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NVdrones Gives Developers a Platform to Quickly Create Drone Applications

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NVDronesThe core idea for creating the XBee was to create a module for wireless communications that gives our customers the option to choose the best wireless technology for the job. Whether you need long-range communication spanning many miles using the 900MHz band or mesh networking with ZigBee or more data throughput using Wi-Fi. The XBee enables us to offer our customers wireless flexibility to meet their needs.

NVDrones is helping developers integrate XBee for wireless communication in drone designs. The team aims to give software developers all the necessary tools to create drone applications.

They created a board that is plug-n-play compatible with top drone platforms and an XBee socket that allows developers to simply plug in their XBee of choice (check out the image below). By default, they offer the XBee PRO 900MHz, which is ideal for drone applications considering it’s substantial LOS range — enabling autonomous drones. This autonomous operation is controlled by the apps created with the hardware and easy-to-use SDKs.

NVDrones

With library support for Arduino, Android, and Javascript, their platform was meant to be user-friendly for all developers no matter their background — even those with limited or no hardware experience. If you have an itch to start creating a drone application, but lack experience, this is a great starting point.

You can check out their developer website at developers.NVdrones.com. They’ve just launched and are taking pre-orders now.

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.

From 3D Mapping to Data Collection: XBee Gets Drones Off the Ground

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The commercial drone industry is still relatively young, but over the next decade, the civilian and commercial drone market is expected to more than double. Just this year, the FAA proposed legislation creating a process to allow the use of commercial drones in the US. These new rules would make the U.S. one of the most drone-friendly regions for commercial purposes. That Amazon Prime delivery via drone may be closer to reality than you think.

With multiple applications for drone technology like agriculture, public safety, photography, and a variety of industrial uses, a number of companies are emerging to capture these growing markets. In addition to the many commercial drone opportunities, researchers and makers are also turning to drones as the technology falls in price and becomes more affordable for small operations. Here are a few interesting companies and projects using XBee technology in their drones.

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Draganfly is a unique XBee user. Their claim to fame? The first human life saved by a drone. They specialize in public safety applications as well as industrial inspection by providing tools for high resolution imagery and precision 3D mapping. They even offer customers with flight training courses — very important when you’re a flying a valuable piece of equipment hundreds of feet in the air.

Earlier this year, they announced a new application designed specifically for precision agriculture. The drone is equipped with a camera that simultaneously captures five discrete spectral bands, which provides useful data for monitoring crops and environmental health. The image generated can help farmers identify areas invaded by pests or becoming overgrown with weeds. Click here to read more about Draganfly.

PlexiDrone
PlexiDronePlexiDrone, developed by DreamQii Robotics, is a drone platform for aerial photography. Initially developed for use in the film industry, but the company expects to expand into industrial applications as well. The company’s Indiegogo campaign raised over 2 million dollars — breaking the record for largest canadian crowd funded project.

The PlexiDrone is unique in that it can be controlled via an Android or iOS device rather than a specially designed controller – drastically reducing cost. The users smartphone/tablet controller communicates to a base station over Bluetooth and that base station connects to the drone over an XBee. XBee provides reliable long range wireless to the drone capturing video or photos from the sky. DreamQii also provides developers an entire development kit, so they can create their own custom drone application. Read more about PlexiDrone here.

Monitoring the Amazon Rainforest
We have also worked with quite a few students and makers implementing XBee into their drone designs. Last year a team of students from Peru built an entire monitoring system capable of creating an wildlife inventory of the rainforest. This is a unique drone application in that the drone is used as a vessel for data collection.

Screen-Shot-2014-12-12-at-2.37.27-PMThe network consists of multiple nodes containing a motion sensor and camera. Whenever a node detects motion, an image is captured and the file is stored locally. The drone is programmed to fly around to each of these takeout points. Once the drone captures the images it returns to the city for more in-depth processing. Another interesting aspect of this project is the team created their a custom Arduino board to maximize battery life. Click here to learn more about their project.

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.

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Happy Internet of Things Day | Deutsche  Telekom Blog

How the Internet of Things Will Change the Future of Sport | IT Wire

Internet of Things Relay for Home Automation Using Arduino | Geeky Gadgets

With Meld, Another Step Toward the Internet of Tasty Things | New York Times

Six Things You Should Know About the Internet of Things | Tech Radar

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.

XBee’s First Hip-Hop Performance

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Adam W Dessa ProjectAdam Wolf, an engineer at Wireless Design Services by day, electronics maker and creator by night, received a request to build a light show for an upcoming Doomtree concert. Dessa, a singer and rapper in Doomtree, wanted to create something ‘beautiful and spooky’– the main source of inspiration being a scene from the Little Mermaid. The hope was to create glowing lights in the singers’ mouths and on their clothing that could dim and brighten with the music.

First order of business was to a find a way to get the singers’ mouths to glow.

As you might expect, the mouth isn’t the greatest environment for a circuit, so some clever engineering was required. The circuit had to be enclosed in mouth-safe plastic to ensure any saliva wouldn’t close the circuit.

For control of the lights, Adam used magnets as a way to regulate voltage, so each singer is able to turn the mouthpiece on by bringing a magnet up to her face.  A lot work went into this little device, it even required a trip to the dentist to create a well-fitting mouth piece!

The lights on each of the singers’ sternums is where XBee comes in. Each LED module was connected to a MOSFET, which was connected to the PWM pin on an XBee Series 1.  This setup allowed Doomtree’s light guy, Arlo, to control the lights’ voltage over a wireless link. Above is a picture of the control interface. By adjusting the knob on the top of the control box Arlo is able to adjust the brightness of the lights to match the music.

Below is a short clip of the LED lights in action.

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.

The Emerging Requirements for Next-Generation Single-Board Computers

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With the Internet of Things and machine-to-machine computing, application demands are increasing. From medical diagnostics and transportation to precision agriculture and entertainment, engineers today are challenged to find new ways to design in greater intelligence, connectivity, and performance. Not to mention that it’s required to do so while cutting costs, power consumption and size. Single Board Computers (SBC) are an ideal platform for quick and focused product design. They continue to evolve in sophistication, and the range of possibilities continues to expand.  As those capabilities grow, so do the choices for design engineers.  But what are the factors that matter most in SBC evaluation and selection?

Design needs always vary by application criteria, industry, and deployment environment, but the following criteria can serve as a springboard for the evaluation of SBC options.

  1. Processor Platform

At the heart of every SBC is the underlying application processor platform. Traditionally, the majority of SBCs were based on x86 platforms and somewhat derived from the typical desktop PC motherboard form factor. This is still evident in some of the form factor variants that are being utilized—Pico-ITX, Mini-ITX, microATX, EmbATX, and others. They range from “standalone” models to stackable solutions, like PC/104, to specialized “blades” for use in rack systems. ARM-based System-on-Chip (SoC) platforms are becoming more capable with an extended reach into the x86 performance bracket, low power consumption, broad operating system support and cost-effectiveness, the SBC now also is an extremely viable option for a host of new applications as well as potential replacement for existing x86 based solutions.

  1. Form Factorindustries_industrial_agriculture

SBCs are available in a wide variety of available “standard” form factors and continue to shrink, giving designers much greater latitude in how they create innovative devices and applications that can leverage a much higher level of computing power.  For instance, it’s possible today to create a compact SBC built on an ARM-based System-on-Module (SoM) solution with integrated, pre-certified 802.11a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity in a footprint of just 50×50 mm, only 5-7 mm high. Such an SBC can provide scalable single to quad core Cortex-A9 SoC performance with a complete set of integrated peripherals and interfaces, from storage (SATA, SD) to user interface (up to four display, capacitive multi-touch). A level of computing power and flexibility paired with dramatically reduced power consumption and at a price point that was unthinkable at that size just a few years ago.

In addition, choosing an SBC design based on a SoM provides an almost seamless migration path to direct component integration once an application warrants a custom carrier board design due to increased volume and/or application-specific customization requirements. Given that the SoM stays the same when used on the customer board design, software transition is in principle minimal and the SBC may also act as a reference design for the customized product development effort.

  1. Reliability, Longevity, Availability

SBCs are often used in very specialized and environmentally challenging embedded applications. Specific industry standards related tests for temperature, shock, and vibration will ensure that the platform is able to operate reliably without failure.

The selection of components an SBC is designed with also has a significant importance in respect to product long-term availability. For example, a product like Digi International’s ConnectCore® 6 SBC is built using industrial temperature rated components, which contribute to overall reliability and long-term availability of parts.

Digi’s SBC is also built around the scalable ConnectCore 6 SoM. The ConnectCore 6 SOM is a Freescale i.MX6 based surface mount multichip module with integrated wireless connectivity. It eliminates the need for high-density module connectors, expensive multilevel board designs. It also increases durability in rugged environments and offers a unique long-term availability approach for embedded, industrial-grade Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. Last but not least, it also enables you to move to a fully integrated, customized product design utilizing the single-component SoM without the traditional design complexities of a discrete design approach.

  1. Low Power Consumption

Today’s ARM-based SBC designs – even those that leverage quad-core processors – can achieve excellent power efficiency in both mobile and fixed-power applications. The inherent design advantages of the ARM platform and its advanced power-saving modes enable you to minimize and tune power consumption for applications, load, temperature, time of day, users, and other application specific criteria.  What’s more, it also helps you create thermally sound designs appropriate for the usage environment without the mandatory need for active cooling, which affects design complexity, longevity and most importantly reliability over time.

  1. Connectivity

The Internet of Things (IoT) is pervasive throughout almost all applications in virtually all vertical markets. Fully integrated and complete connectivity options must be considered and designed into a product from the beginning. Options include: Wi-Fi connectivity link to an existing network, serving Wi-Fi connectivity to clients connecting to your product for configuration or services, Bluetooth Classic for user device integration, Bluetooth Low Energy for data acquisition from low-power sensors, or even Ethernet for mandating wired network connections.

With connectivity comes the need for security and trusted communication. The next generation of SBCs are equipped with Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities and fully pre-certified 802.11a/b/g/n (2.4 and 5 GHz), software and driver support enterprise-grade Wi-Fi security such as WPA/WPA2-Enterprise, cellular connectivity, and other options to ensure your device is tied into larger computing grids. The SBC can be integrated into any existing IT environment.

Lastly, taking advantage of a secure cloud-enabled software platform such as Device Cloud allows you to build products for the IoT almost immediately, without any need to develop a costly and proprietary cloud infrastructure.

  1. Open Platforms

Most SBCs support industry-standard operating systems, including Linux, Android, and Microsoft Windows Embedded Compact. This reduces learning curves and costs while reducing risk and accelerating development activities.

However, engineers invariably want to customize and refine their device designs as well as make sure that access to relevant software and hardware design components is available right from the start. Be sure your chosen SBC provides full and royalty-free access to source code of the software platform support.

On the hardware side, access to functional and verified reference designs is as important as choosing a supplier that is established and present both locally and globally with their own and partner resources.

industries_medical_medical_devicesMedical Devices

For manufacturers in the life sciences industry, innovation is a non-negotiable requirement.  Product complexity—including the inherent need for products to have seamless wireless connectivity—continues to grow, making it essential to have efficient designs that leverage reliable components with the power and simplicity that reduce points of failure, including support for the long product lifecycles in this industry.

Medical and healthcare devices need to become connected in order to create efficiencies in areas such as patient safety, reimbursement, or even asset management/tracking. The complex and lengthy regulatory approvals further drive the need to shorten time-to-market and focus on core competencies instead of spending time on basic core system design efforts.

The right SBC or SoM solution plays an integral role in bringing innovative medical products to market quickly. As a result, device manufacturers are increasingly relying on them for devices such as infusion pumps, ventilators, implantable cardiac defibrillators, ECGs, bedside terminals, patient monitors, AEDs, and more.

Precision Agriculture

Today, farmers are able to more finely tune their crop management by observing, measuring, and responding to variability in their crops. For instance, crop-yield sensors mounted on GPS-equipped combines can use industrial-grade, ruggedized SBCs and SoMs to measure and analyze data related to chlorophyll levels, soil moisture – even aerial and satellite imagery. It then can intelligently operate variable-rate seeders, sprayers, and other farming equipment to optimize crop yields. Wireless connectivity for cellular or Wi-Fi network connectivity plus sensor integration through technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy adds a powerful, real-time connectivity to agriculture that drives a new level of efficiency.

Transportation

With focus on operational efficiency and safety, transportation applications are driving the need for connected and intelligent devices.

In situations that require rugged reliability that eliminates vibration concerns, embedded SBC and SoM solutions play a valuable role. In taxis, solutions can help optimize electric vehicles by controlling engine components while providing a fully integrated, state-of-the-art in-vehicle operator interface. In buses, monitoring systems can report emissions levels and the solution can operate fare-collection systems. On a commercial vessel, embedded solutions power connected navigation systems or highly sophisticated fish finders.

Consider taking advantage of connected SBCs and SoMs when building your next product. Significantly reduce your design risk while shortening your time-to-market, without sacrificing design flexibility.

 

XBee Visits World Maker Faire New York 2014

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Maker Faire is one of our favorite events of the year. We get to meet everyone that’s making with XBee, introduce others that may not be familiar, and see amazing projects like giant robotic giraffes and connected motorcycles. We’ve got tons of pictures to share with you from what was a great event.

XBee Projects

And if you stopped by our booth and looking to build any of the demos we had on display, visit examples.digi.com for instructions. Or if you’ve built a project with XBee, be sure to submit it to the XBee Gallery.

Thanks again to everyone that stopped by to hangout with us. Have photos or videos from Maker Faire that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter!