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Off-the-Shelf Components Connect NASA Wireless Experiment

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Did you know NASA’s XBee network that was deployed 200 miles above Earth was constructed completely out of off-the-shelf components?

As part of a NASA initiative to efficiently experiment with new ideas and technologies, the development team created their entire network out of commercial off-the-shelf components.  Using devices like Arduino and XBee, the engineering team was able to create a network to reliably gather critical data on Exo-Brake technology.

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An Arduino Mega processed data and acted as the gateway’s engine, which connected the local XBee network to the long-range Iridium satellite uplink. As seen in the diagram above, the gateway was placed within the payload of the Exo-Brake and gathered sensor data from three XBees-3-axis acceleration, temperature and pressure. Data was then sent back down to mission control for analysis.

You can read more about the launch at these links:

Customer Showcase: Wireless for Today’s Connected City

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Every day Digi works with customers around the world to deploy connected solutions that businesses rely on. From the ability to monitor device health to using data to make more informed decisions-connected devices are modernizing business operations. Here are a few of the many companies we are proud to work with.

EMTEST | Public Transitcss-featured-emtest (1)
As city populations continue to grow and public transportation demand rises, public transit agencies are finding innovative ways to handle the influx of passengers. Implementing wireless technology at ticketing kiosks and on-board displays helps streamline operations while also helping to improve the overall rider experience.

EMTest, a technology solution provider for transportation, uses the ConnectCore® 6 as the engine that powers its Emlines system. The ConnectCore 6, based on Freescale’s i.MX 6 applications processor, is a compact module that provides engineers all of the features necessary to build unique wireless applications.

EMTest gives transit operators the ability to facilitate ticket sales more efficiently, optimize vehicle routes—and it provides passenger Wi-Fi. With the fare collection system tied into the rest of the operations team, riders are provided with information such as next stop, travel times, and transfer information. The data collected is also essential for more efficient fleet management.

Owlet Nightshift by Schreder | Connected LightingRoundabout at twilight
As cities deploy LED street lights to cut energy costs, they’re also turning to wireless technology for data collection and remote monitoring for their street lighting.

Utilizing Digi wireless technology, Schréder developed the Owlet lighting solution, which enables cities to retrofit out-of-date lighting infrastructure with long lasting intelligent technology. Within each light is an LED array along with a Digi XBee ZigBee module. The XBee radios create ZigBee mesh network-connecting all of the city’s street lights wirelessly. Data from each light is then sent to a single point, a cellular XBee Gateway, which then  connects to a cellular network.

The XBee Gateway allows the city to monitor and control lighting with Owlet’s web-based management tools. Also, municipalities don’t have to wait for a citizen to report an outage or check lights via scheduled inspections. The lights themselves can tell the city when they need to be serviced or replaced.

AddÉnergie | Electric Vehicle Chargingcss-inline-addenergie
Electric vehicles are a rapidly growing market, and with it, so has the need for charging. AddEnergie specializes in providing charging station networks for electric vehicles. The company provides the charging infrastructure for both the Electric Circuit and the VERnetwork™, the two largest charging networks in Canada.

AddEnergie uses XBee modules to connect stations throughout entire parking lots and a single gateway is used at each lot to enable cloud connectivity. In addition to relying on Digi wireless technology, AddEnergie uses the ConnectCard i.MX 28 as the brains of their system.

The system includes proprietary software, PowerSharing™ and PowerLimiting™, which interface with Digi products and notify the charging stations when energy should be lowered to help reduce costs.

To learn more about how Digi customers are changing their respective industries, visit our customer story page here.

XBee Takes Flight at NASA Wallops Flight Facility

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You may remember this post from last year sharing the upcoming NASA experiment involving XBee. Well, after a few delays (launching rockets is complicated!), XBee finally took flight. XBee-Launch-Space

Early in the morning on July 7, NASA launched a NASA Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket from their Wallops Flight Facility. Onboard the rocket was an experiment testing Exo-Brake technology. XBee was used to collect sensor data including temperature, air pressure, and 3-axis acceleration parameters.

NASA is considering Exo-brakes as a possible solution for returning cargo from the International Space Station (ISS), orbiting platforms or as possible landing mechanisms in low-density atmospheres. This was one of many tests used to analyze its effectiveness, but the first to incorporate an XBee connected sensor network. If you would like to read more about the Exo-brake, check out this article.

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We’ll have more coverage coming soon including video interviews with the engineers involved. In the meantime, you can learn more about the experiment in the articles linked below:

NASA’s Official Announcement on the Launch

Wireless-in-Space: How NASA Testing is One Small Step for Planetary Internet | Wireless Design Mag

IoT Tech Goes to Space with NASA | IoT Evolution

Have any questions about the launch or the technology involved in the experiment? You can reach us on Twitter at @XBeeWireless or comment below.

Introducing the Official XBee Library for mbed

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The mbed platform is a popular tool for engineers developing new Internet of Things devices. It is both a platform and operating system for internet-connected devices based on 32-bit ARM Cortex-M microcontrollers. ARM mbed provides rapid development, ease of use, efficiency, security features, and support for a wide range of add-on components including Digi’s wireless solutions. Our team of XBee experts has created a special library to easily connect mbed projects using XBee radios.mbed_logo

The new library supports XBee 802.15.4 and XBee ZigBee modules so developers are able to create simple point-to-point projects or complex mesh networks for their devices. On the mbed website you can find detailed instructions on how to implement the library into your mbed device.

We have also included ready to use examples so you can get started quickly. Click here to access the mbed XBee library.

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In addition to the mbed library we have two other official software libraries for XBee development:

There are also a slew of third party libraries created by the XBee community:

For for more information on mbed, you can visit their site. Have any questions about the XBee library itself? Just shoot us a message at @XBeeWireless or comment below.

Why You Should Choose Cellular for Your IoT Solution

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You already know how ubiquitous cellular is, but did you realize it’s going above and beyond the device you have in your hand? Lower costs and reliable connections are driving cellular adoption in M2M and Internet of Things applications. According to Berg Insights, there are already around 187 million cellular connected M2M devices. Here are some of the top reasons our customers choose to go with a cellular solution for their M2M and IoT solutions.

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1. Ubiquitous Coverage
Cellular coverage is nearly everywhere. A recent ITU report suggests that the total number of global mobile subscriptions is approximately 6.8 billion – nearly the same as the estimated world population.

Cellular devices can be deployed anywhere that is in network coverage.  It can also be deployed in mobile applications where devices need to stay connected no matter where they are at (e.g. fleet/asset tracking), even across wide geographical areas.  Additionally, there is a growing population of picocell deployments that are enabling improved in-building coverage for shopping centers, large corporate buildings, subway stations, etc.

2. Easy Deployment
Cellular devices can be pre-provisioned by distributors or system integrators before shipment to the end-customer, so they connect to the network right out of the box.   No end user provisioning is required (e.g. setting up security to connect to a Wi-Fi access point)

Cellular devices are not dependent on IT infrastructure (e.g. Wi-Fi access point, corporate Ethernet, …).  Deploying Wi-Fi or Ethernet connected devices inside environments like hospitals or shopping centers can be difficult due to IT teams not allowing 3rd party devices on their network.  What if the IT network is updated or security settings change? Cellular connected devices ensure you retain complete control over your device.

3. Lower Support Costs
With cellular, the infrastructure is owned and managed by the cellular carriers, not the end-customer or product supplier.  This means no upfront infrastructure costs and reduced support costs. Because cellular connectivity does not depend on end-user managed infrastructure (Wi-Fi, ZigBee, etc.), product suppliers do not have to provide ‘helpdesk’ support services for basic connectivity issues (e.g. “My device won’t connect to the access point.  The security settings are not working….”).  Instead of deploying your own infrastructure, leverage one of the world’s largest communication infrastructures – the cellular network.

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4. Improved Reliability
Reliability is critical for many M2M applications, especially those involving security and real-time monitoring and alerts.  With cellular, you are leveraging a robust wireless network used by nearly 1/3 of the world’s population every day.  Cellular network outages are rare and if they do occur they are immediately noticed and acted on.  Consider a less reliable alternative — a device is connected to a consumer-grade Wi-Fi access point, maintained by the store clerk in a small gas station.  If the wireless connection fails, it could go unnoticed for extended periods of time and require manual intervention to resolve.

5. Lower Hardware Costs
Cellular module costs have fallen significantly in recent years. High-volume pricing for data-only modules is approaching sub-$10 for 2G GSM, sub-$20 for CDMA 1xRTT and sub-$30 for 3G UMTS. These price points are enabling a whole new class of devices and applications.

6. Lower Data Costsgodzilla
Data costs have also fallen significantly.  For connected machines that only need to report small amounts of data, connectivity costs can be <$1/month.  A vending machines that reports daily inventory clearly doesn’t need the same costly data plan as a consumer streaming HD music videos.

7. No Risk of Inflatable Godzilla Ruining Your Network
This isn’t a joke. One of our own customers has run into this problem. VSAT requires a satellite typically placed on the top of the building. But what happens when the store manager requests an employee go to the roof and tie up a giant inflatable Godzilla? The store employee probably isn’t a wireless communications expert and decides to use the satellite to anchor Godzilla. This can pull the satellite out of the direction it requires to connect — resulting in costly downtime.

Obviously this isn’t an epidemic, but with cellular you don’t need to worry about the direction your antenna is pointed.

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Many of our customers are realizing the value provided by cellular connected devices today. In addition to providing a secure and reliable connection, it enables them to manage and monitor their network from anywhere. Here’s an example of how our customer, Monster Media, is using cellular to connect and manage digital signage around the world.

Wireless Technology Driving Business Transformation in the Oil & Gas Industry

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As the demand for oil and gas increases, reduction in operating and maintenance costs and an increase in reliability are top priorities for the industry. However, that is easier said than done when you’re talking about assets deployed in harsh environmental conditions and widespread, remote locations. Even minutes of production downtime can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars lost. Ensuring that production machinery and other critical equipment downtime is minimized not only reduces operating and maintenance costs, but also increases production revenue and improves worker safety.Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 12.29.50 PM

Oil and gas companies will benefit by moving away from a reactive analog maintenance model where action isn’t taken until a field operations team arrives at the location and identifies the asset is no longer functioning, resulting in unplanned downtime and lost revenue. Many companies have migrated to a proactive (scheduled) maintenance model, which is characterized by maintenance being performed at manufacturer-recommended intervals. This philosophy is actually the most expensive to follow because components could be unnecessarily overhauled or replaced. In addition, assets can and will still fail between maintenance cycles.

preventative maintenance model on the other hand, brings assets and data into business operations to enable companies to remotely monitor, control and identify problems. Being able to predict failures and maintenance requirements, you can better forecast and schedule maintenance activities, which reduces operational and maintenance costs.

With our XLR Pro long-range wireless radios, industrial grade Transport WR21 cellular routers and Digi Remote Manger, companies can quickly deploy a comprehensive global connectivity model today. You can seamlessly connect your assets, gather and integrate data to better control those assets, and remotely manage the network devices for security compliance and system updating. This kind of solution results in:

  • Connected assets and their data have increased visibility across an entire organization.
  • A proactive approach to maintenance whereby issues are resolved before they even occur
  • Field service operations teams are empowered by a rich set of device data and information to begin troubleshooting issues. This includes not only the real-time status of mission critical equipment, but also historical data points for trending and long term analysis
  • Deployments and truck rolls are made on a needs-based approach, which manages costs more effectively and positively impacts the bottom-line.

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Come see Digi at the spring Entelec Communication Show in Houston April 7th through the 9th at booth #228

These are just some of the ways a preventative maintenance model built on Digi’s award winning wireless devices and cloud solutions can benefit the Oil & Gas industry. If you would like to learn more about how connected assets are driving business transformation in the Oil & Gas industry, join us at the Entelec Trade Show at booth #228 Tuesday, April 7 through Thursday, April 11 at the George R. Brown Convention center in Houston, TX.

How We Built a 4G LTE Connected Digital Signage Solution

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We’re getting settled back in after an eventful few days at Digital Signage Expo. It was our first time at the event and we had a blast! Here at Digi, we mainly focus on the connectivity side of things whether it’s RF modules or a cellular router– that’s our expertise. But, in a digital signage solution, there are so many elements that come into play.

For this special event, we wanted to make sure we had a digital signage demo ready to go and we didn’t have much time to put it together. With some extremely helpful advice and easy-to-use tools we were able to get it up and running in less than a week (thanks to Amazon Prime overnight shipping).

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How We Did It
Here are the basic elements of the demo. First we needed an enclosure– something that we could mount a big ol’ monitor to. Our friends at Peerless-AV hooked us up. Their kiosk gave us an enclosure for not only the screen, but also the mini PC, TransPort cellular router, and other accessories like antennas and power supplies.

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So now that we had all the gear hooked up and ready to go, we needed to figure out what we wanted to display on the screen. Screenfeed paid us a visit and set us up with some live RSS feeds.

These feeds allow us to send out fresh, new content to the display. Specifically, we had live financial data, major headlines of the day, and most importantly…weather updates. Another crucial aspect of serving up content to our display was the software to manage the images and RSS feeds.

Using our Wondersign free trial we plugged in our RSS feeds and .jpgs and had our screen displaying content in under an hour. Here’s a quick video that walks you through the display live on the DSE show floor!


There are many distinct advantages of delivering content via 4G LTE. For one, you get a high bandwidth connection that doesn’t need existing infrastructure like Ethernet or Wi-Fi, which offers the flexibility to deploy signage anywhere with network coverage. 4G LTE also provides a secure connection and the ability to easily manage a large deployment of devices via the cloud. This is just a demo, but many of Digi’s customers have realized the value of cellular connected signage. Learn how Monster Media is using cellular technology out in the field.

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.

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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.