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Building Sensors with Alasdair Allan using an Arduino and XBees

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Building data streaming sensors with Alasdair Allan:

As a part of Make’s Urban Sensor Hack series, Alasdair Allan builds a temperature and humidity sensor live and streams the data to his computer. He carefully walks you through each step of the building process by building a circuit with an Arduino, writing code, and creating a wireless connection with a Digi XBee. If you’re just starting out or interested in making your own sensor network, this is a perfect video to help you take that first step.

Urban Sensor Hack

Make’s Urban Sensor Hack series sets out to bring makers together to discuss how to set up your own sensor networks.  The series takes place over Google Hangouts until October 15 and features some amazing makers such as Alasdair Allan, Kipp Bradford, Sean Montgomery, and many more. This is a great resource of information as you build your own sensor networks and search for creative uses for sensor data.

More videos to come from Make’s Urban Sensor Hack series, so stay tuned and check out the upcoming schedule.

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.

Interview with Adam Wolf, Co-Author of Make: Lego and Arduino Projects

Reserve your spot for a 3-hr hands-on training experience with Freescale & Digi International

Building Internet Enabled Things with Arduino XBee and Nodejs by Bryan Paluch

iDigi at the M2M Evolution Conference & Expo; Named Best Horizontal Platform

Connecting a Capacitive Touch Keypad to the Programmable XBee on Digi Examples & Guides

Do you have a link to share? Please tell us in the comments below or Tweet us, @XBeeWireless — we would love to share your findings too. You can also follow all of the commentary and discussion with the hashtag #FridayFavorites.

Interview with Adam Wolf, Co-Author of Make: Lego and Arduino Projects

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We’re truly lucky here at Digi International to host some of the most innovative minds who are leading the inception of the Internet of Things. Today, we’re sharing the story of Adam Wolf, a Firmware Engineer at Spectrum Design Solutions and a recently published author of Make: LEGO and Arduino Projects: Projects for extending MINDSTORMS NXT with open-source electronics.

Adam came to Spectrum Design Solutions last August from Lockheed Martin. He usually works on embedded Linux projects on drivers as well as front-end programs on small devices.

The Motivation 
Adam works on two or three projects a month, so his skills touch a vast range of solutions. One of the most recent products he worked on is a hand-held style medical device designed to read ion concentration from sweat that can detect diseases. He also worked on an Android tablet for a company that had their own audio chip for background noise cancelation for a phone. “The projects come in and you work on them and then they leave fast. So, you get to work on tons of different projects and there’s brand new stuff all of the time,” Adam said.

Before working on all of the various projects at Spectrum, Adam was still craving more hands-on time. So, he and Matt Beckler started a side project, Wayne and Layne. Through this side project and attending Maker Faire each year, he realized that elementary school kids had obtained incredible skills through the Lego League program. They could make complicated RC project with motors and sensors. But, parents were having a hard time stimulating these skills when the school year was over. Adam identified that parents had no way to get their kids working on projects and that expanding knowledge was a problem.

Co-Author and writer for Wired and MakeJohn Baichtal, also wanted to make a more technical project hooking up Arduino and Lego. They met at a local hackerspace and did 5-6 projects that had the widest spread in complexity. In their book, those topics are introduced in order. The first project is a “draw bot” that drives around your table and draws lines. One of the last projects, the Gripper Bot, is a complex tank with an arm that uses six motors and four XBees.

‘Making’ Accessibility 
In addition to teaching and sharing knowledge, Adam has worked to increase simplicity and accessibility. One year, while working with many schools and camps, Wayne and Layne created a kit that was a word game with a small LCD on it to be programmed on a computer. When they went to do the programming, the school computers were locked down. IT was trying to give admin rights on the computers, but after much time and frustration Adam realized that he needed to make a project where anyone with a PC could gain access. Blinky Grid and Blinky POV were born. Now, you can link your kit up on your monitor and press the button on the webpage and it blinks squares back– the timing of the blinks wirelessly programs. Once the device is on a website, you can open it from anywhere.

Early Inspiration and Community Impact
For as long as he can remember, Adam has wanted to make electronic toys. In sixth grade, he and Matt Beckler put their paper route money together and bought a Parallax microcontroller kit. “We build it and ran it in DOS [Basic], and we were so excited. But, after about three hours, we realized that we couldn’t do much more with it. There were no magazines or resources for kids. We didn’t know anyone who knew about microcontrollers. That’s why I’m happy to be a part of fixing that problem for kids today. It used to be so hard– even if you had the money to enter the arena. Now, with the Internet and hackerspaces, people will gladly teach you for free.”

With Adam working hard himself to inspire and tech kids about electronics, he has his own set of mentors that motivate his mision. In the DIY community he finds Evil Mad Scientists efforts to be exciting. And, closer to home, Adam looks to his wife, a teacher, for techniques on clearly explaining projects. “If I can explain it to a fifth grader, I can explain it here at Digi or through a webpage,” Adam said.

If you would like to connect with Adam you can find him on Twitter on his personal account @AdamWWolf and @Wayne&Layne. If you have questions about this post, questions for Adam or interviewee suggestions please leave them in the comments section below or follow us on Twitter.

Recommended Reading: The Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way we do business, collect information and live our lives. We’ve compiled a growing list of recommended books that will get you (or keep you) at the forefront of the inception and growth of the IoT.

We’ll be updating this list with your suggestions and newly released books on a regular basis.

Update: January 24, 2013

M2M Communications: A Systems Approach by David Boswarthick, Omar Elloumi, Olivier Hersent

The Internet of Things: Key Applications and Protocols by David Boswarthick, Omar Elloumi, Olivier Hersent

Interconnecting Smart Objects with IP: The Next Internet by Jean-Philippe Vasseur & Adam Dunkels

Machine-to-machine (M2M) communication services: High-impact Technology – What You Need to Know: Definitions, Adoptions, Impact, Benefits, Maturity, Vendors by Kevin Roebuck

LEGO and Arduino Projects: Projects for extending MINDSTORMS NXT with open-source electronics by John Baichtal, Matthew Beckler, Adam Wolf

—March 26, 2012 

Building Wireless Sensor Networks by Rob Faludi

Getting Started with the Internet of Things: Connecting Sensors and Microcontrollers to the Cloud by Cuno Pfister

Making Things Talk: Using Sensors, Networks, and Arduino to see, hear, and feel your world by Tom Igoe

Making Things Move DIY Mechanisms for Inventors, Hobbyists, and Artists by Dustyn Roberts

Programming Interactivity by Joshua Noble

Shaping Things by Bruce Sterling

ZigBee Wireless Sensor and Control Network by Ata Elahi

Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design by Mike Kuniavsky

Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing by Adam Greenfield

What have you read lately? Let us know in the comments section below or tweet us your suggestions for the list.

XIG Stock Tracker

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Digi’s own Dave Olson created the XIG Stock Tracker or a “stock fortune teller.” It wirelessly provides real-time updates of the DIGI, or any, stock status using the XBee Internet Gateway for windows. Stock updates as soon as they happen– talk about a great office ornament.

Dave used an Arduino UNO, an Arduino XBee Shield, an XBee, XStick and a USB Serial Programming Board.

He then set the AT commands for the XBee and XStick to sync them. If you’re creating your own, you can use this reference for the proper XBee settings.

Next, download and run the XIG code for windows, located here.  Select the COM port that your XStick is plugged into.

Plug the XBee into the XBee shield and plug the shield into the Arduino UNO. Connect the UNO to your machine with a USB serial chord.

The Arduino code reads in and parses the DGII NASDAQ website. If the DGII stock is up pin 13 (green LED) is turned on. If the DGII stock is down pin 12 (red LED) is turned on.

Green and red LEDs connected to pins 13 and 12, respectfully.

Using a 9V battery and an enclosure that can be hung on the wall, you now have a real-time, wireless view of the Digi stock price status without any direct internet access.

Note: The XIG DGII Reader only requires internet connection from your laptop and can get you a live reading as long as you are within XBee range.

Are you interested in trying other projects? Visit the Digi Examples Site. You can also see Dave’s other project, the XBee Enabled Ice Fishing Pole here.

Sega Rally Cabinet Hacked for Racing RC Trucks via Gizmag

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Of all the ways to catastrophically break a Sega Rally Championship Arcade cabinet, Artica’s hack at Portuguese hackathon Codebits earlier this month must surely go down as the most creative. With the addition of an Arduino board and an XBee RF module, the cabinet was made to race two camera-equipped radio-control trucks around the floor at Codebits VI.

With the addition of an XBee wireless radio frequency module, the cabinet is ready, in theory, to communicate with a radio-controlled truck. In practice, the truck needed to be modified with a receiver allowing signals from the Arduino board to be mapped to the truck’s wheels, throttle and a video switch.

Read the Full Article on Gizmag

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.

How To Start A Hackerspace by Eric Michaud on Adafruit

The Internet of Things: Coming to a Classroom Near You by David LaMartina on EdCetera
Pairs well with: 5 Ways to Learn Even if You’re Not Headed B2S4 Resources for Learning Electronics

Digi Launches XBee-PRO 900HP RF Module With a Range of Up to 45 Km on CNXSoftware

Toyota Tests Cars That Communicate With Each Other by Yuri Kageyama on Wireless Week

Smart thermostats are taking over Las Vegas by Katie Fehrenbacher on Gigaom
featuring EcoFactor

Arduino Wireless Connectivity with XBee by Roy Wood on Wired

Do you have a link to share? Please tell us in the comments below or Tweet us, @XBeeWireless — we would love to share your findings too. You can also follow all of the commentary and discussion with the hashtag #FridayFavorites.

Make Your Own with the XIG: The Cat Doorbell

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About the author: Don Schleede currently manages the iDigi security office. Don has worked in the IT field for 25 years. He has served as a Chief Technology Officer for 12 years in mid-sized level financial and technical companies. For the last 7 years, he has exclusively served in security roles as a Senior Security Analyst, Engineer, and Architect. Don holds a number of certifications such as the CISSP, MCSE, RHCE, CCNP, CEH and others. Today, he works in at Digi International, where his love of embedded things, microcontrollers and security can be expressed.

Why a Cat Doorbell? 
Recently, a friend of mine moved. This friend has a few cats who like to go outside. Because of their new surroundings, we weren’t sure that the cats would know where to return to. One night, all the cats except for one came back home. While the cats have been trained to come in when they hear a whistle, this cat must have been out of whistle range– doing whatever cats do. It was getting to be a cold night so we were worried. We did notice that the cats would stand at the door when they were ready to come in, but of course, we would have to see them standing at the door and open it for them. In the morning, we found one cold kitty waiting at the door. No major harm, but we felt guilty for not letting the cat in– the idea of the Cat Doorbell was born.

Here’s how I made the Cat Doorbell and how you can make your own. 

I didn’t want to get too in depth and design our own board for this project, so I used standard parts that I had around. Here’s what I picked from my supplies:

This was assembled as a prototype. For longer term operation, I would suggest mounting things better, and using a level converter for the data pins.

1.  First, I wired up the PIR sensor to the end of the box. The PIR sensor fit perfectly where the waterproof Cat-5 connector was, so I added some crazy glue. I connected the GND and 5V lines to the Arduino, and I connected the sensor line directly to the Arduino, pin 7.

2. I glued the Piezo to the bottom of the box, and I soldered in a 1Kohm resistor in series and plugged it into the Arduino, pin 8.

3. I used some pins to solder the XBee Series 2, which was already programmed with a XIG configuration to the 3.3v and GND lines.

4. Next, I connected the data lines to the Arduino pins 5 and 6. I have heard that the data lines of the XBee Series 2 are not 5v tolerant, but I know many people who have connected these to Arduinos without a problem. For more information, see Rob Faludi’s web page at http://www.faludi.com/bwsn/xbee-level-shifting

5. With some double side tape, I taped the XBee to the side.

6. With the XBee using the XIG, I have a Digi ConnectPort X4 gateway in my house. I loaded the XIG code onto the gateway and validated that the communication works with the XBee. You can find more information on the XIG project here.

7. Next I programmed the Arduino, the program follows this flow:

  • Look for activity on the PIR sensor
  • Send a URL string to the XBee (is used the SoftSerial library)
  • Beep the Piezo like a doorbell
  • Wait 60 seconds. Don’t want multiple activations.
  • Go back to step 1

The URL that was called went to a server that is hosted at Rackspace. The URL is actually a PHP web page, that will interface to SMS to my cellphone (via email). After testing and validating, I put the device outside so it would detect when a cat (or anything else) is at the back door. To call this complete, I waited for a bit for one of the cats to come back. And, sure enough, I got an SMS message on my phone. I went and opened the door and a cat proudly walked in.

Have questions or comments about the Cat Doorbell? Let me know in the comments section below or on Twitter. As I iterate the Cat Doorbell I’ll continue to update this post.