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Bar Graphs, Security Systems, and GPS… All with XBee!

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Here are a few more wireless projects you can build with some sensors, Arduino and XBee. Below are project descriptions and links to instructions that will walk you through each step, including example code. Feel free to get creative and put your own spin on these projects!

Wireless Bar Graph Display
Want to monitor the level of light in a room and reflect that data with a shiny LED bar graph? Then check out  this project, which uses an MBed microcontroller, light sensor, LED bar graph, and a pair of XBee radios to get you going on monitoring brightness without even being there. Complete instructions here.

Security Monitor
Let’s build a comprehensive security system! The motion sensor detects when a person passes by and alerts you by displaying a warning on an LCD screen and you can even be alerted with an audio message. For this project, you’ll need an Arduino and XBee radio. After all, Arduino and XBee are best friends in the electrical engineering world! Why else would an XBee shield exist? Complete instructions here.

Device Cloud GPS
Want to track the GPS coordinates of the RC vehicle you’re working on? Well, it’s simple with an XBee gateway, Arduino and Device Cloud. Complete instructions here.

Check out examples.digi.com for more projects. There, you can browse tutorials for beginner, intermediate, and even experienced XBee developers. Once you’re done building, feel free to share them with us on TwitterFacebook, or Google+ using the #XBee hashtag. Happy building!

Where in the World is the Robonaut Today?

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Last year we shared how Digi helped NASA’s Robonaut go wireless. Since then, NASA’s robot has undergone a series of upgrades. Just last month, SpaceX delivered legs that will be mounted to the Robonaut, so that it can move around the station, making it even more valuable to the ISS crew. There are even new products being spun off from the original design like the Robo-Glove. Here are a few Robonaut-related articles that have been published recently to get you up to speed on the ISS’s newest crew member.

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NASA Upgrades Humanoid Robot in Space | Computer World
“The 300-pound humanoid robot working on the International Space Station is in the midst of getting a series of upgrades, including new processors and software, in preparation of having a pair of legs attached to it.”

NASA’s Robo-Glove Up for License for Iron Man and You | Slash Gear
“The glove is made to amplify the abilities of the wearer, not entirely unlike that of the glove of Iron Man in the Marvel Comics universe. This glove allows its user to blast through tasks that require high hand strength – grasping and repetitive tasks especially.”

Robonaut Upgrades, Spacewalk Preps & Cargo Ops for Station Crew | Product Design and Development
“For the next phase of testing, Robonaut will be outfitted with a pair of climbing legs to enable it to move around the station. These legs, which are equipped with end effectors to allow them to grip handrails and sockets, were delivered to the station during the SpaceX-3 cargo mission in April.”

Google Tech to Bring 3D Mapping Smarts to NASA’s Space Station Robots | Computer World
“Google said Thursday that its Project Tango team is collaborating with scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center to integrate the company’s new 3D technology into a robotic platform that will work inside the space station. The integrated technology has been dubbed SPHERES, which stands for Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites.”

Have you found an interesting article about the Robonaut? Share it with us on Twitter at @digidotcom using the hashtag #Robonaut. You can also learn more about how Digi enabled Wi-Fi communication in our NASA customer story, 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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The State of Connected Products with Charlie Isaacs| Exact Target

The Internet of Things in 2014 | Slideshare

35 Open Source Tools for the Internet of Things | Datamation

Drive Safer and Sleep Better with These Devices | Wall Street Daily

Internet of Things by the Numbers | Forbes

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.

Three Things You Can Build with XBee This Weekend

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Have a couple spare XBees, microcontrollers, and some free time? Here are a few simple projects that you can build to put those RF modules and other electronic goodies to use. Below, you’ll find project descriptions as well as links to step-by-step instructions.

 

Wireless Text to Speech Device
Want to transform serial data into sound? This project allows you to type into a serial terminal connected to an XBee, and when you press enter, the words are sent to another XBee enabled text-to-speech module that speaks the words out loud on a connected speaker. Click here for instructions.

Wireless Disco Ball Controller
Is it party time? We have the perfect solution! This project uses a set of XBees and an Arduino to control a disco ball’s lighting as well as how fast it revolves. Click here for instructions.

XBee Rock, Paper, Scissors Game
Need a fun way to determine who should do the dishes or take the trash out? How about a wireless and interactive game of Rock, Paper, Scissors? This project uses two Mbed microcontrollers and a couple of Digi XBee radios to enable two people to choose a button representing either Rock, Paper, or Scissors and determines the winner on your own LCD screen. Click here for instructions.

Check out examples.digi.com for more projects. There, you can browse tutorials for beginner, intermediate, and even experienced XBee developers. Once you’re done building, feel free to share them with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ using the #XBee hashtag. Happy building!

Digi’s Annual Employee Golf Tournament: Wormburner 2014

It’s always nice to spend a day out of the office on a summer day and every July the competition starts to heat up around Digi. Teams are formed, enemies are made, and bragging rights for an entire year are put on the line– even friendly wagers involving car washes are involved.

It’s also a great opportunity for us to raise money and make an impact in our community by supporting charities like Fraser, Children’s Hospitals, Ronald McDonald House, and Treehouse. And good news, we have lots of pictures! Check ‘em out below.

Wormburner 2014

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Cellular Connections You Never Knew Existed

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You drive into a gas station and notice the LED sign that reads how high the Powerball® is this week. You pull up to the pump and make a mental note to buy a ticket. As you wait for your tank to fill, the screen on top of the pump shares today’s weather and a few specials you can find inside. Then, you walk into the gas station to buy that lottery ticket. The lottery register greets your purchase, and you’re ready to move on with your day—hopefully with the winning ticket in your pocket.

During your time at the gas station did you ever consider how many wireless connections were at work? Probably not.

When you do think of wireless connections, it’s likely Wi-Fi hotspots or smartphone payment tools like Square that come to mind. However, there are many little-known and less visible ways that retailers and service providers use 4G LTE connections to make operations work. From digital signs to lottery terminals, wireless connections help make our world go around in ways you may have never imagined. They’re all working to create an experience for you as a customer and a return for merchants and manufacturers. Let’s dive deeper into a few applications where invisible wireless “workers” are impacting your retail environment.

Lottery TerminalsScreen Shot 2014-07-15 at 10.20.07 AM

Tucked behind the counter at your local convenience store, you’ll find that signature register or lottery terminal. You might just think of this as the machine that prints your easy-pick, but if the terminal gets disconnected the vendor is on the hook for much more than your ticket alone. It’s up to the store to ensure the machine is up and running at all times, so no revenue is lost. In fact, the damage can add up to more than all of the numbers on your ticket combined. For that reason, many of these terminals are connected to a datacenter with both a satellite and a 3G or 4G LTE connection.

Although the vast majority of lottery revenue is returned to players in prize money, the remainder pays for the operation of the lottery—including paying the retailer for hosting the lottery terminal. More importantly, the lottery also contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to state budgets. In 2012 in the state of Minnesota alone, $124M was contributed to funds such as environment and natural resources, game and fish, metropolitan parks and trails, zoos and infrastructure. The State Gaming Commission authorizes one vendor to operate their entire statewide lottery. In exchange for that level of access, the commission holds the gaming contractor accountable to maintain a high service level. If terminals aren’t able to communicate, the gaming contractor can be held accountable for damages of $20 per minute or more—per terminal.

Tire Air Vendingairtire

Hopefully, it’s your lucky day and you have a winning ticket in your pocket, but in the case that your day started out rough and your dealing with a flat tire, you can pull up next to an air-pump kiosk. Don’t have change? No problem. Swipe your credit card and the transaction is sent over a cellular connection.

While the connection makes payment collection more convenient for you, there’s a lot more at stake than meets the eye. In the past, technicians had to phisically visit every single machine to empty the coin bin– whether it was full or not. Not, a cellular connection enables the machine to report back how full the coin bin is, along with the health of the machine. This saves the manufacturer millions of dollars in employee and transportation costs, and it ensures all machines are up and running properly creating even more revenue– not to mention better customer service for the retail operations that host these machines.

In many cases, manufacturers experience a loss between money collection and revenue that makes it back to the business. In one example, receipt reconciliation loss was $11M per year. In the first year, a connection improved that loss by 80%, providing a bottom line impact of $8.8M. Lack of pick-up optimization (sending someone to collect the money after the machine is already too full to accept more coins) created an annual loss of $5.5M; that was improved by 50% and impacted the bottom line by almost $3M. Downtime, which caused the most significant loss at $12M per year, was improved by 30%. With numbers like these, an air vendor could easily double the value of the system in one year alone.

Charging Stations & Digital Signs

Have you ever charged your mobile phone while enjoying a cup of coffee at Starbucks? If you have, you know that finding a free plug in a packed coffee house can be hard. These charging stations can be even more valuable at the airport —we’ve all fought for that prime spot in the flight gate waiting area. Now, Monster Media has created a digital experience to accompany the convenience. You’ll see a digital ad while your phone or laptop is being charged. That content is delivered by a 4G LTE connection—the same type of connection that can also deliver information to the display screen on a gas pump.

Wireless charging stations are a huge value-add to customers, and in Starbucks’ case they encourage people to stick around longer—which leads to more coffee sold. For advertisers, this value can be paired with their message—a message that might even be specific to your currently location. Similarly, at the gas pump, customers have the convenience of catching the news or relevant information while pumping gas, and gas stations are able to advertise deals to lure customers into the store to make purchases.

Bottle Recycling Machine

For some of us, returning bottles is a well-known past-time. But for many states, reverse vending machines are becoming common-place. In either case, the system enables consumers to recycle, make money and keep neighborhoods clean. Recycling is so popular today that machines can fill up fast, which causes downtime. How does the vendor know when the machine is full? A cellular connection to HQ. recycling-logo

rePLANET added a cloud connection to their recycling center solution. Without a wireless connection to the machine, a technician would have to drive hours, costing the company hundreds of dollars. Now, with a wireless VPN connection, the machine reports its capacity remotely. The technician’s PC can be remotely controlled with the cellular connection to get updates and new configurations. The new method costs less than 20% of the cost of drive time and shipping and takes about 10% of the total time previously required to correct problems.

So, the next time you pull up to a gas station or visit a store, take a closer look at the digital sign, lottery terminal, air pumps and bottle recycling machines—you won’t be able to see the wireless connection, but you can be sure that it’s working for you and for the stakeholders who put it there. Those wireless connections are making your life easier and more interactive, and driving revenue and extreme savings for organizations all around the world.

Want to learn more about how businesses are using cellular technology? Check out this story to see how Tel-O-Fun is using cellular connections to handle bike rental payments in Tel Aviv.

This Week in the Internet of Things: Friday Favorites

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.

davis-maker-movement-history-460x345
Complexity Will Drive Demand for Managed Service Providers | Forbes

Forget ‘Things’ — It’s the Internet of Business Models | Information Week

Why the Internet of Things Narrative Needs to Change | The Next Web

How the Maker Movement is Moving into Classrooms | Edutopia

Solar Power Trash Compactor in Philadelphia | CNN

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.

Digi Employee Hackathon: Developing with Arduino and Mbed Microcontrollers

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Last week, Digi engineers convened at our headquarters in Minneapolis for their annual meeting. We also took this time to hold a Hackathon. For this Hackathon, there was a requirement of using both an Arduino and Mbed microcontroller in each team’s design and connect the two microcontrollers via XBee. Here are a few of the projects that were created.

Aquariometer

The goal of the project was to give fish tank owners and pet shop managers a complete solution for monitoring their aquariums. Temperature changes can be detrimental to aquatic life.  Additonally, continuous monitoring of the tank’s temperature can prevent serious damage to a heater if there is an issue. It’s also important to maintain a proper water level. If the levels get too low, it can cause damage to the aquarium’s filtering system.

The project shows the tank level and temperature at a glance with a shiny RGB LED light strip. The height of the lights represents the level in the tank and temperature is reflected by the color of the lights. So, when the temperature is warm, the lights turn red and when the temperature is cool, the light strip turns blue.

The mbed microcontroller was connected to the temperature sensor and the scale, which is used to measure the level of the tank. XBee sent the sensor readings from the tank to an Arduino which processes the sensor readings and controls the LED strip.

Team Members: Don Schleede and Jayna Locke 

Wireless Scoreboard

We’re a competitive bunch. In the heat of competition, you need a way to keep score. That’s why the wireless scoreboard was created.

The design consisted of an Arduino board and mbed board to meet the competition criteria. The mbed was connected to buttons that the user can push to enter a point. There are buttons for the home and away team as well as a reset button to set the score back to zero. The score is displayed on an LCD screen connected to an Arduino. The two microcontrollers communicate via XBee, so you can place the scoreboard and control panel in convenient locations.

Team Members: Jonathan Young

ReMorse

People still use Morse code… right? That’s beside the point. Now, there’s finally a way to send your friends and colleagues Morse code messages.

ReMorse is a high-end, lo-fi, vintage, wireless communication device that makes it easy to send very important, highly secure, messages to those you need to reach. The user simply enters in their message on a laptop, hits send, and the message begins playing from the speaker. The receiver processes the morse code and translates the message.

Team Members: Aaron Kurland, Gene Fodor

CarDuinoIMG_0118

Have you ever left for work in a hurry only to second guess whether or not you closed the garage door? Fear no more. The CarDuino ensures this is a problem of the past.

The team’s prototype consisted of an RC car and miniature garage door, but could easily be expanded to work in the real world. On board the remote control vehicle is an Arduino and XBee. If the door is left open, the driver is notified with a jingle. They can then choose to close the garage door from their car or acknowledge the alarm and turn it off. The range of the device is about one mile out on the road!

 Closing

The goal of the Hackathon was to familiarize everyone with developing on both the Arduino and MBed platforms. We learned a lot and identified strengths and weaknesses in both platforms and we got some amazing projects as a result. Click here to check out past Hackathons we’ve held at Digi. Here’s to more hackathons in the future!