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National Geographic Explorers Connect the Okavango Delta to the IoT

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Drones capable of detecting illegal logging in the Amazon Rainforest. Sensor networks to help research the dwindling honeybee population. Smart solar-powered waste collection. This is all happening today thanks to the Internet of Things. In addition to new technologies, the open-source movement has made it possible to share hardware designs, software and even data-making it easy for anyone to aid the global effort to preserve the ecosystems we depend on.

This summer, a team of National Geographic explorers are taking a 1,000 mile journey down the Okavango River in an effort to collect environmental data, discover new species and measure the heartbeat of one of the most remote wetlands in the world. And it’s all being done with Internet connected devices.

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Into the Okavango’s Mission
The Okavango Delta, located in Botswana, is one of the last pristine wetland wildernesses in the world. It’s protected as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, but farther upstream its water supply in Angola and Namibia is still susceptible to human interference.

National Geographic’s Okavango Expedition assembled a team of scientists and engineers to collect data along the Okavango River so that conservation efforts can be more effective, raise awareness and ensure that this remote wildlife sanctuary can be enjoyed for generations to come.

The delta itself stretches a vast 15,000 square kilometers, so the team of researchers needed to find a way to efficiently gather data across the entire area. Since this is such a remote location, additional considerations needed to be made like weatherproof equipment, power sources, and how to network the sensors.

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Connecting Across the Delta
Shah Selbe, the expedition’s lead technologist and conservation engineer at Conservify, created a wireless sensor network that significantly reduces the amount of manual labor required by the team to collect environmental data. Now, they no longer have to use pH strips or manually check sensor readings and record data onto paper. The wireless network completely automates the recording of data, collects more of it, and is more accurate.

Steve Boyes, National Geographic Emerging Explorer, put it best saying, “Shah took us from little strips and pieces of paper – writing down the water quality as we go down – to environmental sensor platforms… We’re going to be measuring the literal heartbeat of that wilderness in real time for the world to see.” 

Shah and team built a wireless sensor network using components you probably have sitting on your desk right now. A Raspberry Pi running a Python script is the center of each network. This central hub processes the data generated from multiple remote nodes and acts as a Wi-Fi gateway. Data is directly uploaded to the web server using JSON. In some especially remote locations, the remote Arduino nodes send data using the Twilio API over a cellular network.

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Each of the nodes consist of an Arduino, XBee, and multiple sensors. The XBee ZigBee network makes it possible to connect over long distances since data packets can hop between neighboring nodes until they reach the central coordinator. For power, the remote nodes rely on a solar panel and a 6600 mAH battery.

There were a variety of sensor deployed throughout the delta. The main goal is to gather data related to water quality so sensors for water chemistry like pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity, and conductivity make up a bulk of the data collected. The team is also trying to better understand flood dynamics by monitoring flow rate, water level, and turbidity.

On the surface, sensors measure air temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and in the future the team plans to add sensors to detect radiation and other air pollutants.

In addition to the environmental data collected by the sensors, the team is streaming GPS location, research observations, wildlife sightings, photos, and more in real-time on their website.

Rolling out the wireless sensor network and collecting data is just phase 1 of the project. All of the data will be made available to the public through the website’s API. Continuously monitoring the delta will enable the team to detect even the smallest changes in water quality. The design and code used in the project will also be open sourced so the conservation effort can reach and preserve as many marine habitats as possible.

Stay connected to ‘Into the Okavango’ at the following links:

Over the next few years, the team plans to build out the network by adding sensors to the headwaters and other locations across the delta to gain an even more comprehensive understanding of the river and its surrounding environment.

Look What I Made: XBee Project Gallery Update

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Wireless Keytar
This project enables musicians to wireless transmit MIDI data to a computer to get processed by an audio enginer such as Max MSP.  The project enables a musician to create music without the hassle of plugging in and re-discovering the Keytar, while also tapping into the powerful processing capabilities of music software.

All-Terrain Rover
This all-terrain vehicle is able to navigate over difficult environments with a complex servo system. And, like many robots, this rover uses XBee for wireless control, but the creator took the project one step further by equipping the robot with sensors. Additionally, a camera relays a live video feed into the a graphical interface running on the user’s computer.

BeeChecker
BeeChecker enables beekeepers to maintain and remotely monitor the health of their beehives. The system is comprised of two devices-one located in the hive and one out of the hive. The device measures the weight of the hive and the frequencies that the bees emit-which can indicate various behaviors of the bees within the hive. The sensor outside the hive measures humidity, temperature, and GPS location to map out the placement of each hive.

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.

XBees Soar into Space on NASA Rocket

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Rob Faludi, Digi’s Chief Innovator, was onsite for the launch of the first XBee network into space. The successful test of the wireless sensor network took place at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The launch is part of NASA’s effort to determine the effectiveness of Exo-Brake technology and introduce wireless technology into their designs. As this was the first XBee network to reach space, we had to capture it on video.

Learn more about the experiment and see photos in these related posts:

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!

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.

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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.

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!

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.