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A Simpler and More Intelligent Internet of Things with Digi and Temboo

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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.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 12.03.09 PMThese 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.

In our model, a sensor attached to the XBee radio monitors the water level of our tank, and sends those readings to the XBee Gateway. If the tank leaks and the water level falls, a response is triggered on the gateway. First, the gateway uses Temboo’s Yahoo Weather Choreos to check the forecast for rain. Temboo’s Nexmo Choreos are then used to telephone the relevant individual with an automated voice message that gives a real time rain forecast and offers a choice of actions to take by entering a number on the phone’s keypad.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.56.33 AMIf 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.

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Are you using Temboo or XBee in your Internet of Things application? You can share how you’re using wireless technology by tweeting us at @XBeeWireless and @Temboo.

Bar Graphs, Security Systems, and GPS… All with XBee!

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Here are a few more wireless projects you can build with some sensors, Arduino and XBee. Below are project descriptions and links to instructions that will walk you through each step, including example code. Feel free to get creative and put your own spin on these projects!

Wireless Bar Graph Display
Want to monitor the level of light in a room and reflect that data with a shiny LED bar graph? Then check out  this project, which uses an MBed microcontroller, light sensor, LED bar graph, and a pair of XBee radios to get you going on monitoring brightness without even being there. Complete instructions here.

Security Monitor
Let’s build a comprehensive security system! The motion sensor detects when a person passes by and alerts you by displaying a warning on an LCD screen and you can even be alerted with an audio message. For this project, you’ll need an Arduino and XBee radio. After all, Arduino and XBee are best friends in the electrical engineering world! Why else would an XBee shield exist? Complete instructions here.

Device Cloud GPS
Want to track the GPS coordinates of the RC vehicle you’re working on? Well, it’s simple with an XBee gateway, Arduino and Device Cloud. Complete instructions here.

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 TwitterFacebook, or Google+ using the #XBee hashtag. Happy building!

Cellular Connections You Never Knew Existed

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You drive into a gas station and notice the LED sign that reads how high the Powerball® is this week. You pull up to the pump and make a mental note to buy a ticket. As you wait for your tank to fill, the screen on top of the pump shares today’s weather and a few specials you can find inside. Then, you walk into the gas station to buy that lottery ticket. The lottery register greets your purchase, and you’re ready to move on with your day—hopefully with the winning ticket in your pocket.

During your time at the gas station did you ever consider how many wireless connections were at work? Probably not.

When you do think of wireless connections, it’s likely Wi-Fi hotspots or smartphone payment tools like Square that come to mind. However, there are many little-known and less visible ways that retailers and service providers use 4G LTE connections to make operations work. From digital signs to lottery terminals, wireless connections help make our world go around in ways you may have never imagined. They’re all working to create an experience for you as a customer and a return for merchants and manufacturers. Let’s dive deeper into a few applications where invisible wireless “workers” are impacting your retail environment.

Lottery TerminalsScreen Shot 2014-07-15 at 10.20.07 AM

Tucked behind the counter at your local convenience store, you’ll find that signature register or lottery terminal. You might just think of this as the machine that prints your easy-pick, but if the terminal gets disconnected the vendor is on the hook for much more than your ticket alone. It’s up to the store to ensure the machine is up and running at all times, so no revenue is lost. In fact, the damage can add up to more than all of the numbers on your ticket combined. For that reason, many of these terminals are connected to a datacenter with both a satellite and a 3G or 4G LTE connection.

Although the vast majority of lottery revenue is returned to players in prize money, the remainder pays for the operation of the lottery—including paying the retailer for hosting the lottery terminal. More importantly, the lottery also contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to state budgets. In 2012 in the state of Minnesota alone, $124M was contributed to funds such as environment and natural resources, game and fish, metropolitan parks and trails, zoos and infrastructure. The State Gaming Commission authorizes one vendor to operate their entire statewide lottery. In exchange for that level of access, the commission holds the gaming contractor accountable to maintain a high service level. If terminals aren’t able to communicate, the gaming contractor can be held accountable for damages of $20 per minute or more—per terminal.

Tire Air Vendingairtire

Hopefully, it’s your lucky day and you have a winning ticket in your pocket, but in the case that your day started out rough and your dealing with a flat tire, you can pull up next to an air-pump kiosk. Don’t have change? No problem. Swipe your credit card and the transaction is sent over a cellular connection.

While the connection makes payment collection more convenient for you, there’s a lot more at stake than meets the eye. In the past, technicians had to phisically visit every single machine to empty the coin bin– whether it was full or not. Not, a cellular connection enables the machine to report back how full the coin bin is, along with the health of the machine. This saves the manufacturer millions of dollars in employee and transportation costs, and it ensures all machines are up and running properly creating even more revenue– not to mention better customer service for the retail operations that host these machines.

In many cases, manufacturers experience a loss between money collection and revenue that makes it back to the business. In one example, receipt reconciliation loss was $11M per year. In the first year, a connection improved that loss by 80%, providing a bottom line impact of $8.8M. Lack of pick-up optimization (sending someone to collect the money after the machine is already too full to accept more coins) created an annual loss of $5.5M; that was improved by 50% and impacted the bottom line by almost $3M. Downtime, which caused the most significant loss at $12M per year, was improved by 30%. With numbers like these, an air vendor could easily double the value of the system in one year alone.

Charging Stations & Digital Signs

Have you ever charged your mobile phone while enjoying a cup of coffee at Starbucks? If you have, you know that finding a free plug in a packed coffee house can be hard. These charging stations can be even more valuable at the airport —we’ve all fought for that prime spot in the flight gate waiting area. Now, Monster Media has created a digital experience to accompany the convenience. You’ll see a digital ad while your phone or laptop is being charged. That content is delivered by a 4G LTE connection—the same type of connection that can also deliver information to the display screen on a gas pump.

Wireless charging stations are a huge value-add to customers, and in Starbucks’ case they encourage people to stick around longer—which leads to more coffee sold. For advertisers, this value can be paired with their message—a message that might even be specific to your currently location. Similarly, at the gas pump, customers have the convenience of catching the news or relevant information while pumping gas, and gas stations are able to advertise deals to lure customers into the store to make purchases.

Bottle Recycling Machine

For some of us, returning bottles is a well-known past-time. But for many states, reverse vending machines are becoming common-place. In either case, the system enables consumers to recycle, make money and keep neighborhoods clean. Recycling is so popular today that machines can fill up fast, which causes downtime. How does the vendor know when the machine is full? A cellular connection to HQ. recycling-logo

rePLANET added a cloud connection to their recycling center solution. Without a wireless connection to the machine, a technician would have to drive hours, costing the company hundreds of dollars. Now, with a wireless VPN connection, the machine reports its capacity remotely. The technician’s PC can be remotely controlled with the cellular connection to get updates and new configurations. The new method costs less than 20% of the cost of drive time and shipping and takes about 10% of the total time previously required to correct problems.

So, the next time you pull up to a gas station or visit a store, take a closer look at the digital sign, lottery terminal, air pumps and bottle recycling machines—you won’t be able to see the wireless connection, but you can be sure that it’s working for you and for the stakeholders who put it there. Those wireless connections are making your life easier and more interactive, and driving revenue and extreme savings for organizations all around the world.

Want to learn more about how businesses are using cellular technology? Check out this story to see how Tel-O-Fun is using cellular connections to handle bike rental payments in Tel Aviv.

Events Forecast: IoT Events for 2014

We’re past the half way point of 2014, but there’s still lots happening this year including many events that we’re looking forward to this fall. Here are a few that we can’t wait to get to.

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M2M Evolution Conference
Las Vegas, Nevada
August 11-14

The event will kick off with the Battle of the Platforms, which will give a glimpse into the variety of platforms within the M2M industry. A number of industry experts will be giving talks on how M2M technology is changing businesses today. Topics include: Customer service, marketing, industry trends, healthcare, and supply chain management.

Super Mobility Week 2014
Las Vegas, Nevada
September 9-11

North America’s largest forum for mobile innovation and the most influential mobile marketplace that brings together the leading authorities on the connected life all under one roof at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas. Mobility supercharges everything.

World Maker Faire New YorkMakerfaire2014
New York, New York
September 20-21

The greatest show and tell on Earth. Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, Maker Faire is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to Maker Faire to show what they have made and to share what they have learned.

Dreamforce 2014
San Francisco, California
October 13-16

Want to know where the industry is headed? Come to Dreamforce. Hosted by salesforce.com, named the world’s most innovative company by Forbes three years in a row, Dreamforce is four high-energy days of innovation, fun, and giving back. It’s your chance to learn from industry visionaries, product experts, and world leaders who can help you transform your business and your life.DF14

Internet of Things World Forum London 2014 
London, England
Nov. 25-26

One of the world’s largest IoT events. The Internet of Things World Forum brings together experts and thought leaders to share industry insights and trends. Speakers from Deutsche Telekom, Jasper, ARM, and many other key players in the industry will all present, making this a must attend conference for those looking to learn more about connected devices, cloud computing, and other emerging technologies.

There are tons of IoT, Big Data, Cloud, Connected Product…the list goes…events out there. Which ones are you attending? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll update this post. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook for real-time updates from each event.

 

The Social Machine is Recognized as an M2M Product of the Year

Today we are proud to share that M2M Evolution has chosen The Social Machine as a 2014 M2M Product of the Year. Print

As the Internet of Things develops, device data becomes increasingly valuable to businesses and the need to integrate a new kind of data into existing processes. That’s why we built The Social Machine– to enable companies to integrate their machine-generated data into salesforce.com.

Bringing device data directly into the CRM can create new service offerings and generate new revenue. Additionally, customer support teams have the ability to remotely access machine data, decreasing case handling time and improving the quality of service.

“The solutions selected for the M2M Evolution Product of Year Awards reflect the diverse range of innovation driving the machine-to-machine (M2M) market today. It is my honor to congratulate Etherios for their innovative work and superior contribution to the rapidly evolving M2M industry,” said Carl Ford, CEO of Crossfire Media, a co-publisher of M2M Evolution Magazine.

Companies are quickly realizing the value of their machine data and how to apply it to their business. See how ATEK is using The Social Machine to transform their tank monitoring solution into a full-service end-to-end solution.

You’ll find a complete list of M2M Product of the Year winners here.

The International M2M Council Shapes the Future of M2M/IoT

international-m2m-councilThe International M2M Council (IMC) brings together M2M solutions providers with adopters of M2M technology to share the business impact of connected solutions. Digi’s CMO, Jeff Liebl, serves on the council’s board of governors alongside numerous industry experts. With over 1,000 Adopter Members, including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Oracle and Iridium. IMC is the largest trade association dedicated to the IoT/M2M sector.

The group serves as a resource by providing case studies that demonstrate the value of M2M applications in verticals such as healthcare, retail, transportation and more. Members of the IMC also conduct research on the industry to develop industry best practices and determine metrics for measuring M2M success.

In addition to providing educational resources, the IMC focuses on assisting government and regulatory bodies in developing policy related to M2M. The council has established a working relationship with the Federal Trade Commission and is assisting in privacy and security projects. Future goals for the IMC are aimed at developing more relationships with regulatory groups across the globe.

Today, the IMC is working on a number of initiatives to spread awareness of M2M technology. A number of newsletters focused on verticals are helping improve awareness across industries where M2M can have the greatest impact. The IMC is currently in the process of collaborating with developers to create a professional education programs for M2M adopters, which will be introduced later this year.

To learn more about how M2M is solving business problems check out the International M2M Council’s website here.

The Beer Industry Gets Crafty with the Internet of Things

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SteadyServe 1

What do the Internet of Things (IoT) and beer have in common? Well, there was the Budweiser Red Light, an automatic hockey light that’s programmed to go off when your favorite team scores a goal. Then, there was Heineken Ignite, an interactive beer bottle that pulsates to the beat of the DJ’s music. But, the startup SteadyServ has created a beer related IoT app that’s more than just a novelty. SteadyServ’s app, iKeg, saves bars time and money and helps distributors keep tabs on kegs and consumption levels. It even helps brewers know where and when their promotional dollars are turning into pints poured. Better yet, it ensures your favorite brew is always on tap and where to find it.

When Rob Tercek, a former creative director at MTV, was traveling with a layover in Indianapolis, he decided to grab a beer with longtime friend and local craft brewery co-owner Steve Hershberger. On a mission to serve his friend one of his own beers, it took Steve several bars to find one that had his beer on tap – bars that were supposed to have his inventory. “I’m disappointed, Steve. This is a problem, why haven’t you solved it yet?”

SteadyServe 4With the rise in popularity of craft beer, three new brewers come on line each week and there are over 3,000 beer distributors in the U.S. alone. Even with its rapid growth, the beer industry is one of the only “just in time” industries left. Knowing there is a huge market and an apparent problem that needed to be solved, Steve took on the challenge. SteadyServ was born.

A year later, the company has more than 4 patents pending, over $7.5 million in funding to date, and engineering teams working on hardware   and software globally. The team has evolved through four prototypes to have a commercially ready, “Apple-simple” system that allows bar managers and beer sales reps to manage all of their keg orders on a smart phone.

At the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) in October, the incoming Chairman of the NBWA addressed the audience of over 5,000 attendees with a bold statement: “This isn’t your grandfather’s industry.  It isn’t your father’s industry. Change is upon us. Change is certain.”

An Evolving Industry

Even bar and restaurant owners have noticed that the beer industry has traditionally been slow to adopt new technology. “We’re an industry that has been terribly resistant to change for probably 100 years. But we’re now ready and open for significant change,” said Carl Bruggemeier, Vice Chairman of SteadyServ and CEO of The CZH Hospitality Group. “Our inventory management systems are very lacking. In many instances, we don’t know what we have, we don’t know how much we sell, and we don’t know when we sell it. We lose sales because our customers want what we don’t have.”iKeg RFID

Currently, the bar manager heads to the refrigerator to count kegs to see how many are left. He or she lifts each keg to see how full it is—essentially making the ordering process a guessing game. Ryan Kellerman, Director of Beverage and Hospitality for Scotty’s Brewhouse, says he spends a minimum of two and a half to two hours a week, per location, taking inventory in order to place their orders. Many managers are still using a pen and paper to collect information that impacts the business’ supply. If the beer rep doesn’t get their order in time, the rep will place it for them-by guessing.

“Imagine if HP guessed at what Best Buy needed to fill its shelves on any given month without talking to the company or looking at any hard data,” said Steve Hershberger, Chairman & CEO of SteadyServ Technologies.

“On average, according to many in the industry, approximately 20% of every beer order placed is wrong. How would you feel if every Amazon order you received was wrong?”

How it Works

SteadyServ’s iKeg app completely changes how the industry does supply chain and inventory management; which benefits the bars themselves, distributors, brewers and, most importantly, us patrons.

Each keg is equipped with an RFID tag, which is attached to the keg just like a luggage tag. The tag information contains information like born on date, brewery name and delivery location. The keg also sits on top of a sensor. The sensor measures weight of the keg and how fast the weight is changing, which is a direct correlation to how much beer people are drinking. Keg information is paired with sales data, so the iKeg app knows exactly how much beer is poured and sold.

SteadyServe 2
The keg data is collected from each keg’s sensor and is aggregated by a ConnectPort Gateway. The gateway analyzes the data locally, then uses a Zigbee connection to get that data into the cloud. The iKeg application gathers information from the cloud and offers an interface that displays analytics for bar managers, distributors and eventually, patrons.

“Our whole business is built around solving problems with data,” said Joel Young, CTO of Digi International, a company that’s leading the way in Internet of Things solutions for businesses. “Who doesn’t love that this solution can optimize operational efficiencies and help people get more of their favorite beer?”

Your Favorite Tap at Your Fingertips

Not only do bars save time, money and pain in counting and lifting kegs, they’re not losing money to unhappy customers who expect their favorite drafts to be in stock. A version of the app will also become available to the public, so we can see all of the places nearby that offer our favorite brews. Maybe a Foursquare integration is in the future?

Currently, the system is in beta in the Midwest and will soon be expanding into other distributor franchises in the Midwest, South East and Western U.S. With another series of funding on the horizon, we should see the iKeg systems throughout North America within the next year.

Here’s to the Internet of Things, or the Internet of Thirst, for helping us never miss our favorite pint.

Retail Innovation Soars with Secure and Reliable Cellular Connections

The web has raised consumers’ expectations of retail stores and transformed the purchasing process. Brick and mortar shops need to find ways to compete with the convenience offered by online shopping. Retailers are using wireless connected devices and new technology to create an interactive experience for their customers. In this video, learn how store owners are using cellular connections to make retail systems secure, reliable, and innovative.

 

Click here to learn more about Digi’s new cellular router, the WR11.

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