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Digi Employee Hackathon: Lindon Edition v2

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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.

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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.

Digi Employee Hackathon: One Hack to Rule Them All

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The hackathon tradition lives on at Digi and this competition may have been the best one yet– we say that every time, don’t we? Anyways, at this most recent hackathon, we had projects that included hardware modifications, data analytics, software design, and UI enhancements.

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The challenge to our competing teams was to prototype a useful improvement to a Digi product such as–

  • Changing a hardware design to improve user experience.
  • Designing a software change to Device Cloud or The Social Machine.
  • Improving the design of a configuration tool like XCTU or create a new one.
  • Making a prototype for a brand new hardware, software or service product.
  • Creating some other useful improvement of their choosing.

Hackathons give employees an outlet to work on a project or idea they’ve been kicking around for a while, but haven’t had the time to see through. It’s also a chance for participants to work with others outside of their everyday team. And, we had some nice cash and non-cash prizes. Nacho flavored lip balm may or may not have been included among our ‘nice’ prizes.

Here’s a quick look at what each team built.xbee_gateway_v2 (1)

Pimp My Web UI 
Team Members: Mike Wadsten, Travis Lubbers, and Russel Shurts.

No, Xzibit, did not make an appearance at our hackathon to create a redesigned and responsive web UI for the XBee Gateway. But Mike, Travis, and Russell were all up to the challenge. They took our existing web UI for the XBee Gateway and gave it a bit of a refresh. Mike had done some work a few months ago on an updated design and the team used this as a starting point for their project.

With the team’s UI refresh, users are more easily able to modify the configuration of their XBee Gateway from a desktop, tablet, or smartphone! The new dashboard is pictured to the right.

Team Device Cloud Analytics
Team Members: Chris Popp and Greg Bestland

The goal of this hack is to enhance Device Cloud with the ability for customers (and administrators) to run custom queries over their data right in the Cloud.

In the prototype, a user is able to have some of their data saved in a way that allows queries against their data set as a whole rather than having to retrieve all the raw data or only rollups of a single stream.  By looking at their entire data set, the user can start to answer more complex questions without having to pull all of the data into their own systems. Spark-logo-192x100px

In order to make these advanced queries possible, the team used the Apache Spark engine. Now, they are able to answer questions like “What is the average temperature in Group ‘X’?” or “How often is my tank level below my set threshold?” This opens up a whole window of possibilities for Device Cloud as an analytics engine. These features will be considered for inclusion in a future DeviceCloud release.

Code Name Marco Polo
Team Members: Ryan Bezdicek and Sandy Haapala

Marco Polo is the code name for a replacement to Device Cloud’s current API Explorer. What is the API Explorer? It’s a terrific feature within Device Cloud that gives users the ability to run any web service request. This enhancement code named, Marco Polo, has a number of improvements and new features that make it easier to work with and a collaborative experience between Device Cloud users.
Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 8.39.03 AM

One enhancement is a way for users to save their most frequent calls. This eliminates the need to remember complex command sets and adds quick access to their most frequently used web service calls. Admins also have the ability to add, edit, and remove examples on the fly.  Future enhancements will include being able to share saved examples with other users on the cloud platform, authentication improvements and setup of local of the API Explorer for offline use. The team is looking into incorporating this for a future Device Cloud version.

C’Mon Move it
Team Members: Zach Schneider and Dan Harrison

Team ‘C’Mon Move it!’ had the brilliant idea of improving XBee‘s PWM capabilities by extending them; initially with a serial hack and later within the XBee firmware. Currently the pulse width modulation (analog) output on an XBee is fixed at 15.6 KHz with a 50% duty cycle. For many motors in SCADA applications, this will not do. They typically require more robust PWM capabilities, such as 200-3000 Hz with 20-80% duty cycle.

So Dan and Zach forged on and created a new PWM library for XBee. The library is written in Python and runs on an XBee gateway making clever use of the UART serial output to directly drive motors. The PWM now reaches speeds between 600 Hz and 4 KHz at any duty cycle between 10%-90% in increments of 10%.

To demo this new PWM library they built a linear actuator to control the height of a shelf. Using an H-bridge driver board, they are able to adjust the height of the shelf wirelessly. If direct control of motors interests you, be sure to comment or drop us a line.

Wrap Up
After the teams presented and demoed their projects the judges congregated for what was a difficult decision. It was very tough to pick a winner, any one of the projects would have made a fine champion. After a number of recounts and tiebreakers the judges made their final decision. Team DC Analytics won first place with Pimp My Web UI in an extremely close second!

If any of these hacks are something you would like us to include in future software or firmware releases, let us know in the comments section below!

 

A Year in the Internet of Things: Top Posts from the Digi Blog

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Another year is in the books and the Internet of Things conversation continues to evolve.  As 2014 comes to a close we took a look back at some of our most read posts of the year. Here’s to an equally awesome 2015!

Happy New Year! (1)

 

A Simpler and More Intelligent Internet of Things with Digi and Temboo
Rob Faludi and Vaughn Shinnal demonstrate how to use XBee Gateway and Temboo Choreos to build an Internet of Things Application. In this example, they showcase a prototype that monitors the liquid level of a tank.

XBee in Space
Pretty soon XBee will be sent into space on NASA’s Soarex rocket! This marks the first ever ZigBee network in space. Take a look at how NASA’s team of engineers built this one-of-kind telemetry system.

Heat Seek NYC Keeping Others Warm
Did you know NYC handles over 200,000 heating complaints every year? In order to provide proof of poor heating, tenants are tasked with manually recording the temperatures of their apartments. A group of New York City residents recognized this as a major public issue and founded Heat Seek NYC to efficiently address this overwhelming number of complaints and ensure no New York City resident has to spend winter in a cold home.

SteadyServe
SteadyServe is bringing the Internet of Things to the beer industry. Wireless monitoring technology makes inventory management for restaurant owners and supply chain manager easy with real-time data.

MBed and Arduino Hackathon
We love giving Digi employees a chance to play around and this hackathon was a hit. Each team had to use an MBed and Arduino microcontroller and connect them with XBee. Check out what they built!

What are your Highlights from 2014?
These are just a few highlights from what has been busy 2014 for us at Digi. Let us know what your favorite stories are from this year in the Internet of Things. You can share with us either in the comments or @digidotcom. Happy New Year!

Employee Hackathon at Digi Wireless Design Services

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At Digi we are constantly looking for ways to stretch our imagination and find new and creative applications for the technology we work with every day. This was the first hackathon held at our Wireless Design Services office, so we were excited to see what our talented hardware engineers could dream up. Here’s what the teams created in just a few days.IMG_0138

Pet Management System

As pet owners, we all want to treat our four-legged friends well. The pet management system does just that. Gone is the guilt of being away from home for an entire day, because now your furry companions can feed themselves.

There are two elements to the pet management system. The first being a self serving dog food bowl (note: this system can be adapted for cats, we like them too). The other component is detection of animals when they are on the furniture.

The feeding system gives your pet the ability to dispense food into their dish all on their own. They just need to place their paw on a pad on the ground. This activates a motor that delivers food to the bowl. The schematic below will you give you an idea of how it all works.PetSchematic

The detection system will alert the owner whenever the pet hops up on the couch. An infrared sensor detects when your pet is up on the couch and you can choose to receive alerts via email or SMS. The sensor is connected to a microcontroller, which is sends data to Device Cloud via XBee.

Also, the data is streamed in real-time into a web-based dashboard. This live feed captures activity from both of the sensors involved in the pet management system.

ActiveID

The Active ID project is made to simplify the exchange of information between two people. Whether it be at a trade show or a social gathering after work, the Active IDs eliminate the need for barcode scanners and computers in order to gather someone’s information. IMG_0143

How does it work? Bluetooth low energy modules in each tag notice each other and use the criteria entered by the user to determine compatibility. If the badge finds a compatible match, the tag will light up or play a sound to notify the user of the matching profile.  If the people that are matched up want to exchange information, they each press the connect button and they will each receive an email with each other’s information via Device Cloud.

Software Defined Radio

Software defined radio allows you to decode RF signals across a large frequency band with one device. Traditionally, wireless signals are decoded with proprietary hardware that can only readIMG_0147 a very narrow band, like a Wi-Fi module for example. With the lowering cost of high performance CPUs/MCUs, the decoding of RF can be done through software rather than hardware.

Dustin and Mike put together their own software defined radio using an i.MX28 for processing and an ultra-wide band antenna, which was built from scratch.

The project was based on this open source software library for SDR. Mike implemented changes to decode a group of environmental sensors (humidity, temperature, anemometer, and rain level) that operate at 433 MHz. The software decoder was also linked up to the Cloud Connector, so the platform can send data up to Device Cloud.

Closing

Like we mentioned earlier, this was our first hackathon at Wireless Design Services, and it was great to see what our WDS team was able to create in just a short amount of time. Hackathons are always a fun way for us to test the usability of our products and build projects we might otherwise never get to. Hopefully these will serve as a source of inspiration as you build your own Internet of Things projects!

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

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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!

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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.