, they want to make the most valuable impact possible, and it’s your job to give them the tools to do so.

Keith Rabois, Partner at Khosla Ventures, puts it best, “It’s your job to rigorously ask: ‘how do I make people more successful? What things can I give them to make them more valuable per day?’ You have to create tools that enable people to make decisions at the same level you would make them yourself.”

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