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A Better Way to Build Your Next Project: XBee Hardware Tools

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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.

Waspmote
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.waspmote_mote_runner_24 (1)

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.

Arduino FIO
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.

arduino fioPerhaps the most useful feature of the FIO board is the ability to upload sketches wirelessly. Gone are the days of completely tearing down your project so that you can plug it into your computer! Check out this information guide for information on programming Arduino over XBee.

Apitronics
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.apitronics

With less than 10% of farms using sensors today, the goal is to give small and mid-sized farmers the tools necessary to gather quantitative data–reducing waste and maximizing crop yields. But this platform isn’t just for those with a farming day job, this can be used to monitor your backyard gardens as well! Visit Apitronics website to learn more about their open source agricultural efforts.

duinoPRO
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.

duinoproMaybe 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!

XBee-PRO 900HP Creates a Mesh Network With the Power to Save Lives

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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.

TXSG_DPS

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.”

The XBee-PRO 900HP allowed for:

  • Mesh networking instead of cellular
  • Ease of integration
  • 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
    • Bluetooth transceiver
    • Microchip controller

gumPowered 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.

A Better Way to Build Your Next Project: Software Tools for XBee

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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. We’ve discovered and created quite a few that involve XBee over the last several years so we put some of our favorites in one place for you.connect-devices-to-the-cloud (1)

XBee Java Library
You may remember we released the XBee Java Library earlier this year. This library was created in-house at Digi, so our customers can get to market more quickly with their Java based applications, but we also wanted to share it with the rest of you XBee developers out there. Feel free to make your own contributions! Download the library on Github.

XBee Arduino Library
A few years ago, Andrew Rapp created this extremely useful library for projects involving Arduino and XBee wireless communication. The project supports both Series 1 (802.15.4) and Series 2 (ZigBee) XBee radios. Another fellow XBee’er, Boris, supplemented this library by writing a helpful blog post to help get you startedThe library is available here on Github.

XBee Internet Gateway – XIG
Initially created by Rob Faludi to easily connect XBee to the Internet, the XIG runs on Windows, Macintosh and Linux computers as well as ConnectPort Gateways. If you’re looking to integrate your XBee networks with online databases, web pages, social networks, or other online services this is the starting point for your IoT application. The XIG is available for download here.

Rob has also compiled a list of all XBee libraries living out on the Internet including Max MSP and Python. You can view that on Digi’s Examples site here.

Third Party Development Platforms

In addition to some of the tools we’ve created at Digi, there are a number of companies solely focused on creating development platforms for rapid prototyping and product creation.

 

macchina.io
macchina.io is an open source software toolkit for quickly building embedded applications for the Internet of Things that run on Linux-based devices like the Raspberry Pi and Beaglebone. macchina.io implements a web-enabled, modular and extensible JavaScript and C++ runtime environment to enable applications to talk to various sensors, devices, and cloud services. The first release of macchina.io even includes support for XBee ZigBee radios.

Temboo
Temboo is a platform that simplifies interactions between multiple APIs, so you don’t need to spend hours combing through programming details, but rather focus on creating your IoT application. You can easily generate code in multiple languages for tasks like posting to Twitter, creating Google Calendar events, or more advanced processes like monitoring urban noise levels.

Once the code is generated it can simply be copy and pasted into an IDE. Temboo’s library contains thousands of Choreos that handle API interactions, work with databases, perform code utility functions, and more. Check out this video that walks you through building an XBee tank monitoring demo with Temboo Choreos.

NVDrones
Have you wanted to create and program your own Drone? NVDrones has the tools you need to create your one-of-a-kind UAV. With support for common languages like Arduino, Java and Javascript, the platform gives developers the tools necessary to create their own drone applications. Their API ensures quick development so you can focus your efforts on creating a unique and valuable product. Visit their developers site to learn more about NVDrones.

Looking for More 
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!

Look What I Made: XBee Project Gallery Update

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We are always finding amazing XBee projects. From wireless robots, to interactive art installations, to wearable musical instruments–the creativity of XBee makers is endless. We have some new additions to the XBee Project Gallery and wanted to share them with you. Let us know your favorite!

 

Omniwheel Robot
Catalina Computing took an omniwheeled robot project featured in Make Magazine and replaced its radios with XBees. What resulted is a bot which is controllable from Raspberry Pis, Beagle Bones, Macs, with the ability to easily add an almost unlimited amount of sensors and actuators.

PacMan in Super Bowl Ad
The project consisted of a life-size maze that was built to scale of the original video game. The four ghosts wore light up costumes and rollerblades to give the effect of floating through the maze. XBee connects the ghosts’ costumes to a central base-station, so remote commands can be sent to control the LEDs.

SoMo – Wearables turned into Instruments
SOMO is a custom designed circuit board based on the Arduino Leonardo. It includes an accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer and the XBee Series 2. Signals are sent over XBee to a computer, which processes the sound in Max MSP and Ableton.

Do you have an XBee project you would like featured in the XBee Project Gallery? You can submit your own or someone else’s project here.

Look What I Made: XBee Project Gallery Update

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We are always finding amazing XBee projects. From drones, to artwork, to gardens–the creativity of XBee makers is endless. We have some new additions to the XBee Project Gallery and wanted to share them with you.  Let us know your favorite!

 

Interactive Prayer Wheel
Yantra is an Art Tech Science Festival held in Nepal. For this special occasion, the organizers wanted to create a piece of art that combined their cultural heritage with technology as way to connect generations. This goal led them to to build a modern-day prayer wheel.

Terra Spider
Created by students at the California College of the Arts, the goal was to build an autonomous robot capable of repairing and maintaining damaged landscapes. This robot, dubbed Terra Spider, can be dropped into hazardous environments to do just that- repair and maintain damaged landscapes.

Rainforest Monitoring with Drones
The goal of Tapirnet is to apply an economic value to the Amazon Rainforest by developing an automated and sustainable system to document wildlife in the Amazon. The location of this project is the “Reserva Nacional Allpahuayo-Mishana” in Peru.

Do you have an XBee project you would like featured in the XBee Project Gallery? You can submit your own or someone else’s project here.

Creative Inspiration: British Arrows Award Winners 2014

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The Digi marketing and product teams took a field trip to the British Arrow Awards at the Walker Art Center here in Minneapolis to get our creativity flowing for the new year. We left laughing and inspired, so we thought you might be interested in checking out a few of this year’s winners too.

Unilever Marmite Rescue

Unilever is well aware of the love/hate relationship people have with Marmite, and they’re not afraid to show it in this ad that was named as commercial of the year.

 

Mercedes-Benz Magic Body Control Chicken

Oddly enough, Chicken was great inspiration for our cellular team. The products they work on are all about stability and control.

 

Honda Hands

This may have been the ad that spoke to us the most. After all, we’re all makers here at Digi and every IoT deployment starts with someone who is willing to think curiously.

 

Hutchen 3D Three Mobile Pony

Because… dancing ponies.

It’s the perfect time of year to get out of the office and find inspiration in unexpected places. Where are you finding creative fuel for the new year?

Look What I Made: XBee Project Updates

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We are always finding amazing XBee projects. From robots, to rockets, to gardens–the creativity of XBee makers is endless. We have some new additions to the XBee Project Gallery and wanted to share them with you.  Let us know your favorite!

XBeeGallery

Wireless Firework Control System
It’s safe to say this is the most explosive project in the gallery. This wireless system allows you to control the launching of fireworks from a control unit that has 200 channels.

CanSat Solar Powered Data Collection
A team of student engineers from Guatemala needed a way to send data between a flying a rocket and a base station located on the ground. The rocket contained a payload, which collects sensor data as it falls back to the ground. What makes this project truly amazing is the fact that the whole system is solar powered!

Animatronic Ironman Suit
Yes, someone has made a full-scale replica of Ironman. No, it does not fly. You can find XBee inside the suit’s helmet. Wiring was used throughout the replica, but the designer ran into a problem when he needed to create a wireless helmet, so it would be easy to take on and off. There’s even a video of the suit in action.

Wireless Controlled Hand
Gabry built this for his final high school project. It consists of XBee and an Arduino Lilypad. The user puts on a glove and as they move their hand another robotic hand mimics the motion of the user.

Do you have an XBee project you would like featured in the XBee Project Gallery? You can submit your own or someone else’s project here.

This Week in the Internet of Things: Friday Favorites

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The Internet of Things is developing and buzzing all around us. Throughout the week we come across innovative projects, brilliant articles and posts that support and feature the innovators and companies that make our business possible. Here’s our list of favorites from this week’s journey on the Web.

davis-maker-movement-history-460x345
Complexity Will Drive Demand for Managed Service Providers | Forbes

Forget ‘Things’ — It’s the Internet of Business Models | Information Week

Why the Internet of Things Narrative Needs to Change | The Next Web

How the Maker Movement is Moving into Classrooms | Edutopia

Solar Power Trash Compactor in Philadelphia | CNN

Please tell us in the comments below or Tweet us, @DigiDotCom– we would love to share your findings too. You can also follow all of the commentary and discussion with the hashtag #FridayFavorites.