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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).

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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!

Customer Showcase: Wireless Devices Around the World Rely on Digi

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Every day Digi works with customers around the world to deploy connected solutions that businesses rely on. From the ability to monitor device health to using data to make more informed decisions-connected devices are modernizing business operations. Here are a few of the many companies we are proud to work with.powerowners

PowerOwners | Solar Energy

How do solar energy providers  measure the effectiveness of their solar panel deployments? You’ll probably get a wide variety of answers depending on who you ask. PowerOwners saw this inconsistency in the solar industry as an opportunity to create a standard benchmark to measure the performance of solar assets.

The centerpiece of the system is the Deno Smart Sensor. The sensor measures sunlight and temperature to simulate an energy benchmark. It’s placed alongside solar panels, the Deno Smart Sensor is pictured to the right. Data is transmitted wirelessly by a Digi XBee PRO 900HP and collected within Digi Device Cloud. This service replaces the commonly used weather stations, which were difficult to deploy and provided inconsistent data. Read the full story here.

Powermat | Wireless Charging

powermatThere are few things more frustrating than a dead phone battery. Almost everyone relies on their smartphone to get through the day-whether it’s for business or entertainment.

Powermat developed a creative solution that involves wireless charging and ZigBee technology. Their mission? Ensure that smartphone users never have to worry about where keeping their device charged. It’s easy to use, requires no cables or outlets, and gives businesses a service to offer to their customers. Powermat is able to manage their global deployment of charging stations via the cloud since each charging network is IP-enabled with an XBee Gateway.

The Powermat stations can be found at large retail chains like Starbucks, a select number of universities, and airport terminals. Users can install the Powermat app on their phone so they can locate the most convenient location for their next charge. Learn more about the Powermat service here.

MicroPower Technologies | Remote Video Security Systems

css-inline-solveilUtility providers often have assets widely distributed across remote areas. Ensuring security of substations or monitoring weather conditions can be a costly endeavor. And, when millions rely on your company for power, an outage can have large consequences. MicroPower works with utilities to create an easy to install solution that gives energy providers the ability to ensure their customers have reliable power. A means to remotely monitor their sites also allows for faster troubleshooting and fewer unnecessary maintenance visits.

MicroPower Technologies’ solar powered video system is made possible by the Digi TransPort WR21. The wireless cellular router is easy to install and provides the connection needed to stream video to a central database that can be accessed by network operators. Click here to read more about this solution.

Read more about how Digi customers are inventing new business models and changing their respective industries, visit our customer success page.

 

Secure Device Management within a Private Cellular Network

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It’s not uncommon for customers to deploy 4G LTE devices on private cellular networks for the perceived security benefits, but this can create a challenge for customers who want to use cloud-based device management tools for configuration, performance reporting, and troubleshooting.

In this video, Brad Cole, Digi Device Cloud Product Manager, explains how network administrators can use a web proxy to access Digi’s cloud-based network management tool while maintaining compliance with their existing security architecture.

To learn more about Digi TransPort routers and their remote management capabilities, 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!

The Next Chapter in the Digi Story: Connect with Confidence

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This year represents a transformational moment for Digi as a company. We celebrated our 30th birthday. We have a new CEO. We’ve made a new acquisition and have brought on customers that represent some of the world’s most innovative companies.

Not too long ago, we held a retirement gathering for one of our long time employees. She’d been with the company for 28 years. She and others who have been here for the long haul started sharing stories about how things were in the early days. The stories were the perfect anecdote for how much things have changed over the years—over the decades. Those stories show how much Digi have evolved. But just as much as they show Digi’s evolution, the stories represent our powerful foundation of strength that we’re carrying into the future.


About 18 months ago, we set out to define how we would bring the meaning of that foundation and evolution to our customers, partners and the public in the clearest way possible. We asked ourselves: “how can our brand embody the sentiment of the stories our employees tell? How can our brand articulate why those innovative companies turn to Digi over others?”

To start, we went back to our roots. To our core value: listening. With 30 years of history and our diversity of experience, that’s what made sense. You can find Digi products in vast oil fields, intensive care units, crowded freeways, factory floors, and in retail stores on Black Friday. There are millions of devices deployed in the world, each with a critical task to perform. We needed to talk to the people who depend on those connections in order to articulate our mission best.

So, we conducted deep customer and partner interviews, employee surveys and spent time with our partners. All in all, we went through 100 interviews, 125 surveys and 10 workshops—more than 500 hours of listening.

It led us to a key finding: it’s time to modernize the Digi brand, but to emphasize not change, who we are at our core.

So, here we are today.

What is the new brand?

At its core, we have the brand promise, what you can expect from Digi, why would you choose Digi:

Digi works with you to solve mission-critical and business-critical machine communication challenges in the most demanding environments. You get proven, no-nonsense solutions that work, and keep working. With Digi, you can create, deploy and manage your M2M and IoT connections with confidence.

What we heard in those 500+ hours of research is that there’s something our customers get when they choose Digi: trust. They trust the people, the products and the company.

In short, we help you CONNECT WITH CONFIDENCE.Digi-Logo-Timeline

You’ll see “connect with confidence” as our new tagline and continued promise to you. You’ll also see the evolution of the Digi corporate logo. It represents exactly what the tagline does: sturdy, solid, reliable Digi. We’ve also gotten Digi out of the box and added a new shade of green—energetic and agile. We are company that our customers can connect with confidence, and we’re dedicated to doing so with fresh energy.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to play a role in this process. Listening to you has helped us get to a place where we’re truly sharing who we are with the world.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Look What I Made: XBee Project Gallery Update

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Farm Safety Wearable
The sweep auger motor plugs directly into an outlet on the receiving box. This receiving box and transmitter each have an XBee wireless transceiver inside. When the remote control is powered on, the first LED lights up. When the safety cord is connected, the second LED lights up. At this point, the sweep auger is off.

Connected Greenhouse
Using an Intel IoT Gateway, the wireless systems turns daily farming data into a more meaningful decision-making. Sensors for temperature, humidity, pH, and luminosity in the greenhouse pass the data to the local Galileo gateway. Galileo transmits data using XBee to an Atom processor-based gateway, and then uploads all the information to the cloud system.

Wireless Boat
This RC boat uses XBee for wireless control. The controller is fashioned from an old Air Hogs controller. An Arduino Pro mini is connected to the XBee, analog stick for steering, LEDs, and triggers buttons.

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.

Contact a Digi expert and get started today! Contact Us