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Powering the Connected Cab

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Frazer-NashThe zero-emission taxicab of the future will soon be on the streets of London – and Digi is playing a key role in making it happen. That’s because Frazer-Nash – the electric-car pioneer founded in 1922 – has selected Digi’s ConnectCore 6 system-on-module to create a complete digital experience for driver instrumentation and touchscreen passenger infotainment inside its range-extended electric vehicle (REEV) Metrocabs. CC6 will also enable wireless connectivity to in-cab Internet, GPS navigation, and revenue-producing interactive displays.

The ConnectCore 6 is less than 2 inches square and includes all the power and connectivity you would expect from a PC, including a cellular adapter, 1080p graphics, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and up to 64GB of flash memory. The decision to utilize Digi ConnectCore6 was a change for Frazer-Nash, which traditionally develops all technologies in-house. In fact, the CC6 is the only component in the Frazer-Nash Metrocab that was not designed and created by the company itself.

In this new Frazer-Nash “cab of the future,” drivers can monitor the cab’s key systems as well as optimize routes, fuel, and battery efficiency. What’s more, Digi offers secure remote management and web services capabilities through the scalable Digi Device Cloud™ so Frazer-Nash can monitor all of its cabs remotely and deploy updates over cellular networks.

Frazer-Nash has been in the forefront of electric powertrain development and designs and builds all of its own components. By using the ConnectCore 6, Frazer-Nash reduced costs and accelerated its time-to-market while offering new services and deliver a connected cab. The Metrocab is just one example of the incredible development opportunities for Digi customers and partners, brining computing power to new classes of innovative applications.

But, don’t take my word for, let Frazer-Nash describe the solution in this video.

Small-Footprint Remote-Sensor Monitoring: The Future Is Now

When you’re working for a major petrochemical company, inventory control isn’t merely a financial matter. That’s because a slow, undetected leak of a dangerous chemical substance can ultimately lead to significant safety concerns, and environmental/regulatory issues that can cost millions of dollars.

A major metro’s DPW team might be responsible for ensuring thousands of streets are operational on a 24×7 basis. Outages translate into lapses in public safety and unnecessary taxpayer expense. But how can they keep tabs on all of those fixtures?

Unfortunately, for organizations like these – and thousands of others facing the same dilemmas – the only feasible recourse has been to put technicians and repair teams on the road, logging thousands of miles each year to remote sites to manually check simple metrics like air quality, tank levels, pipeline pressures, valve statuses, light fixtures, and more. It’s a cost and headache that they’re eager to avoid – but the data is too important to avoid or ignore. In fact, the more difficult the data is to capture, the more valuable it often is.

Remote-sensor monitoring through wireless networks is the obvious – and long-sought – alternative, but too many barriers have prevented wide-scale adoption. Chief among these roadblocks: power consumption. Solar-powered wireless gateways are still not cost-feasible for industrial applications. Battery-powered cellular devices are another option, but until recently the costs of carriers’ rigid consumer-focused data plans (and the expense of the devices themselves) made them suitable for only a small subset of applications. Low-power WiFi networks and internal batteries can provide some coverage, but they require RF and network engineers to design, install, and maintain – expertise that is in high demand.

The Tide Is Turning

Fortunately, we’re seeing important changes that are making low- or no-power remote monitoring easy and cost-effective. First, cellular operators are recognizing that $30-50/mo. consumer data plans are a non-starter in the industrial space. Some carriers are now offering data plans of as little as 250 KB and compelling configurations and bundles that have driven prices down to $1-3/mo. High-volume customers are even seeing sub-$1 pricing.

Device costs have also plunged. Cellular gateways are now less than $20 for 2G and 3G modules. Similar dynamics are likely in the LTE space soon. And as M2M-friendly LTE CAT standards take hold in the coming years, we’ll see lower device costs, lower operating costs, and longer battery life – all with no need for a local wireless network to carry backhaul traffic.

Ultimately, it means we’re now able to deploy the small-footprint, no/low-power remote-sensor network that skips the truck rolls, cuts the costs, and increases visibility across the company’s entire asset portfolio. The new Digi Connect Sensor battery-powered cellular gateway lets companies and agencies finally deploy a no-infrastructure remote monitoring solution in virtually any harsh or remote environment.

Here’s more about the features of the Digi Connect Sensor:

  • Flexible power sources – Use a long-lasting (two to three years), non-rechargeable battery, power-saving sleep mode, and the option to draw power external sources (including solar) while using the internal battery as a backup.
  • Cellular choice – For global connectivity, Connect Sensor supports 3G HSPA+ with 2G fallback. North American users can also choose an LTE CAT 1 version.
  • Supports LTE CAT 1 – With support for LTE CAT 1, the band specifically created for IoT and M2M communications, Connect Sensor devices are highly efficient, consume less power, and are optimized for data transfer.
  • Sensor variety and flexibility – Connect Sensor can work with virtually any 4/20mA, Analog Out, Digital Out, or Pulsed Output sensor, and can power multiple external sensors, eliminating the need for external supplies or batteries.
  • Enterprise-grade security – You can implement security at the device, transport, and platform level.
  • Appropriate for harsh environments – A weatherproof NEMA 4 enclosure protects your sensors from the elements. It also features ATEX Group 2 and UL Class 1 Division 2 ratings.

Interested in learning more? Here are a number of resources to get you started:

The Next Generation of M2M Applications

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M2M networking is advancing. Sensors, gateways, batteries, and cellular technologies are all improving, and clouds are widely available. Coupled with refined data storage and analytics, a new generation of M2M applications is boosting enterprises’ productivity and bottom lines.

The Digi white paper, Cutting Through the Noise, presents an overview of the manifold new opportunities for leveraging machine data across the organization.

You’ll learn how M2M communications offer operational visibility into remote equipment and assets, delivering data that previously required on-site observation. You’ll see how to control costs by tracking power consumption at facilities and sites, and better quantify items rolling off the assembly line for optimal scheduling and resource planning.

You’ll also discover the advantages of using M2M networks to directly link demand and supply chains. Vending machines, for instance, can communicate which items are selling and when to restock them. This capability alone provides greater marketing intelligence, higher productivity and efficiencies, as well as more satisfied customers.

Cutting Through the Noise introduces forward-looking organizations to how today’s M2M solutions can create actionable intelligence, unprecedented proficiency, and competitive advantages.

Read the white paper >>

What Are the Differences Between DigiMesh® and ZigBee® Mesh?

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Mesh networking is a powerful way to route data over an RF network. Range is extended by allowing data to hop node to node and reliability and resiliency is increased by “self-healing,” or the ability to create alternate paths when one node fails or a connection is lost.

One popular mesh networking protocol is ZigBee®, which is specifically designed for low-data rate, low-power applications. Digi offers several products based on the ZigBee protocol. Additionally, Digi has developed a similar mesh protocol named DigiMesh®. Both ZigBee and DigiMesh offer unique advantages important to different applications. The following chart highlights these differences:

ZigBee® Mesh DigiMesh®
Node types and their benefits Multiple: Coordinators, Routers, End Devices. End devices can sometimes be less expensive because of reduced functionality. Single: One homogeneous node type, with more flexibility to expand the network. DigiMesh simplifies network setup and reliability in
environments where routers may come and go due to interference or damage.
Battery Deployed Networks Coordinators and routers must be mains powered All nodes are capable of battery operation and can sleep. No single point of failure associated with relying on a gateway or coordinator to
maintain time synchronization.
Over-the-air firmware updates Yes Yes
Range Most ZigBee devices have range of less than 2 miles (3.2 km) for each hop. Available on XBee SX with range of up to 40+ miles for each hop.
Frame payload and throughput Up to 80 bytes. Up to 256 bytes, depending on product. Improves throughput for applications that send larger blocks of data.
Supported frequencies and RF data rates Predominantly 2.4 GHz (250 kbps) 900 MHz (Up to 250 Kbps), 868MHz, 2.4 GHz (Up to 250 Kbps)
Security 128-bit AES encryption. Can lock down the network and prevent other nodes from joining. Both 128 and 256-bit AES encryption. Can lock down the network and prevent other nodes from joining.
Interoperability Potential for interoperability between vendors. Digi proprietary
Interference tolerance Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS). 900 MHz: Frequency-Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS). 2.4GHz: Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS).
Addressing Two layers. MAC address (64 bit) and Network address (16 bit). MAC address (64 bit) only.
Maintenance More sniffers and diagnostic tools available on market. Simpler addressing can help in diagnosing problems and setting up a network.

For more information on DigiMesh and Digi XBee click here.

Smart City Series: 4G LTE & Smart Infrastructure – Q&A Follow-Up

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If your inbox is anything like ours, it’s full of emails touting “Smart Cities” as the next big thing, but how are cities actually using cellular technology to run smarter?

In a recent webinar, Digi’s Cellular Product Manager, Andrew Lund, shared real-world examples of 3G/4G LTE in infrastructure applications, along with the challenges and questions that need to be answered to get there.

smart cities

Below, Andrew covers questions from the Q&A that we didn’t have time to answer live. If you’d like to watch the webinar recording and learn more about how Digi enables Smart Cities.

Miss the webinar? Here’s where you and watch the webinar recording and learn more about how Digi enables Smart Cities >>

What accelerated lifecycle testing have you performed on the Digi TransPort® WR31 and are you able to share your results?
Specific test results are shared on a business case basis and only under NDA, but we can share that the WR31 was subjected to a Highly Accelerated Life Test (HALT) in line with our standard testing.  This testing is divided into three sections: temperature, vibration and a combination of vibration and temperature.

In each section, the Unit Under Test (UUT) is tested at the operational limit, the functional limit, and the destructive limit (if applicable). For the WR31, the functional limit was above the operating limit, meaning it functioned above and beyond the threshold we expected it to.

Who does the integration with energy meters / HVAC controllers ? Does Digi do that type of integration or is it some system integrators who are Digi partners who are responsible for integration?
Both options are available, depending on the customer and the goals. In cases where, for example, an OEM wants to add cellular connectivity to their offer, Digi and its partner would work directly with the OEM. In cases where the customer is an end user, for example an city or state department, Digi would work with a system integrator or value added reseller to deliver the final solution.

Can you please share how the Garbage Collection and Emailing System was implemented?
This was done by Digi’s Wireless Design Services group. More details and a video can be found here.

Does the WR31 product have the relevant Australian compliance e.g. C-Tick, A-Tick?

Are there plans to support LTE 700 Mhz Band 28 in future?
Yes—stay tuned for details.

Rather than offer a device management application for us to use, does Digi offer a managed service for its product set?
Digi has implemented bespoke managed services programs for customers, but it is more common for us to partner with 3rd party managed services companies.

Does the WR31 support DNP3/IP?
Yes, the Digi TransPort WR line supports DNP3.

Does the WR31 has an LTE to NextG fallback?
Yes, the WR31 offers LTE with fallback to Telstra’s NextG (i.e. 850 MHz) network.

Do you have an example of an application in France?
We have many, many customer and applications in France—please contact your Digi rep or Digi partner for details.

WR31 is a nice product, but how to beat the competition having this form factor in the market for many years. E.g. Welotec, Moxa, etc.
“How to beat…” questions are a bit tough to answer in the abstract, but you can discuss specifics with your Digi rep or partner. Nor now, let’s focus on positioning the WR31 where it will have clear advantages. The WR31 is the best fit in applications that DO NEED: LTE, strong price/performance (i.e. affordable), Modbus/DNP3 bridging, and advanced security and routing (VPN, authentication, encryption, etc, and DON’T NEED vendor-specific object libraries or Modbus/DNP3 translation.

Is there a version that supports XBee® 868 LP?
No, currently there are no versions of the WR31 with an XBee radio, although that is an interesting concept, and worth discussing further with your Digi rep or partner.

Is it possible for the hardware to move from Cellular communications to a WiFi network and use this to communicate, WiFi becomes available – and if so – what product fits best?
The Digi TransPort WR44 supports Wi-Fi and 4G/4G LTE comms and is used in this kind of least cost routing scenario.

What is different in terms of speed in WR21 and WR31?
The WR21 and WR31 share the same WWAN radio and processor architecture—there is no material performance difference between the two.

Fog Computing in the Internet of Things (IoT)

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The Open Fog Consortium defines Fog Computing this way: “A system-level horizontal architecture that distributes resources and services of computing, storage, control and networking anywhere along the continuum from Cloud to Things.” In his recent Fog Computing report, Aapo Markkanen at Machina Research puts Digi in this category. He says, “Digi is well placed to a make a play in fog computing, given its strong communications portfolio and additional capabilities [such as] Device Cloud and device management.” We couldn’t agree more!

Intelligence on the edge of the network allows our customers to store, shape and translate machine and sensor data to maximize connections from the device to the cloud. Digi Device Cloud enables our customers to bring enterprise routing features to the edge of their networks enhancing security, storage, and redundancy.

The concept of Fog Computing accurately describes the way our customers are managing mission critical applications across multiple wireless protocols making it easier to configure, deploy and manage devices on the edge of their networks.

Click here to learn more about Digi Device Cloud >>



Which Mesh Technology is Right for You? – Q&A Follow-Up

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Are there tutorials available for XCTU, or user manuals?xbee-zigbee (2)
Yes, there is a complete help system built into the XCTU interface. Visit the Digi YouTube page for video-based tutorials.

Can you program DigiMesh with legacy XCTU?
We recommend customers use the new and improved XCTU. Legacy XCTU may still work with some products, but it is no longer supported or updated for new releases.

Can I use the new XCTU on older versions of Xtend RF Radios?
Yes, but certain features of XCTU may not work with older versions of XTend radios.

Does hardcoding PAN ID and Channel as used in DigiMesh modules have any disadvantage?
Hardcoding the PAN ID does not have any significant disadvantage, but note that some products require the use of multiple channels, but the channel range can be selected and configured as desired.

Digimesh networks are configured by setting the Pan ID and operating channel. This method lends itself to very simple network formation as no association mechanism is involved. Zigbee uses an association process where routers and end devices receive the operating PAN ID and channel upon joining the network. One advantage of this system is that joining can be disabled.

For a network of 400 nodes, with up and down communication, which is preferable, ZigBee or DigiMesh?
Both mesh protocols can work for this network if configured appropriately. DigiMesh is slightly easier to architect simply because there is no need to select different node types.

Can we use your gateway and connect it to our cloud?
Yes, this is an option for most XBee modules.

Can out-of-the-box configuration items be modified via a broadcast or unicast in both ZigBee and DigiMesh?
Yes, ZigBee and DigiMesh nodes can be configured over-the-air.

What’s the range of these 900HP DigiMesh Kit modules?
Range for the XBee-PRO 900HP is up to 9 miles with high-gain antenna. This can be increased by adding additional hops to the network.

We are planning to use ZigBee Mesh network to collect the data from battery powered movable sensors. The sensors will be distributed in two physically apart buildings where there are no wireless connection from one building to another building. Could you please let me know the best way to setup the network, considering moveable sensors will move from one building to another building and should join the network as soon as they enter the range of ZigBee network in another building.
With ZigBee you would need to have some mechanism to instruct the module to leave the current network and attempt to join the other. This could be accomplished with a network watchdog timer that checks for the presence of a coordinator and if none is found will reset and join another network. XBee Zigbee radios also have a feature called join verification that can be set to check for the presence of a coordinator on a power reset and reset its network settings if none is found. Digimesh could accomplish this by setting both networks with the same PAN ID and Channel credentials, then moving from one network to the other would be seemless.

Any DigiMesh Kits including Raspberry pi projects?
We don’t have any Raspberry Pi projects in our current kits. However, there are plenty of RPi project examples on the web.

What comes in the kits that are on the screen?
ZigBee Mesh Kit:

  • 3 – XBee Grove Development Boards
  • 3 – XBee ZigBee Modules w/ PCB antenna
  • 3 – Micro USB cables
  • 2 – XBee stickers

900HP DigiMesh Kit:

  • 3 XBee Grove Development Boards
  • 3 XBee-PRO 900HP Modules for US/Canada
  • 3 Micro-USB Cables
  • 2 XBee Stickers

Do these modules require a Digi concentrator and/or cloud or are they compatible with 3rd party systems?
Digi Gateways can be used with our ZigBee and 900HP DigiMesh modules to connect them to cloud-based applications. ZigBee modules can also be used with 3rd party gateways, but there could be some compatibility issues depending on the implementation of the ZigBee protocol on the 3rd party gateway. Customers that need a gateway to connect their devices to an IP-based system are suggested to use Digi gateways.

When addressing a ZigBee node, is it required to use both the 64-bit address AND the 16-bit ID address?
Frames may be addressed using either the extended(64 bit) or the network address (16 bit). If the extended address form is used, then the network address field should be set to 0xFFFE (unknown). If the network address form is used, then the extended address field should be set to 0xFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF (unknown). If an invalid 16-bit address is used as a destination address, and the 64-bit address is unknown (0xFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF), the modem status message will show a delivery status code of 0x21 (network ack failure) and a discovery status of 0x00 (no discovery overhead).

If a non-existent 64-bit address is used as a destination address, and the 16-bit address is unknown (0xFFFE), address discovery will be attempted and the modem status message will show a delivery status code of 0x24 (address not found) and a discovery status code of 0x01 (address discovery was attempted).

What relative humidity or IP rating can the “raw” PCAs operate in?
0-95% humidity

Do you have any office in India which can support us in developing the application, across the table or over the phone?
Digi no longer has an office in India, but support is available through our US offices.

Is there a DigiMesh kit available for Europe (868 or 2.4)?
There is not currently a DigiMesh kit available for 868LP or DigiMesh 2.4 modules.

Does DigiMesh come with a cellular and or satellite gateway?
Yes, available in the ConnectPort X4 and X4H.

Is there a notion of sustained broadcast rate that can be claimed? Like 9600 baud, 19200, etc. What is expected of transmitting node, in terms of backing off?
Each node that transmits the broadcast will also create an entry in a local broadcast transmission table. This entry is used to keep track of each received broadcast packet to ensure the packets are not endlessly transmitted. Each entry persists for 8 seconds. The broadcast transmission table holds 8 entries. This process creates an approximate once per second maximum sustained broadcast rate. System generated broadcast events can also occur so careful testing should be performed to estimate any network’s specific throughput capabilities.

Can XCTU be used remotely?
XCTU can be used to configure locally connected nodes and ‘remote’ nodes connected to your network over-the-air.

What’s the difference between the 900HP modem and the Xtend modem?
They are similar in terms of performance and functionality. The 900HP modem is less expensive, and slightly lower range than the XTend.

Which antenna are recommended to maximize transmission across water?
High-gain directional or omni antennas provide strong performance across water and land. Note that over both water and land, the higher the antenna, the more likely you are to achieve unimpeded line-of-sight range.

What do you mean by complex deployment?
Large mesh networks are considered complex deployments. ZigBee networks can be slightly more complex than DigiMesh, simply because the node types need to be defined for every node on the network and there must be a powered coordinator defined for the network to operate properly.

ZigBee nodes: What if a coordinator stops working?
The coordinator can be a point of failure for a ZigBee network.

Can ZigBee module work like mesh?
Yes, ZigBee modules operate in mesh networks.

DigiMesh why no 433MHz?
Not a strong market opportunity to drive the creation of this product. If you have customers interested in this technology, please let the Product Management team know.

How do the modules differentiate between the line-of-site and a reflected packet?
Multipath signals can create destructive interference when they arrive out of phase with a direct signal at the receiving antenna. This generally results in fading or weakening of the received signal.

Is there a limit on the size of data that can be transmitted? Or a good practice / recommendation to deal with larger datasets?
If using API mode, there is a maximum payload size that can be included with each API frame. This size will vary with different versions of XBee module but can always be queried with the NP command.

With unicast will each node of a network repeat packets or does the mesh network only repeat packets on nodes that it knows are on the path to the final node?
Only modules involved in the routing of the data will retransmit the packet.

Which module you recommend for smart street lighting , and how is the communication traffic managed? Can every lamp on the network talk to each other?
We have intelligent street lighting customers using ZigBee and DigiMesh technology. In both network types, every lamp on the network can communicate with one another. Each technology has pros and cons, it comes down to customer preference.

Two part question:What is the advantage of directed broadcasting (i.e., defining a destination address)? Does this improve communication speeds of data to the ‘host’?
Directed broadcasting does not improve the communication speed of data to the host but it does simplify addressing as it allows you to address data to a specific module. Otherwise you would need an identifier in the payload of your broadcast packet to inform the desired module to reply. It also limits the amount of extraneous data that will be presented to host applications.

My question is why South America (Argentina) is not listed in market for 900HP Digimesh?
900HP DigiMesh modules can be used in Argentina, there are no specific certification requirements for that region.

I already got the zig bee mesh kit a couple weeks ago… I have an xbee shield for arduino, do I need anything else to get started?
Nope, you are ready to go build your own XBee-enabled prototype!

Is there any possibility to compress/decompress data before/aftrer zb/digimesh transmission?
The XBee radios are serial radios. Any binary data can be transmitted via an XBee Radio. A JPEG image is a good example of a compressed file that could be transmitted via an XBee.

Would you briefly compare these to the Wireless HART and ISA100 devices/standards?
WirelessHART and Zigbee share IEEE 802.15.4 as the basis of their physical layers. This allows them to use essentially the same hardware at about the same cost for transmitting and receiving. WirelessHART uses TDMA, which allots individual time slots for each transmission. ZigBee uses CSMA with collision detection. In WirelessHART, each node operates as a router, which is similar to that of DigiMesh.

Can I code the modules or must I use an external processor?
Digi does offer ‘programmable’ variants of both ZigBee and DigiMesh modules, which includes an 8-bit microprocessor onboard the module that can be programmed with a custom application. In most cases, customers use their own external microprocessor with our standard XBee modules.

Solar Power Continues to Provide Electricity to Rural Residents in Africa

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Devergy Logo 300pxIn a previous blog post, we shared Devergy and the work they’re doing to connect underserved areas to reliable and affordable electricity. The company was founded in 2012 and has quickly grown a customer base that loves their affordable and clean energy solution.

In short, Devergy is installing solar grids to power remote villages in Tanzania. The solution involves XBee to connect the entire grid to measure energy consumption, enable remote monitoring, and through an XBee gateway, connect to the global cellular network. Access to solar energy allows residents to stop spending significant amounts of money on kerosene for lighting, phone charging and dry-cell batteries for radios. And, saving money isn’t the only benefit, the solar electricity improves air quality and provides businesses the opportunity to operate for longer hours.

We last checked in with Devergy two years ago and since then, they’ve continued to find success and grow a sustainable business. They acquired funding from Acumen, OPES Impact Fund and HERi Africa which is crucial to fund their expanding operations. And, their customer base is growing with new villages in Tanzania. Currently, the Devergy solar solution is operating in 12 villages: six in the region of Mbeya (with expansion happening daily), five villages in the Morogoro region, and Matipwili (the first village).

The team is growing too! The full-time staff has quadrupled since 2012, and they are constantly hiring in the villages to help with sales, installations, and maintain a close relationship with the communities they serve. By the end of 2016, the plan is to have 7,000 households connected!

To get more technical details on how wireless technology like XBee is helping Devergy provide energy across Tanzania, read their customer story here. To learn more about the Devergy mission, click here and visit their website!

Contact a Digi expert and get started today! Contact Us