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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!

Digi Employee Hackathon: Minnetonka Tech Support Team

The Digi Employee Hackathons have now become a tradition we all look forward to. We’ve hacked in Digi offices around the world, built cloud connected projects, and above all else, have just had tons of fun. This week our Tech Support team battled it out to see who could build the most impressive project with the XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit.

Here are the projects that went from idea to reality in just hours.

The Coffee Busters

The injustice stops now. No longer will we fall victim to those topping up their morning cups of coffee– only to leave an empty pot for the rest of us. The Coffee Busters’ goal was to make sure no one can flee the scene of an empty coffee pot after pouring the last fresh cup.

 

The team started off by 3D printing a base to hold the coffee pot. Within the 3D printed base is a force resistor that is continually taking measurements and checking to see if the coffee level is getting low. Once the coffee gets low, the device plays a jingle to notify the coffee drinker that ,”Hey, I need to be refilled!” In addition to playing a jingle, the team connected a Digi Watchport Camera to a ConnectPort X4, which snaps a photo when the alarm goes off. If the the coffee drinker fails to fill the coffee pot back up in a timely manner, the photo that was taken at the scene of the crime is sent out to the department via email.
Team Members: Charlie Kotasek, Ron Kinney, and Michael Shatirishvili.
Awarded: Best Buzz

Cool Bees

Servers are expensive and they can get hot. If a server room is approaching warmer than normal temperatures, it’s important that you know as soon as possible, so you can prevent a disaster. Or better yet, let the server room prevent it’s own disaster. The Cool Bees’ project enables servers to let IT staff know when the temperature starts to approach a dangerous level.

 

The team connected a temperature sensor and a cooling fan to the XBee Wi-Fi. Temperature sensor readings were continually sent up to Device Cloud. If a reading was greater than 74 degrees, an alarm was triggered and turned on the connected fan to bring the room’s temperature to a safer level.
Team Members: Jeanne Garmon, Knight Jensen, Margaret Kronenberg, and Scott Peterson.
Awarded: Coolest Project

For the Birds 

Bird feeders are great, but turn your head at the wrong moment and you might miss seeing your winged visitor. Or it turns into a squirrel feeder and no matter what measure you take, you can’t find a way to keep them away. For the Birds channeled this frustration into developing a cloud-connected bird feeder that is full of useful features.

 

First, the feeder snaps a picture when a bird stops by for a bite. A motion sensor attached to an XBee Wi-Fi recognizes when a bird is near the feeder. A picture is taken and the user is sent an email letting them know a bird has stopped by. The team also wanted to be notified when the feeder needs refilling. To do this, they attached a weight sensor to the feeder and when the amount of feed reaches 20% the user is sent an email letting them know it’s time to refill the feeder.

Next item on the road map is to create an anti-squirrel system that keeps the bushy-tailed creatures off the feeder, but also leaves them unharmed!
Team Members: Cheryl Busch, Michael Toenis, and Jennifer Getty
Awarded: Most Shocking

Closing
The Coffee Busters were awarded first place, but each project showcased the creativity of our employees and what is possible with the Internet of Things–even if you only have a few hours to develop your project. Like always, we gained valuable feedback on how to improve the user experience with our products. Now, hopefully we can get a few coffee busters set up around the office and finally solve the mystery of the empty coffee pot.

UPDATE: The Germinator is Alive!

A couple weeks ago, we shared the projects our team in Logroño built for the Digi Employee Hackathon. Here is quick  update on ‘The Germinator Plus’ project. These pictures were taken two weeks after planting and as you can see, the project is in full force!

The Germinator Plus makes it easy to adjust the environment for different species of plants by using Device Cloud, XBee, a microcontroller, and sensors. The sensors monitor heat, light, and water levels and the system maintains the conditions needed for that species of plant. Read more about the project in the full Digi Employee Hackathon post.

Digi Employee Hackathon: XBee WiFi Visits Logroño

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For the latest Digi Hackathon, Rob Faludi took the show on the road and crossed the Atlantic to hold the first ever hackathon at our office in Logroño, Spain. With XBee WiFi Cloud Kits in hand, the four teams hacked away for what was the most competitive hackathon yet. In a matter of hours, each team had to quickly brainstorm, build, and present their cloud-connected projects.

 

The Garbage M.A.N.

Garbage M.A.N. Smart garbage containers monitoring for smart cities. In Spain, garbage is sorted into four different containers that fill up at different speeds. Garbage trucks need to collect every container no matter how full it is and they do this mainly during the night. The containers may overflow, which is smelly, or be collected when they don’t need to be which is a waste of time, energy and creates unnecessary noise.

The Garbage M.A.N. monitors the fill level with sensors and transmits the information to a central program that calculates routing so that full containers never overflow, and empty containers are not visited unnecessarily. This reduces noise, pollution, smells, collection time and the truck fleet. The prototype uses an XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit, Device Cloud and an Android application to display optimized routes. Yes, the Garbage M.A.N. can!
Team members: Sebastián Pastor, Javier Viguera, Ernesto Vara, Arturo Buzarra, and Héctor Palacios.
Awarded: “Least Smelly” and First Prize

 

Germinator Plus
Germinator Plus

An automated system for remote greenhouse seed germination monitoring. Seeds germination requires unique light, temperature and humidity conditions for each species of plant. Germinator Plus provides an automatic germination greenhouse to  monitor and control each of these conditions. It’s easy to configure and use for a variety of different seed species, and everything can be done remotely. Heating, light and watering are all triggered by sensors. When the plants have reached the proper height, the grower is alerted that they are ready to transplant. Germinator Plus prototype uses XBee Wi-Fi, Device Cloud, a ConnectCore 6, water pump, lighting controls, heater, moisture, light and temperature sensors. The result? Perfect plants.
Team members: David Escalona, Diego Escalona, Francisco/Paco Gil Martínez, Carlos Marín, and Isaac Hermida.
Awarded: “Industrial Light & Moisture Award” and Second Prize

 

Lie-Detect-o-Meter
Lie Detect-o-Meter

A mobile battery-operated wristband lie detector for public questioning. Ask your question remotely through the web interface and get a real time answer with an instant decision about its truthfulness. Lie-detect-o-meter is the must have gadget for your political career. The project uses XBee Wi-Fi, Device Cloud, Arduino and sensors for moisture and pulse.
Team members: Mike Engel, Daniel Alesanco, Hector Bujanda, and Alex Gonzalez.
Awarded: “Most Judgmental”

 

The Smart Plug-Y-Play

Unattended computers waste energy. The Smart Plug-Y-Play monitors power consumption and can automatically switch off the computer. In addition users can turn any device on or off remotely, and configure notification alarms to alert them to excessive power consumption or unauthorized use. The system was prototyped with the XBee Wi-Fi, Device Cloud, a motion detector, smart plug and controlled by either a web application or smartphone app.
Team members: Pedro Perez, Ruben Moral, Tatiana Leon, Jesus Nieto, and Alejandro Vaquero.
Awarded: “Most Shocking”

 

With an office full of hackers it was no surprise that every project was a home run. But, we’re just starting to scratch the surface of what the IoT makes possible. Are you a maker, builder, or DIYer looking to build your own Internet of Things project? Learn more about the XBee WiFi Cloud Kit here.

Digi Employee Hackathon: XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit

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Last week, we had another Digi Employee Hackathon and put the new XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit to the test. This is one of the many, not to mention most fun, ways we ensure an outstanding user experience for our customers. With the kits, the teams were able to build projects that connected to the cloud in a matter of minutes. One team member was even surprised at how true the tagline #IoTASAP was. He said, “I got from the box to the cloud in under 20 minutes.” Using the kit’s dashboard, widgets we’re made to visually represent the data being collected by Device Cloud.

Here are some of the highlights:

Team Barbara

Summertime thunderstorms can bring heavy rain and if the sump pump goes out, you need to know immediately! Team Barabara aimed to solve this problem.

Their project consisted of using a water sensor  to measure the water level in the sump pump basket. When the water hits a level that indicates there may be flooding, a widget, located on the Cloud Kit dashboard, turns to “Flooded!” The app also tracks the on/off history of the sump pump so you can make sure the pump is functioning properly.

Another issue the team looked to solve was frozen pipes during the winter months. For this, they installed a temperature sensor, which reads out the basement’s temperature. If the sensor is reading a value that could lead to frozen pipes, an email or SMS is sent to the homeowner. This alarm and notification system is set up using Device Cloud’s alarms feature.

R-Squared

If the power goes out or the door is left open, and you don’t know the current state of your refrigerator, you run the risk of spoiled food. R-Squared saw this problem as an opportunity for their hackathon project.  This application would be extremely valuable for both restaurants and home owners. The team monitored three parameters and designed a widget for each. From the dashboard, you can see whether the door is open or closed, whether the power is on or off, as well as the current temperature in the fridge. If either of these parameters reaches a condition that could lead to spoiled food, a user is notified via an alarm within the dashboard.

Bradometer

What do you get when you combine a hacked a scale and motivational messages? The Bradometer of course.

The team hacked a digital scale that sends values to Device Cloud. A widget, designed to look like a scale, displays the scale’s value within the dashboard. Depending on what the scale is reading, the Bradometer reveals motivating messages with an accompanying photo of the one and only Brad Cole.

WhoVille

The project, “Who Left the Lights On?” was made to reduce energy use by tracking light usage and make the lives of parents a little easier. The main use case is to give homeowners a way  to determine who is needlessly leaving lights on in the home. But, it could also be used by parents who want to make sure their children are in bed with the lights off by bedtime. Let’s say the application determines the child’s lights are on past their bedtime, it could automatically send a friendly reminder to the parents, child, or both, to turn the lights out and get to sleep!

The team used two sensors to build this project. First, a light sensor, which come comes with the kit, to measure whether the lights in the room are on. And to detect whether the room is occupied by someone, an infrared sensor was installed to detect motion. Data from each sensor is collected and stored using Device Cloud’s Data Streams feature.

Future plans for the project are to turn the app into a game between the family members and see who can save the most energy. You can see a screenshot of the web page that was setup to track light usage in the thumbnail above.

Wrap Up

The WhoVille team came away with the win, but all projects were worthy of praise. It’s always fun to see the creativity of the company come to life during our hackathons. We hope these projects serve as a source of inspiration as you start building your own projects with the XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit.

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.

Makezine’s Vehicle Challenge

Dreamforce Hackathon Winners from TechCrunch

Thirty Plus Ways the Internet of Things is Changing our World on World Future Society Blog

Whiz-kid, 13, Teaches Technology Class to MIT Graduates

MIT Invents Shapeshifting Dispay you Can Reach Through and Touch on FastCo Design

Release of the XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit

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: Lindon Edition

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In our dedication to an outstanding user experience, Digi Employee Hackathons are a great way to put our products to the test. And since the last one was so much fun, we decided we had to get our other offices in on the action. This last week at our Lindon office, the teams made a number of great projects and showed off the wide range of uses the Internet of Things offers. Here are just a few:

Team Black Swan

Before you know it Halloween will be here and team Black Swan is already preparing.Team Black Swan created a Python-based Windows application that allows a user to push software buttons to remotely actuate some Halloween decorations.

Black Swan 1

The software program sent messages through Device Cloud to a ConnectPort X2e Gateway connected to the internet via an Ethernet cable, and running the XIG python application, which made it easy to send control messages directly out to XBee ZB modules on its wireless ZigBee network. The remotely controlled decorations included:

  • Fog machine, which required a serial string sent to its UART to turn fog on/off. We hacked into the fog machine’s handheld control to send messages to it via an XBee ZB module’s UART.
  • DC motor spinning ghosts in circles. We hacked the motor control switch with a relay controlled by an XBee ZB module’s digital I/O pin.
  • Skeleton eyes lighting up, black light – these had 120VAC cords which we plugged into XBee ZB Smart Plugs, which are remote controllable via the XBee Gateway (X2e).

 2013-08-08 10.24.04

Honeybear

Team Honeybear created an application for the Digi Lindon Office after a clear and succinct goal. “How might we,” they began, “increase the level of joy and productivity in the workplace?” They discovered at once the office candy bowl in reception might be a good place to start. After some deep observation they came to the conclusion that office ran on candy. When the dish was full, their productivity was unfailing. When the dish was empty, sorrow and despair slowly reared their ugly head.

Honeybear pic 2

Honeybear team leads Kevin Duplisea and Previn Menon lead the engineering team of Avery Duffin and Brian LeNeave, under the merciful sovereignty of product manager Mason Wooley. Together they developed a system of sensors and XBees to alert Julie via email when the candy dish was empty, so appropriate measures could be taken, and peace could once again be restored. They used the XBee ZB and the X2e Gateway from Digi, and integrated it all through device cloud to record and monitor trends. Julie was also given a stuffed bee filled with a buzzing vibrating motor and glowing LEDs as a backup measure. Digi’s XBees not only helped raise office morale, but blood sugar levels as well.

Honeybear Pic 1

Team 1

The winners of the Lindon Hackathon, creatively named Team 1, set out to make an evaporative cooling system much more precise. In arid climates, these cooling systems can be used as an affordable alternative to conventional air conditioning.

The problem with evaporative cooler systems is a lack of thermostat. With no thermostat, the house temperature can be difficult to manage and often results in extreme temperatures and flunctuations.  If you set the controller to cool for the evening before going to bed, you will often find yourself waking up to an uncomfortable 55F. These coolers are typically controlled from a wall mount that has six settings:

OFF – off
LOW-COOL – blow cool air at a low speed.
HIGH-COOL – blow cool air at a high speed.
LOW-FAN – blow uncooled (outside) air at a low speed.
HIGH-FAN – blow uncooled (outside) air at a high speed.
PUMP – used to wet the cooler pads, it is generally best to run the pump for 5 minutes before running a cooling setting.

Evaporative Cooler

Team 1 replaced the evaporative cooler’s control with a mechanical relay controller, which is controlled by an XBee. The XBee communicated with an X2e gateway connected to the internet via Ethernet.  A separate XBee was connected to a temp. sensor; this was a mobile unite that could be carried to the room where the temperature should be regulated.  Temperature readings were continuously uploaded to Device Cloud.

A python application was running on a PC to query temperature readings from Device Cloud and send adjustments to the mechanical relay controller through Device Cloud. A mobile phone application was also created, which can be used to manually set setting on relay board, and set thermostat high/low points.

Recap

Although Team 1 came away with the victory, it was fun to see the diverse range of projects that our teams could put together in such a short time span. The projects listed here are just a few of many great projects made during the hackathon. This was a fun and valuable experience for us at Digi.  We are committed to making sure users of Digi products find it as simple and intuitive as possible and hackthons are just one of the many ways we ensure a great user experience.

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