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XBee Tech Tip: Using the XCTU Spectrum Analyzer Tool

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XCTU 6.3 features a brand new Spectrum Analyzer tool. This makes it possible to measure and test the spectrum using only an XBee radio. The tool generates a report of the noise level for each channel within the radio’s frequency band. With these data points, XBee users can select the optimal channel for their XBee network and troubleshoot network issues.

In this XBee Tech Tip, we’ll take a look at how to run the Spectrum Analyzer tool. Below is a quick screencast that takes you through adding the XBee device to XCTU to running a spectrum analysis and sorting through the data points collected. The video is followed with more information on the tool such as configuring the test and analyzing the network noise levels.

To get started, first access the tool by selecting it from the Tools drop down menu.

Device selection
The first section of the tool contains the device selection control populated with the devices that you have added to XCTU. Select the radio module you want to use to perform the analysis.

Analysis Configuration
The analysis configuration panel is located next to the device selection control. This section allows you to configure the spectrum analysis process:
This is the list of available settings:Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 8.57.25 AM

  • Sampling interval (ms): Determines the time to wait in milliseconds before reading a new noise level sample of the RF channels.
  • Number of samples: Check this option to configure the number of samples to read in the spectrum analysis session.
  • Loop infinitely: Check this option to read samples infinitely until the spectrum analysis session is stopped manually.

When you have configured all the options, click Start Spectrum Analysis button to start reading samples and measure the noise level of each RF channel. You can manually stop the analysis at any time by pressing the same button, now displaying the text Stop Spectrum Analysis.

Data Presentation
When an analysis is started, the chart and channels list are filled with all the RF channels supported by the selected device. Note: the list of supported channels may vary depending on the device type and device region.

Channel Chart
This chart represents the noise level of all the RF channels. Each channel displays 1 bar with the current noise level and two tick marks representing the maximum noise level (green) and the minimum one (red).

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A blue line is also added to the chart indicating the average noise level of all channels. The spectrum analysis refreshes the noise levels of each channel continuously until the analysis ends or it is stopped.

Along the bottom of the chart, users can filter to hide or display the bars, the max and min noise values and the average noise level line.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 4.20.32 PM

Once the spectrum analysis reaches the specified number of samples or is stopped, you can click on each channel to get specific values (seen above). This control displays the current noise level of a channel as well as its average, maximum and minimum noise level.

The Spectrum Analyzer feature supports Digi radios with the following protocols:

  • ZigBee (S2C Modules)
  • 802.15.4
  • DigiMesh
  • XTend Legacy
  • XTend DigiMesh
  • Digi Point

What do you want to learn next?
We hope you found this tutorial helpful! Let us know what you’d like to learn in the next XBee Tech Tip: http://bit.ly/xbeetechtip

Connecting Grove Sensors with XBee

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Grove modules are quickly growing in popularity due to each sensor and actuator having the same standardized connector — making it fast and easy to prototype a sensor project.

In the words of Seeed Studio, “Grove is a modulated, ready-to-use tool set. Much like Lego, it takes a building block approach to assembling electronics. Compared with the traditional, complicated learning method of using a breadboard and various electronic components to assemble a project, Grove simplifies and condenses the learning process significantly. The Grove system consists of a base shield and various modules with standardized connectors.”im121027001_2_1

What makes Grove devices so simple is that the connectors eliminate the need to break out the breadboard, resistors, jumper wires, etc.. The connection is a 4-pin interface that supports digital, analog, I2C signal through four wires with different colors.

  • Red is for VCC
  • Black is for GND,
  • Yellow is for signal
  • White is for others.

Since XBee is used frequently in wireless sensor networks, we included six Grove connectors on the new XBee Grove Development Board. You can use it to quickly evaluate XBee and Grove modules with a PC or microcontroller.

We have included two XBee Grove Adapter Boards in the Wireless Connectivity Kit. If you’re interested in how this might help you build wireless sensor networks, we have this graphic that offers an overview of the board and its connections.

 

grove_board_connectors

 

Visit Digi-Key to learn more about the Wireless Connectivity Kit. More information on the XBee Grove Development Board can be found here.

Look What I Made: XBee Project Gallery Update

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Wireless Keytar
This project enables musicians to wireless transmit MIDI data to a computer to get processed by an audio enginer such as Max MSP.  The project enables a musician to create music without the hassle of plugging in and re-discovering the Keytar, while also tapping into the powerful processing capabilities of music software.

All-Terrain Rover
This all-terrain vehicle is able to navigate over difficult environments with a complex servo system. And, like many robots, this rover uses XBee for wireless control, but the creator took the project one step further by equipping the robot with sensors. Additionally, a camera relays a live video feed into the a graphical interface running on the user’s computer.

BeeChecker
BeeChecker enables beekeepers to maintain and remotely monitor the health of their beehives. The system is comprised of two devices-one located in the hive and one out of the hive. The device measures the weight of the hive and the frequencies that the bees emit-which can indicate various behaviors of the bees within the hive. The sensor outside the hive measures humidity, temperature, and GPS location to map out the placement of each hive.

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.

XBees Soar into Space on NASA Rocket

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Rob Faludi, Digi’s Chief Innovator, was onsite for the launch of the first XBee network into space. The successful test of the wireless sensor network took place at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The launch is part of NASA’s effort to determine the effectiveness of Exo-Brake technology and introduce wireless technology into their designs. As this was the first XBee network to reach space, we had to capture it on video.

Learn more about the experiment and see photos in these related posts:

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.

NASA-XBee-Arduino-WSN

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:

Digi Employee Hackathon: Lindon Edition v2

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Another Digi employee hackathon has come to a close! Rob paid a visit to our team out in Utah to hold a hackathon with Digi’s development staff. This continues what has become a tradition at Digi over the last couple years.

Each event has led to the creation of a number of product improvements and other fun and whimsical projects. Another important benefit is that it gives everyone a chance to collaborate with those they don’t normally work with on a day-to-day basis.

Here’s a look at the winning project.

AT Command Database
The winners of our recent hackathon created an incredibly useful tool for both developers inside our company and for our customers. The team’s final prototype is a new centralized system for managing XBee, XTend and our other radios’ AT command info across our entire wireless product line. Digi’s wireless products use these AT commands to manage setup, networking, security, sensors, actuators, battery use, diagnostics and many more functions.

There are hundred of useful commands that need to be managed, tested and shared between our products, libraries, software and documentation. In addition, the commands are implemented by our partners in third-party products and tools. Changes, updates and corrections to the commands need to be kept in sync across all these implementations, and absolute accuracy is essential.

IMG_7064

Prior to Team AT-DB’s creation, the process for maintaining up-to-date AT command information involved lots of coordination and double-checking. We also needed a more efficient way to accurately process updates when changes occur, and share these with our partners and customers. Each command has a specific syntax, description, parameters and defaults. Certain commands must be implemented differently for different protocols. Details matter!

Here are the main benefits the group demonstrated with their new prototype:

  • The ability to audit radio descriptors and test firmware updates against a single, authoritative source.
  • Automatic synchronization services for Digi software like XCTU, and also for third-party software development partners.
  • Electronic documentation support functions and enhanced support for automated testing.
  • A user friendly front end interface that can be enhanced as new use cases arise.

Hackathons keep us creative and excited about our work as it’s an opportunity to try out new ideas. Successful prototypes like this one inspire and help implement the innovative systems necessary to making and maintaining Digi’s mission-critical products.

Check out this page to see other projects and ideas developed at past Digi Hackathons.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 9.53.59 AM
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.

Closing
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.

Contact a Digi expert and get started today! Contact Us