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Why You Should Choose Cellular for Your IoT Solution

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You already know how ubiquitous cellular is, but did you realize it’s going above and beyond the device you have in your hand? Lower costs and reliable connections are driving cellular adoption in M2M and Internet of Things applications. According to Berg Insights, there are already around 187 million cellular connected M2M devices. Here are some of the top reasons our customers choose to go with a cellular solution for their M2M and IoT solutions.

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1. Ubiquitous Coverage
Cellular coverage is nearly everywhere. A recent ITU report suggests that the total number of global mobile subscriptions is approximately 6.8 billion – nearly the same as the estimated world population.

Cellular devices can be deployed anywhere that is in network coverage.  It can also be deployed in mobile applications where devices need to stay connected no matter where they are at (e.g. fleet/asset tracking), even across wide geographical areas.  Additionally, there is a growing population of picocell deployments that are enabling improved in-building coverage for shopping centers, large corporate buildings, subway stations, etc.

2. Easy Deployment
Cellular devices can be pre-provisioned by distributors or system integrators before shipment to the end-customer, so they connect to the network right out of the box.   No end user provisioning is required (e.g. setting up security to connect to a Wi-Fi access point)

Cellular devices are not dependent on IT infrastructure (e.g. Wi-Fi access point, corporate Ethernet, …).  Deploying Wi-Fi or Ethernet connected devices inside environments like hospitals or shopping centers can be difficult due to IT teams not allowing 3rd party devices on their network.  What if the IT network is updated or security settings change? Cellular connected devices ensure you retain complete control over your device.

3. Lower Support Costs
With cellular, the infrastructure is owned and managed by the cellular carriers, not the end-customer or product supplier.  This means no upfront infrastructure costs and reduced support costs. Because cellular connectivity does not depend on end-user managed infrastructure (Wi-Fi, ZigBee, etc.), product suppliers do not have to provide ‘helpdesk’ support services for basic connectivity issues (e.g. “My device won’t connect to the access point.  The security settings are not working….”).  Instead of deploying your own infrastructure, leverage one of the world’s largest communication infrastructures – the cellular network.

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4. Improved Reliability
Reliability is critical for many M2M applications, especially those involving security and real-time monitoring and alerts.  With cellular, you are leveraging a robust wireless network used by nearly 1/3 of the world’s population every day.  Cellular network outages are rare and if they do occur they are immediately noticed and acted on.  Consider a less reliable alternative — a device is connected to a consumer-grade Wi-Fi access point, maintained by the store clerk in a small gas station.  If the wireless connection fails, it could go unnoticed for extended periods of time and require manual intervention to resolve.

5. Lower Hardware Costs
Cellular module costs have fallen significantly in recent years. High-volume pricing for data-only modules is approaching sub-$10 for 2G GSM, sub-$20 for CDMA 1xRTT and sub-$30 for 3G UMTS. These price points are enabling a whole new class of devices and applications.

6. Lower Data Costsgodzilla
Data costs have also fallen significantly.  For connected machines that only need to report small amounts of data, connectivity costs can be <$1/month.  A vending machines that reports daily inventory clearly doesn’t need the same costly data plan as a consumer streaming HD music videos.

7. No Risk of Inflatable Godzilla Ruining Your Network
This isn’t a joke. One of our own customers has run into this problem. VSAT requires a satellite typically placed on the top of the building. But what happens when the store manager requests an employee go to the roof and tie up a giant inflatable Godzilla? The store employee probably isn’t a wireless communications expert and decides to use the satellite to anchor Godzilla. This can pull the satellite out of the direction it requires to connect — resulting in costly downtime.

Obviously this isn’t an epidemic, but with cellular you don’t need to worry about the direction your antenna is pointed.

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Many of our customers are realizing the value provided by cellular connected devices today. In addition to providing a secure and reliable connection, it enables them to manage and monitor their network from anywhere. Here’s an example of how our customer, Monster Media, is using cellular to connect and manage digital signage around the world.

From 3D Mapping to Data Collection: XBee Gets Drones Off the Ground

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The commercial drone industry is still relatively young, but over the next decade, the civilian and commercial drone market is expected to more than double. Just this year, the FAA proposed legislation creating a process to allow the use of commercial drones in the US. These new rules would make the U.S. one of the most drone-friendly regions for commercial purposes. That Amazon Prime delivery via drone may be closer to reality than you think.

With multiple applications for drone technology like agriculture, public safety, photography, and a variety of industrial uses, a number of companies are emerging to capture these growing markets. In addition to the many commercial drone opportunities, researchers and makers are also turning to drones as the technology falls in price and becomes more affordable for small operations. Here are a few interesting companies and projects using XBee technology in their drones.

Draganflyx4esup_options_photo1
Draganfly is a unique XBee user. Their claim to fame? The first human life saved by a drone. They specialize in public safety applications as well as industrial inspection by providing tools for high resolution imagery and precision 3D mapping. They even offer customers with flight training courses — very important when you’re a flying a valuable piece of equipment hundreds of feet in the air.

Earlier this year, they announced a new application designed specifically for precision agriculture. The drone is equipped with a camera that simultaneously captures five discrete spectral bands, which provides useful data for monitoring crops and environmental health. The image generated can help farmers identify areas invaded by pests or becoming overgrown with weeds. Click here to read more about Draganfly.

PlexiDrone
PlexiDronePlexiDrone, developed by DreamQii Robotics, is a drone platform for aerial photography. Initially developed for use in the film industry, but the company expects to expand into industrial applications as well. The company’s Indiegogo campaign raised over 2 million dollars — breaking the record for largest canadian crowd funded project.

The PlexiDrone is unique in that it can be controlled via an Android or iOS device rather than a specially designed controller – drastically reducing cost. The users smartphone/tablet controller communicates to a base station over Bluetooth and that base station connects to the drone over an XBee. XBee provides reliable long range wireless to the drone capturing video or photos from the sky. DreamQii also provides developers an entire development kit, so they can create their own custom drone application. Read more about PlexiDrone here.

Monitoring the Amazon Rainforest
We have also worked with quite a few students and makers implementing XBee into their drone designs. Last year a team of students from Peru built an entire monitoring system capable of creating an wildlife inventory of the rainforest. This is a unique drone application in that the drone is used as a vessel for data collection.

Screen-Shot-2014-12-12-at-2.37.27-PMThe network consists of multiple nodes containing a motion sensor and camera. Whenever a node detects motion, an image is captured and the file is stored locally. The drone is programmed to fly around to each of these takeout points. Once the drone captures the images it returns to the city for more in-depth processing. Another interesting aspect of this project is the team created their a custom Arduino board to maximize battery life. Click here to learn more about their project.

City of Visalia Upgrades Public Transit with Verizon 4G LTE

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The city of Visalia had a cellular solution for their public transit system but it was built on a 2G network.  As 2G networks are slowly phased out over the next few years, coverage is becoming increasingly inconsistent.

With the impending shut down of 2G, Visalia needed a way to modernize their public transit system. They worked with Digi to deploy the TransPort WR44 R throughout their fleet of public transit buses, in order to provide their buses with high speed, 4G LTE connectivity.

This rugged cellular router connected over Verizon’s 4G LTE network provides multiple benefits to the city’s public transit system:

  • Security and safety with access to live video from the bus
  • Ability to offer value added services like free Wi-Fi to passengers
  • Reliable and secure connection to process ticket sales

In one month, customers downloaded roughly 540 GB of data across the entire fleet and an estimated 3,200-3,500 passengers accessed the free Wi-Fi. Overall, a reliable and high-speed cellular connection provides the heartbeat for the entire transit system and is guaranteed to last for years to come.

If you want to learn more about how Digi worked with Visalia to upgrade their public transit system, click here to read the full customer story.

A Better Way to Build Your Next Project: Software Tools for XBee

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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. We’ve discovered and created quite a few that involve XBee over the last several years so we put some of our favorites in one place for you.connect-devices-to-the-cloud (1)

XBee Java Library
You may remember we released the XBee Java Library earlier this year. This library was created in-house at Digi, so our customers can get to market more quickly with their Java based applications, but we also wanted to share it with the rest of you XBee developers out there. Feel free to make your own contributions! Download the library on Github.

XBee Arduino Library
A few years ago, Andrew Rapp created this extremely useful library for projects involving Arduino and XBee wireless communication. The project supports both Series 1 (802.15.4) and Series 2 (ZigBee) XBee radios. Another fellow XBee’er, Boris, supplemented this library by writing a helpful blog post to help get you startedThe library is available here on Github.

XBee Internet Gateway – XIG
Initially created by Rob Faludi to easily connect XBee to the Internet, the XIG runs on Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers as well as ConnectPort Gateways. If you’re looking to integrate your XBee networks with online databases, web pages, social networks, or other online services this is the starting point for your IoT application. The XIG is available for download here.

Rob has also compiled a list of all XBee libraries living out on the Internet including Max MSP and Python. You can view that on Digi’s Examples site here.

Third Party Development Platforms

In addition to some of the tools we’ve created at Digi, there are a number of companies solely focused on creating development platforms for rapid prototyping and product creation.

 

macchina.io
macchina.io is an open source software toolkit for quickly building embedded applications for the Internet of Things that run on Linux-based devices like the Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone. macchina.io implements a web-enabled, modular and extensible JavaScript and C++ runtime environment to enable applications to talk to various sensors, devices, and cloud services. The first release of macchina.io even includes support for XBee ZigBee radios.

Temboo
Temboo is a platform that simplifies interactions between multiple APIs, so you don’t need to spend hours combing through programming details, but rather focus on creating your IoT application. You can easily generate code in multiple languages for tasks like posting to Twitter, creating Google Calendar events, or more advanced processes like monitoring urban noise levels.

Once the code is generated it can simply be copy and pasted into an IDE. Temboo’s library contains thousands of Choreos that handle API interactions, work with databases, perform code utility functions, and more. Check out this video that walks you through building an XBee tank monitoring demo with Temboo Choreos.

NVDrones
Have you wanted to create and program your own Drone? NVDrones has the tools you need to create your one-of-a-kind UAV. With support for common languages like Arduino, Java and Javascript, the platform gives developers the tools necessary to create their own drone applications. Their API ensures quick development so you can focus your efforts on creating a unique and valuable product. Visit their developers site to learn more about NVDrones.

Looking for More 
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!

Recap: Internet of Things North America April 2015

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What happens when a couple hundred technologists, visionaries and business leaders get together in one place? Amazing conversation, new ways of utilizing big data actioned and experiences are shared. We saw it happen this week at Internet of Things North America, a new event that covers advanced connectivity and cloud based monitoring and control of devices, facilities, automobiles and enterprise operations.

An incredible roster of speakers covered IoT topics including:

  • iotnaDan Shey, Practice Director, ABI Research on The Industrial Internet in 2020 and Beyond
  • Maha Muzumdar, VP, Supply Chain, Oracle on IoT and Value Chain of Things
  • Matt Meshulam, TempoIQ  on How Will Your IoT Application Outlive the Hype?
  • Eric Uner, CTO, Redwall Technologies provided an IoT Security Primer
  • Matthew Mikell, Big Data Manager, IBM on a Model for Data Equity
  • Beverly Macy, Instructor, UCLA Anderson School of Management on Social, Mobile, Analytics, Cloud
  • Thomas Burns, Director for IOT Analytics Software, Intel on The Internet of Things and Manufacturing 

A Few Top Takeaways–

Organizational alignment is a key driver of Internet of Things solutions.
“One of the biggest challenges for organizations today? Alignment goals, measures, performance across functional groups.” - Maha Muzumdar, Oracle

Successful IoT strategies and systems consider the end result first.
“People aren’t buying the tools, they’re buying the end results. Like the saying, ‘we don’t want the hammer and nails we want the picture on the wall.'” - Matt Meshulam, TempoIQ

It’s time for new systems in the enterprise, not just for operational efficiencies, but for the productivity of employees.
“Legacy Tools are failing us…” - Beverly Macy, UCLA

We took the stage and shared how the systems that our customers like Clean Hands Safe Hands, ATEK and Heat Seek have implemented can not only revolutionize customer service, but put data in the hands of employees to set them up for success like never before. As technologists and business leaders, it’s our responsibility to utilize technology to equip great people to do their jobs even better. You can learn about more living Internet of Things solutions here.

Keep an eye out for a recap of our session, we’ll post it here soon.

Look What I Made: XBee Project Gallery Update

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We are always finding amazing XBee projects. From interactive musical landscapes to creating virtual reality - the imagination of XBee makers is endless. We have some new additions to the XBee Project Gallery and wanted to share them with you. Let us know your favorite!

 

Thermo Mapping Device
This system makes creating a graphical representation of an object’s temperature possible. It’s comprised of three cameras placed around an object so the user can map out an object’s temperature in three dimensions. The graphic is displayed on an LCD display that is powered by Arduino.

Project Anywhere
Virtual reality is rapidly becoming more prevalent but many systems are too expensive for consumers. Project Anywhere is addressing this by using a smartphone as the primary interface, 3D printed parts, and other off-the-shelf components like Arduino. This drastically reduces the cost of the system — making it more accessible to consumers.

Felted Terrain
Felted Terrain is an interactive landscape that users can touch to generate sound. The installation uses fabric woven with conductive thread so a Lilypad with XBee can be woven into the design. As users touch parts of the landscape, XBee sends data to computer to create a tone based on where the user touched.

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.

This Week in the Internet of Things: Friday Favorites

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The Internet of Things is developing and buzzing all around us. Throughout the week we come across innovative projects, brilliant articles and posts that support and feature the innovators and companies that make our business possible. Here’s our list of favorites from this week’s journey on the Web.

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Happy Internet of Things Day | Deutsche  Telekom Blog

How the Internet of Things Will Change the Future of Sport | IT Wire

Internet of Things Relay for Home Automation Using Arduino | Geeky Gadgets

With Meld, Another Step Toward the Internet of Tasty Things | New York Times

Six Things You Should Know About the Internet of Things | Tech Radar

Please tell us in the comments below or Tweet us, @DigiDotCom– we would love to share your findings too. You can also follow all of the commentary and discussion with the hashtag #FridayFavorites.

Customer Showcase: Wireless Technologies Create Foundation for Disruptive Businesses

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Every day Digi works with customers around the world to deploy connected device solutions. Businesses across a variety of industries are realizing the value provided by internet connected assets. From the ability to monitor device health to delivering media relevant to a local audience, connected devices are modernizing business operations. Here are a few of the many companies we are proud to work with.

Monster Media
Digital Signage is a rapidly growing industry as 4G LTE becomes more prevalent and consumers expect a more interactive experience with signage and digital displays.  Monster Media is a leader in this relatively new industry. The company specializes in delivering dynamic and interactive media to high traffic venues like college campuses, conferences, sporting events, and much more.Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 12.47.38 PM

The team was in need of a quick and simple way to connect their digital displays to the Internet in order to provide relevant and fresh content out to the world. Cellular connectivity was an obvious solution due to its the ease of deployment. Wi-Fi is another popular solution for digital signage, but often adds complexity due to coordinating with local IT as well as taking on additional security-related risks. Cellular connectivity also makes mobile assets a non-issue since no cabling is required and zero dependence on other infrastructure. With these advantages in mind, Digi TransPort WR21s are now found inside each of Monster Media’s kiosk providing a secure and reliable cellular connection

In addition to a reliable connection for delivering content, Monster Media is able to use the Digi Remote Manger for updating device configurations and firmware from the company’s NOC.

US Water
US Water provides a variety of engineering services, equipment, and field services. To enhance their offering and further differentiate themselves from larger water treatment firms, the company wanted an advanced monitoring solution that could reduce operation costs and enable their field service team to focus on high value tasks.css-thumbnail-us-water

Utilizing XBee ZigBee Modules and cellular connected gateways, their remotely connected sites give U.S. Water an easy way to monitor customers’ usage of chemicals, tank levels, and additional insight into their supply chain. Digi also partnered with Verizon to create a data strategy that made sense for their business.

Clean Hand Safe Hands 
Washing hands is one of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce the spread of disease. According to the CDC, in 2011 there were 721,800 hospital-acquired infections. Clean Hands Safe Hands saw this as opportunity and created a wireless system to remind hospital employees to clean their hands.chsh-logo-300x118

The entire system is made possible by a combination of three wireless technologies: ZigBee, Bluetooth, and Cellular. Employees’ badge reels are Bluetooth-enabled so the hand sanitizer dispensers can record when hands are washed. The dispensers are all connected by a ZigBee mesh network and data is sent to a single cellular take out point via the XBee Gateway.

The XBee Gateway enables cloud connectivity, so hospitals can easily generate reports on their compliance and remotely monitor devices.

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