With Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind us, the holidays are in officially in full swing. To help get you in the holiday spirit, we’ve curated some of our favorite connected creations that take holiday celebration to the next level.
Here are some of our favorite Internet of Things-powered projects to keep you occupied this holiday season.
First time Digi XBee users, successfully created the Smart Record Player at the 2016 IoT Hack Day in Minneapolis, MN that was organized by IoT Fuse. This Clank, Clank, Clunk record player was created using “off the shelf parts” and “off the shelf technology” also known as the Digi XBee module and the Digi XBee Cloud. This allowed the hackers to solely focus on creating this master piece within the 12 hour time-frame.
Smart Stitches Send Doctors Information on Wounds as They Heal
Modern medicine has come a long way thanks to IoT, and researchers at Tufts University who are working towards pushing the limits even further with the development of “smart stitches”. Learn how these “smart stitches” are designed to close wounds while simultaneously updating doctors on the healing progress.
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:
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
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)
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.
You might remember our post about the XBee product turned Indiegogo superstar last year–Plexidrone. Well, there’s another XBee related Indiegogo campaign making headlines. Tinylab is a prototyping platform, developed by Bosphorus Mechatronics, simplifying IoT development with an all-in-one Arduino-based solution.
Tinylab reduces the need to stack multiple Arduino shields, pull out the breadboard and jumper wires, or hunt down that spare LTH sensor in your drawer. This flexible and extensive development board supports Arduino and other development environments, hosts 20 Digital I/O, and additional sensors come pre-attached. And, perhaps most exciting, is the support for a number of wireless technologies like XBee, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi with the ESP8266 chip as seen in the graphic below.
The Indiegogo campaign got off to a great start and Bosphorus Mechatronics quickly exceeded their goal of $25,000. The crew is shipping development kits to their campaign supporters in May and one level of support will even earn contributors a development kit that includes XBee RF modules.
Also, to demonstrate the board’s capabilities, the team at Tinylab created an wireless lighting demo. The video is showing wireless control of a lightbulb with commands sent over XBee. Check out the video below.
No, it’s not possible to create water out of thin air. But, with a bit of engineering, scientists in Chile are turning foggy air into a reliable water source for nearby residents. The process is almost entirely natural—the sun desalinates the water, the winds push the water to a higher elevation, and gravity allows the collected water to flow back down to the village.
Using large fog collectors, which consist of mesh mounted on a rigid structure, to capture impacting fog water droplets from the air and tapping into the natural processes mentioned above, fog collection could be an economical way to gather and distribute clean water.
The fog collectors are typically installed on hillsides and remote areas where fog is abundant. These installations are especially common in arid climates in Chile where rain runs scarce. As fog passes through, the droplets impact the mesh fibers and collect in a trough below. One of the real challenges and opportunities for innovation lies in determining where to install these collectors, how to orient them, and understanding how efficient they are at collecting water from the air.
While at the Universidad de los Andes in Santiago Chile, Richard LeBoeuf, Associate Professor at Tarleton State University, and Juan de Dios Rivera, of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, developed a new type of sensor called the “Liquid Water Flux Probe” to measure the availability of water at current and potential fog collector sites. The sensor measures the liquid water content and speed of the fog and can be used to understand the optimal location and orientation for each of the collectors.
The sensor is part of a larger system called FogFinder, which Richard LeBoeuf developed in collaboration with Juan Pablo Vargas and Jorge Gómez at the Universidad de los Andes. Together they designed and engineered the FogFinder system, which includes wireless networking.
With the primary challenge of measuring fog liquid water flux out of the way, the team needed to design a device capable of being deployed in extremely remote environments and easily retrieve sensor data. Since there is no power source to plug into out in the desert, the options are either solar or wind power. Due to their simplicity, a separate solar power system, comprised of a solar panel, battery, and charge controller, is used in conjunction with the FogFinder unit.
To facilitate the collection and transmission of sensor data, the team chose to build the foundation of FogFinder with Arduino and Digi XBee. Both components offered a fast and easy way to get started prototyping the design. Each sensor node is comprised of an Arduino Mega and Digi XBee module, and the team even designed and built custom boards to regulate voltage, interface the sensors and store data on a micro-SD card.
The node collects data on the following parameters:
Liquid water flux
Flow-rate from fog collectors
The team settled on using Digi XBee for local wireless communication since it provided greater range and required less power than Bluetooth. The ZigBee protocol also offers the flexibility to create a mesh network and configuration settings to conserve power-saving valuable battery life. With external antennas and mountain top to mountain top placement of each radio, they have achieved a reliable 1 km link.
Once the data is collected, it’s sent to a remote server over a cellular network. Using a BeagleBone SBC and a cellular modem, data is taken from the local Digi XBee ZigBee network and can be accessed on a remote computer. This data is then analyzed to assess the performance of the fog collector.
What’s next for FogFinder? As the team wraps up the prototyping stage, they’ll be conducting calibration in a wind tunnel to prepare for field tests. Once the testing phase is complete, the team will work to deploy them as part of a pilot program and start connecting more Chilean residents to a clean source of water.
You can read more about the FogFinder project in the following articles:
The open source movement and strong maker community has led to the creation of a number platforms that give developers a quick and efficient way to create a proof of concept, prototype, or even a final product. Here a few especially handy hardware platforms for developing XBee projects that we think you might find helpful.
The Waspmote is a sensor mote that gives developers a simple way to create wireless sensor networks connected over XBee. The mote supports all the same network topologies as XBee, so it is possible to create complex mesh networks as well as simple point to point communications. In addition to network flexibility, the motes primary feature is reduced power consumption, which makes it ideal for sensors running on battery.
What makes the Waspmote especially awesome is the fact that Libelium has developed their own sensor boards that plug directly into the Waspmote–eliminating the need to solder anything or dust off your box of breadboards and jumper wires. They have industry specific sensors boards that are equipped with the sensors needed for a specific applications like Smart Water, Agriculture, Smart Cities, among many others. Visit the Libelium home page to learn more about the Waspmote.
The Arduino FIO board was created by Shigeru Kobayashi and SparkFun Electronics in an effort to simplify the process of making a wireless Arduino project. With connections for a LiPo battery and an XBee socket right on board, the board has everything you need to create anything from a lightning sensor to a programmable swarm of robots.
Apitronics is an open platform that enables farmers to collect sensor data via connected sensors deployed throughout farms, greenhouses, and gardens. The data is collected from remote nodes placed around the farm and is aggregated at a central hub. The data can be accessed at a local web page and helps farmers monitor environmental conditions, which allows them to make more informed management decisions.
Taking your prototype to production is an issue many start-ups and design teams struggle with. As Arduino has become nearly synonymous with the word prototype, engineers are increasingly in need of an efficient way to turn their Arduino based prototype into a scalable product. DuinoPRO is aimed at the lean start-up community or anyone looking to leverage the highly supported Arduino platform to create a prototype they plan to scale to relatively large volumes in a surface mount facility.
Maybe we Missed Your Favorite?
Did we miss one of your favorite XBee development tools? Never fear. Just leave a comment below or let us know on Twitter at @XBeeWireless and we will add it to the post!
When you’re at work, how do you typically get in touch with your family if you need to contact them?
You most likely call or send a text message from your cell phone. For the most part, you have your phone on you, and you know they have their phone on them and are accessible.
What if, instead, your family is the Texas State Guard and you’re managing a natural disaster? Your soldiers are out in the field providing relief and support–how do you get in touch? How do you keep track of their location? Certainly amidst the noise, weather conditions, working environment, and limited cell coverage there aren’t too many options.
Damon Williams has experienced this issue firsthand as a Sergeant for the Texas State Guard.
“For the longest time I wasn’t able to monitor where my soldiers actually were. There was no way to know exactly where they were located.”
By day, Damon is a senior firmware engineer at Molex. Using his technical background, he set out to solve the issue he faced while serving his community: how can a soldier’s location easily be communicated from the field?
Damon entered Molex’s Innovation Challenge, an internal competition where employees compete against one another in a bid for the next great Molex innovation.
A typical entrant in the Molex Innovation Challenge creates a presentation and some design mock ups. Having personal stake in the game, Damon turned his idea into a reality. As a long-time maker, Damon knew the XBee product line well and realized the XBee-PRO 900HP would enable him to use mesh networking. He developed a working prototype of 30 personal GPS trackers.
“This is something I believe in. I have soldiers in the field. This is something that we’re constantly up against. For example, right now my bags are packed and in my truck. We’re on alert because of the flooding in Texas.”
An individual carries one of the small trackers. Their exact location can be seen in real time from the command center through video using a Google Maps overlay where pins represent the trackers.
Damon says that this system wouldn’t be possible without the XBee-PRO 900HP. “In addition to using mesh networking for reliability, I went with the 900 for the range. Our packet sizes are very small, so we have real quick blips for data transmission.”
Ability for the system to go into sleep mode to conserve power
Small packet delivery
Accelerated system design speed
Integration of all of the modules together
Maestro GPS module
Powered by two AAA batteries, the trackers can run for four days (96 hours) with updates every 90 seconds–or for up to two weeks with hourly updates. The trackers are as small as a couple packs of gum.
Although the prototype didn’t take first place in the Innovation Challenge, Damon has implemented the system for his own team and others. He has personally funded and built 130 trackers that are out in the world today. The trackers are used by The National Guard and search and rescue teams including the City of Austin.
“Anytime someone goes down range they have a tracker on. I have a laptop that hooks up to a panel of video screens, and I have a satellite image. There’s a dot and name for every soldier. Commanders love it because they always know where their soldiers are,” Damon explained. “We had a soldier injure himself at night last year, because we knew where he was we could get help in a few minutes versus searching for hours.”
The system also works great for volunteers and first responders. He hopes it will catch on in other applications like firefighting, search and rescue and wide area damage assessment.
Koch Industries now Molex’s parent company, has also expressed interest in funding the project under its innovation division.
Today, with help from the XBee-PRO 900HP, Damon always has eyes on his family. He hopes that others will be able to do the same. For a complete look at the system check out the website: pointsgps.com.
This isn’t the first time the XBee has been used to save lives. Draganfly, a drone used by public safety agencies, selected the XBee-PRO 900HP too. After K-9 units were unable to locate a family lost in the woods while hiking, an infrared-equipped Draganflyer X4-ES unit was sent out to locate the family. Five units were purchased by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Nova Scotia and now respond to emergency response calls, crime investigations, traffic scene reconstruction and search and rescue operations. Draganfly is the first recorded civilian small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) to be credited with saving a life.