Today marks Digi’s golden birthday! Over the last 30 years, a lot has changed and more is on the way, so for a little fun, we decided to take a look back at Digi’s history. When was XBee invented? When did the Digi diamond logo come into existence? All those answers and more are below. Here’s to 30 more years!
Another Digi employee hackathon has come to a close! Rob paid a visit to our team out in Utah to hold a hackathon with Digi’s development staff. This continues what has become a tradition at Digi over the last couple years.
Each event has led to the creation of a number of product improvements and other fun and whimsical projects. Another important benefit is that it gives everyone a chance to collaborate with those they don’t normally work with on a day-to-day basis.
Here’s a look at the winning project.
AT Command Database
The winners of our recent hackathon created an incredibly useful tool for both developers inside our company and for our customers. The team’s final prototype is a new centralized system for managing XBee, XTend and our other radios’ AT command info across our entire wireless product line. Digi’s wireless products use these AT commands to manage setup, networking, security, sensors, actuators, battery use, diagnostics and many more functions.
There are hundred of useful commands that need to be managed, tested and shared between our products, libraries, software and documentation. In addition, the commands are implemented by our partners in third-party products and tools. Changes, updates and corrections to the commands need to be kept in sync across all these implementations, and absolute accuracy is essential.
Prior to Team AT-DB’s creation, the process for maintaining up-to-date AT command information involved lots of coordination and double-checking. We also needed a more efficient way to accurately process updates when changes occur, and share these with our partners and customers. Each command has a specific syntax, description, parameters and defaults. Certain commands must be implemented differently for different protocols. Details matter!
Here are the main benefits the group demonstrated with their new prototype:
- The ability to audit radio descriptors and test firmware updates against a single, authoritative source.
- Automatic synchronization services for Digi software like XCTU, and also for third-party software development partners.
- Electronic documentation support functions and enhanced support for automated testing.
- A user friendly front end interface that can be enhanced as new use cases arise.
Hackathons keep us creative and excited about our work as it’s an opportunity to try out new ideas. Successful prototypes like this one inspire and help implement the innovative systems necessary to making and maintaining Digi’s mission-critical products.
Check out this page to see other projects and ideas developed at past Digi Hackathons.
Did you know that roughly 1.7 billion people are not connected to a power grid? In Sub-Sahara Africa, the number is around 500 million. For many, the infrastructure simply doesn’t exist. The modern day conveniences we take for granted such as being able to read at night, cooking on the stove top and refrigeration can be a hassle, or close to impossible, with no access to a reliable source of electricity.
The challenges of installing a power grid in remote and undeveloped areas can be numerous, so how do we reimagine how to deliver reliable electricity and move past the traditional power grid system? Thankfully, Devergy is solving this tricky problem. Using solar power and wireless technology, Devergy has built a sustainable business that’s helping villages in Tanzania and Ghana meet their energy needs.
Who is Devergy?
Founded in 2010 by Fabio De Pascale, Gianluca Cescon and Daniel Ponz, Devergy is a social enterprise committed to providing an affordable and reliable source of energy to low-income people throughout Tanzania.
Their customers live in rural areas of the country where a power grid is nonexistent and residents do not have the money necessary to purchase a personal solar home system.
Residents in Tanzania typically spend between 6 and 25 USD per month on kerosene, phone charging, and dry-cell batteries for radios. After the installation of Devergy’s solar grids, residents spend as much as 20% less than what they were spending on kerosene for lighting and 50% less for phone charging. Not only does Devergy provide a clean, renewable and reliable source of energy, but it’s also substantially more affordable.
The service is based on village-sized energy micro-grids, which provide solar power to households and small businesses; it allows the users to connect lights and appliances such as radios, TVs and refrigerators. With the smart micro-grids, the usage of installed power is up to 70% more efficient than with equivalent solar home systems.
The key feature of the system is an energy meter that powers the household or business with a pre-paid pay-per-use approach, where customers top up their credit by using a mobile commerce platform, such as Vodacom M-Pesa. This is just like the system you would use to top-up a pre-paid mobile phone.
How it Works
Devergy uses Digi XBee technology for the communication network in its grids. Hundreds of nodes are connected with XBee–making the solar micro-grids smart, cost effective, and manageable. Devergy relies on XBee modules for its smart meters and is using Digi’s ConnectPort X4 for its ZigBee to GPRS gateways. Fabio, co-founder of Devergy says, “The plug and play, flexible nature of the Digi product was fundamental to get our services to the market faster.”
Devergy has successfully connected more than 800 customers since 2012 to reliable, clean and safe electricity with a service sufficient to satisfy their needs for many years to come. Currently, they are active in two regions and quickly growing their customer base. In addition to Tanzanaia, the Devergy grids are also licensed to third parties in Ghana, where they power 3 villages.
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.
Lighting Up Future Utility Models | M2M Now
The ongoing drought in the western United States underscores the importance of maintaining and conserving a reliable supply of fresh water—whether for drinking, irrigation, fire control or manufacturing, reliable water storage is essential. Of course, half the battle in maintaining a water supply is managing it: once a tank system has been installed and filled, water must be properly distributed when it is needed and retained when it is not. If tanks are remote and many are spread over a wide area, monitoring them can become a costly and time-consuming obligation.
These are the sorts of challenges that Digi and Temboo are overcoming by building a more intelligent Internet of Things. A network of Digi hardware running Temboo Choreos is flexible and smart—devices can be programmed to execute a wide variety of processes, and be reprogrammed without being interrupted. This is a solution that combines ease of automation with the trustworthiness of manual control. To illustrate the solution’s benefits, and demonstrate how the whole system works, we’ve built a model of the water tank problem. This system puts Temboo and Digi to work, keeping water levels right where they ought to be.
Our tank monitoring solution uses an XBee ZigBee radio to wirelessly exchange sensor information and remote control commands using Digi’s new XBee Gateway, a programmable device that joins ZigBee mesh networks to the Internet. A small Temboo client written in Python is installed on the XBee Gateway, allowing it to connect to over one hundred different web services using Temboo Choreos. With Temboo, the memory constraints of the small devices in the network cease to be an obstacle to intelligent behavior, as much of the code required to execute complex processes is offloaded to the cloud.
If a storm is on its way, there is an option to ignore the alert. If the leakage does not need to be urgently addressed, there is an option to schedule a maintenance event for the future, which the Temboo program on the gateway handles via a Google Calendar Choreo . If the situation is urgent, however, there is another option to activate a backup pump at a different point in the XBee network and refill the tank. Of course, all of this will only work properly if the sensor and gateway are powered on and functioning, so our system needs to be prepared for any loss of connectivity—if, for any reason, transmission of the level of water in the tank stops, another Temboo Choreo will file a Zendesk ticket to alert support that the system needs attention.
The most exciting thing about this model, however, is that it is only a small example of a massively scalable system. XBee technology can connect hundreds of different devices in a much larger network, and Temboo’s Library contains over two thousand other Choreos that can be used to execute an immense variety of tasks. Modifying the behavior of the Temboo program on the gateway to, for example, switch notification services is just a matter of changing Choreos, a simple task. Digi’s hardware and Temboo’s software are coming together to build a lighter, smarter and much easier to use Internet of Things.
Demo created using:
- XBee ZB PRO (XBP24BZ7WIT-004)
- XBIB development board (XBIB-U-DEV)
- XBee Gateway (X2E-Z3C-W1-A)
- Temboo SDK for Python (temboo.com)
- Yahoo Weather Choreos
- Zendesk Choreos
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.
“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.
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!
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.
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
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
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
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!
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!