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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.

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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:

Prototype XBee and Other Wireless Projects with Tinylab

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You might remember our post about the XBee product turned Indiegogo superstar last year–Plexidrone. Well, there’s another XBee related Indiegogo campaign making headlines. Tinylab is a prototyping platform, developed by Bosphorus Mechatronics, simplifying IoT development with an all-in-one Arduino-based solution.

Tinylab reduces the need to stack multiple Arduino shields, pull out the breadboard and jumper wires, or hunt down that spare LTH sensor in your drawer. This flexible and extensive development board supports Arduino and other development environments, hosts 20 Digital I/O, and additional sensors come pre-attached. And, perhaps most exciting, is the support for a number of wireless technologies like XBee, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi with the ESP8266 chip as seen in the graphic below.

 

tinylab-schematic
 

The Indiegogo campaign got off to a great start and Bosphorus Mechatronics quickly exceeded their goal of $25,000. The crew is shipping development kits to their campaign supporters in May and one level of support will even earn contributors a development kit that includes XBee RF modules.

Also, to demonstrate the board’s capabilities, the team at Tinylab created an wireless lighting demo. The video is showing wireless control of a lightbulb with commands sent over XBee. Check out the video below.

If you are interested in learning more about the Tinylab prototyping platform, click here to visit the Indiegogo campaign and support! You can follow their updates on Twitter or visit the Bosphorus Mechatronics website here.

How to Meet Critical Infrastructure Requirements with Cellular Devices

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Critical infrastructure operations—whether it be an electrical substation, wastewater treatment plant, or traffic control center–are relying more and more on networked assets like sensors and control switches. But, the introduction of connected devices also raises security risks. Since these systems control services both businesses and consumers heavily depend upon, regulations are in place to ensure our infrastructure remains in working order and secure from threats.

Much like the laws you abide by while driving such as wearing your seatbelt, staying within the speed limit, etc., utility providers connecting assets with cellular LTE must follow certain standards and protocols to ensure security and reliability. In North America, these rules and standards are referred to as North American Electric Reliability Corporation Critical Infrastructure Protection or more conveniently as NERC-CIP. For our friends in Europe, the standard is called “European Programme for Critical Infrastructure Protection” or EPCIP for short.

What makes a network solution NERC-CIP compliant? In this video, Brad Cole, Device Cloud Product Manager, walks through the steps many of our utility customers take in order to deploy secure and connected critical infrastructure.

In short, critical infrastructure operators must comply with these reliability standards—or face large penalties. The mandatory Reliability Standards include CIP standards 001 through 009 (see below), which address the security of cyber assets essential to the reliable operation of the electric grid.

  • CIP-001: Covers sabotage reporting;
  • CIP-002: Requires the identification and documentation of the Critical Cyber Assets associated with the Critical Assets that support the reliable operation of the Bulk Electric System;
  • CIP-003: Requires that responsible entities have minimum security management controls in place to protect Critical Cyber Assets;
  • CIP-004: Requires that personnel with authorized cyber or unescorted physical access to Critical Cyber Assets, including contractors and service vendors, have an appropriate level of personnel risk assessment, training, and security awareness;
  • CIP-005: Requires the identification and protection of the Electronic Security Perimeters inside which all Critical Cyber Assets reside, as well as all access points on the perimeter;
  • CIP-006: Addresses implementation of a physical security program for the protection of Critical Cyber Assets;
  • CIP-007: Requires responsible entities to define methods, processes, and procedures for securing those systems determined to be Critical Cyber Assets, as well as the other (non-critical) Cyber Assets within the Electronic Security Perimeters;
  • CIP-008: Ensures the identification, classification, response, and reporting of cybersecurity incidents related to Critical Cyber Assets; and
  • CIP-009: Ensures that recovery plans are put in place for Critical Cyber Assets and that these plans follow established business continuity and disaster recovery techniques and practices.

The Digi TransPort WR31 comes with features and configuration options to simplify securing critical infrastructure assets like electric and gas meters or traffic control cameras. The Digital I/O can address physical security concerns and Remote Manager will log user information and even device changes. Click here to learn more about the Digi TransPort WR31 and how utility provides are using it to connect critical infrastructure.

FogFinder Relies on Arduino and XBee to Tap into New Water Source

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No, it’s not possible to create water out of thin air. But, with a bit of engineering, scientists in Chile are turning foggy air into a reliable water source for nearby residents. The process is almost entirely natural—the sun desalinates the water, the winds push the water to a higher elevation, and gravity allows the collected water to flow back down to the village.

Using large fog collectors, which consist of mesh mounted on a rigid structure, to capture impacting fog water droplets from the air and tapping into the natural processes mentioned above, fog collection could be an economical way to gather and distribute clean water.

The fog collectors are typically installed on hillsides and remote areas where fog is abundant. These installations are especially common in arid climates in Chile where rain runs scarce. As fog passes through, the droplets impact the mesh fibers and collect in a trough below. One of the real challenges and opportunities for innovation lies in determining where to install these collectors, how to orient them, and understanding how efficient they are at collecting water from the air.IMG_0420

While at the Universidad de los Andes in Santiago Chile, Richard LeBoeuf, Associate Professor at Tarleton State University, and Juan de Dios Rivera, of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, developed a new type of sensor called the “Liquid Water Flux Probe” to measure the availability of water at current and potential fog collector sites. The sensor measures the liquid water content and speed of the fog and can be used to understand the optimal location and orientation for each of the collectors.

The sensor is part of a larger system called FogFinder, which Richard LeBoeuf developed in collaboration with Juan Pablo Vargas and Jorge Gómez at the Universidad de los Andes. Together they designed and engineered the FogFinder system, which includes wireless networking.

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With the primary challenge of measuring fog liquid water flux out of the way, the team needed to design a device capable of being deployed in extremely remote environments and easily retrieve sensor data. Since there is no power source to plug into out in the desert, the options are either solar or wind power. Due to their simplicity, a separate solar power system, comprised of a solar panel, battery, and charge controller, is used in conjunction with the FogFinder unit.

To facilitate the collection and transmission of sensor data, the team chose to build the foundation of FogFinder with Arduino and XBee. Both components offered a fast and easy way to get started prototyping the design. Each sensor node is comprised of an Arduino Mega and XBee module, and the team even designed and built custom boards to regulate voltage, interface the sensors and store data on a micro-SD card.

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The node collects data on the following parameters:

  • Liquid water flux
  • Humidity
  • Temperature
  • Flow-rate from fog collectors
  • Pressure
  • Wind speed
  • Wind direction

The team settled on using XBee for local wireless communication since it provided greater range and required less power than Bluetooth. The ZigBee protocol also offers the flexibility to create a mesh network and configuration settings to conserve power-saving valuable battery life. With external antennas and mountain top to mountain top placement of each radio, they have achieved a reliable 1 km link.

Once the data is collected, it’s sent to a remote server over a cellular network. Using a BeagleBone SBC and a cellular modem, data is taken from the local XBee ZigBee network and can be accessed on a remote computer. This data is then analyzed to assess the performance of the fog collector.

What’s next for FogFinder? As the team wraps up the prototyping stage, they’ll be conducting calibration in a wind tunnel to prepare for field tests.  Once the testing phase is complete, the team will work to deploy them as part of a pilot program and start connecting more Chilean residents to a clean source of water.

You can read more about the FogFinder project in the following articles:

The FogFinder project has received support from the Universidad de los Andes through its Fondo de Ayuda de Investigación, Andes Iron – Dominga, and the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

 

Introducing XCTU 6.3

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A new version of everyone’s favorite XBee configuration software, XCTU, is here! Among a few small updates like a refreshed look and feel, UI enhancements, and minor bug fixes, the XBee team has introduced three brand new features to the software. Here’s a look at what you’ll find in XCTU 6.3.


Command Line Interface Support
New to XCTU is Command Line Interface (CLI) Support. Now, users can execute the application in CLI mode without the graphic interface. This is primarily useful for scripting and automation purposes when managing large scale XBee deployments. The following features are supported within CLI mode:

  • List ports – A list of serial and USB ports can be retrieved in
    command line mode.xctu_welcome
  • Update firmware – Firmware of any radio device can be updated in this
    mode.
  • Load profile – Now it is possible to load profiles to connected
    devices through the CLI of XCTU.

Spectrum Analyzer
From within the XCTU interface, users can test and measure the spectrum of the radio’s band. The analysis displays average, maximum, and minimum values of each channel. This is helpful to determine which channel to set your XBee radios to and troubleshoot network issues.

Throughput Tool
With the Throughput Tool users can measure the maximum transfer ratio from one radio module to another within the same network. The tool provides three session modes and several payload configuration options to test different combinations and understand the performance of your wireless network.

Download
If you haven’t already updated from within XCTU, just click here to download the software to your computer. Have fun and if you have questions feel free to tweet us at @XBeeWireless.

XBee Tech Tip: Using the XCTU Spectrum Analyzer Tool

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XCTU 6.3 features a brand new Spectrum Analyzer tool. This makes it possible to measure and test the spectrum using only an XBee radio. The tool generates a report of the noise level for each channel within the radio’s frequency band. With these data points, XBee users can select the optimal channel for their XBee network and troubleshoot network issues.

In this XBee Tech Tip, we’ll take a look at how to run the Spectrum Analyzer tool. Below is a quick screencast that takes you through adding the XBee device to XCTU to running a spectrum analysis and sorting through the data points collected. The video is followed with more information on the tool such as configuring the test and analyzing the network noise levels.

To get started, first access the tool by selecting it from the Tools drop down menu.

Device selection
The first section of the tool contains the device selection control populated with the devices that you have added to XCTU. Select the radio module you want to use to perform the analysis.

Analysis Configuration
The analysis configuration panel is located next to the device selection control. This section allows you to configure the spectrum analysis process:
This is the list of available settings:Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 8.57.25 AM

  • Sampling interval (ms): Determines the time to wait in milliseconds before reading a new noise level sample of the RF channels.
  • Number of samples: Check this option to configure the number of samples to read in the spectrum analysis session.
  • Loop infinitely: Check this option to read samples infinitely until the spectrum analysis session is stopped manually.

When you have configured all the options, click Start Spectrum Analysis button to start reading samples and measure the noise level of each RF channel. You can manually stop the analysis at any time by pressing the same button, now displaying the text Stop Spectrum Analysis.

Data Presentation
When an analysis is started, the chart and channels list are filled with all the RF channels supported by the selected device. Note: the list of supported channels may vary depending on the device type and device region.

Channel Chart
This chart represents the noise level of all the RF channels. Each channel displays 1 bar with the current noise level and two tick marks representing the maximum noise level (green) and the minimum one (red).

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 4.20.16 PM

A blue line is also added to the chart indicating the average noise level of all channels. The spectrum analysis refreshes the noise levels of each channel continuously until the analysis ends or it is stopped.

Along the bottom of the chart, users can filter to hide or display the bars, the max and min noise values and the average noise level line.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 4.20.32 PM

Once the spectrum analysis reaches the specified number of samples or is stopped, you can click on each channel to get specific values (seen above). This control displays the current noise level of a channel as well as its average, maximum and minimum noise level.

The Spectrum Analyzer feature supports Digi radios with the following protocols:

  • ZigBee (S2C Modules)
  • 802.15.4
  • DigiMesh
  • XTend Legacy
  • XTend DigiMesh
  • Digi Point

What do you want to learn next?
We hope you found this tutorial helpful! Let us know what you’d like to learn in the next XBee Tech Tip: http://bit.ly/xbeetechtip

Troubleshooting and Testing Cellular Devices

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More than 80% of products fail cellular certification testing the first time around. That’s why Digi Wireless Design Services (WDS) takes pride in our 100% cellular certification success rate guarantee. One company came to WDS to pass with flying colors and improve an important piece of their business—cellular communication to drive an efficient bin monitoring program.

Today, BigBelly Solar doesn’t have to send trucks to check their waste and recycling stations deployed in more than 47 countries worldwide. Each station communicates back “home” to let them know exactly how empty or full each can is—meaning more time, money and sanity saved. Kevin Eichhorst, senior solutions architect, explains how WDS helped.

To learn more about Digi Wireless Design Services, click here. If there’s a topic you’d like to see covered in an upcoming video, fill out this form and let us know!

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