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What Makes Thread a Secure Wireless Protocol?

With XBee Thread soon arriving, we’re fielding a lot of questions regarding the protocol’s touted security benefits. Not only does Thread provide a robust network with no single point of failure, but it also offers businesses and developers extremely secure wireless communication. Let’s look at a couple reasons why.Web

IP-based Security Protocols
Yes, it’s a low-powered network, not unlike ZigBee and other 802.15.4 radios, but it’s also IP-based. This is important because with an IP-based networking protocol, developers can tap into security protocols used when you’re browsing the internet. Some of the common ones are DTLS, TLS and SSL. These IP-based security protocols provide the network with secure end-to-end communication.

Commissioning
Another benefit of the Thread protocol is the commissioning process. Commissioning is the process of joining a new node to the Thread network. Previously, this could lead to network vulnerabilities and be overly complex. But, the creators of Thread have made it a straightforward and user-friendly experience by leveraging mobile technology and passphrases. This ensures no rogue nodes are able to join the network without being overly complex.

There are three ways to add a node to a Thread network, out-of-band commissioning, discovery, and through a commissioning application on a mobile device.

Out-of-band commissioning mode configures a node with the network credentials of the desired network. This makes the node behave like a partition of the network.  When it comes in range of the network, it will be like two partitions joining into a larger network creating a secure handoff.

When commissioning via discovery mode, the node searches for a network with matching credentials. For this, the security is simple, the network must be in range of the the node, the network must allow joining, and the node must be told to expect a node to be joining, identified by its EUI 64, or unique IPv6 MAC address.

Lastly, Thread introduces a third method, and arguably the easiest new way to commission a device, through a commissioning application installed on a device such as a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.  Thread describes this process as petitioning and joining.

Petitioning is the process of authenticating and authorizing the commissioning device (like your phone or laptop), which will run the Thread commissioning app. The device can then communicate with the Thread network either locally or via the internet through the network’s Border Router. This forms a secure TLS connection between the network’s Border Router and the user’s commissioning device.

So now that we’ve got our commissioning device authorized, how do we add a new node to the network? It’s pretty easy.

When a node wants to join the network it will send a request to the commissioning device where the user will be prompted to enter a key to authorize the node(s) to join the network. Once the key is entered, there is a secure DTLS handshake between the joining node and the Commissioner. The new node receives the network parameters and is all ready to function with the necessary rights and privileges.

This is just a brief look at why many IoT experts consider Thread a more secure wireless protocol based on its security features and commissioning process. Check out these resources to learn more about the Thread wireless protocol:

And, if you have any Thread-related questions send us a tweet at @digidotcom or @XBeeWireless. You can also visit the official Thread website for more information.

This Week in The Internet of Things: Friday Favorites

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GRAB THINGS WITH AN ARDUINO ROBOTIC GRIPPER
The robotic gripper built by high school graduates, Sam Baumgarten and Graham Hughes, use Digi XBee for transmitting singles from the control glove to the gripper. Watch below the impressive robot gripper in action.

DIY Sleep Apnea Monitoring
With hundreds of people suffering from sleep apnea everyday, we can all appreciate Marc Merlin’s Sleep Apnea Monitoring rig that collects data through Digi XBee. Although we do not endorse Digi DIY projects, we are very impressed with Merlin’s dedication and research.

Vodafone IoT Barometer: 76% Of Businesses Say Internet of Things Will Be Critical To Future Success
Studies show IoT is even more significant to business success with these seven key insights to prove it.

Connected Healthcare: Internet of Things Examples in Health Care
The IoT influence in the healthcare industry is not only changing lives but saving them as well by adjustable patient monitoring, enhanced drug management, augmented asset monitoring and tracking, early intervention and so much more. Visit Cardiauvergne to learn more about how the remote healthcare monitoring system came to life with Digi ConnectPort.

Digi Int’l XBee SX RF Module | Digi-Key Daily
Digi-Key created this informational video to highlight how Digi XBee SX makes long range communication possible by using low power consumption. Visit the official Digi XBee SX product page to learn more about the design and software.

Digi XBee® S2C 802.15.4 – Let Your Imagination Run Wireless!

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Digi XBee® is the world’s #1 RF module because our common footprint is shared across protocols and frequencies. Anything is possible with Digi XBee – from the small science project in the lab to NASA monitoring payloads on a rocket, Digi XBee gives you the tools and flexibility you need to rapidly innovate. The latest example in this broad line of modules is the Digi XBee S2C 802.15.4 which is now available with the Silicon Labs Ember® EM35x transceiver.

This latest module is ideal for applications requiring low latency and predictable communication timing. The Digi XBee S2C 802.15.4 is also ideal when your application requires robust multipoint wireless connectivity with reduced power consumption, support for the over-the-air firmware updates, and an upgrade path to DigiMesh® or ZigBee® Mesh protocols.

New Digi XBee S2C 802.15.4 Offered in Through-Hole & SMT Form Factors

Anyone deploying Digi XBee can swap one Digi XBee for another. You don’t have to design a printed circuit board to take advantage of Silicon Labs’ latest chip – Digi has done it for you on the Digi XBee platform saving you time and giving you the confidence to get connected quickly and easily. Providing quick, robust communication in point-to-point, peer-to-peer, and multipoint/star configurations, Digi XBee S2C 802.15.4 products enable robust end-point connectivity with ease. Whether deployed as a pure cable replacement for simple serial communication, or as part of a more complex hub-and-spoke network of sensors, Digi XBee 802.15.4 modules maximize performance and ease of development.

Digi XBee is a special product because of our customers: the innovators, the hackers, the problem-solvers — whatever you call yourself, Digi is dedicated to providing you with everything you need to quickly create wireless connectivity solutions. Let your imagination run wireless!

Click here for a “Digi XBee 802.15.4 Protocol Comparison” Technical Brief>>

What Are the Differences Between DigiMesh® and ZigBee® Mesh?

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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:

ZigBee® Mesh DigiMesh®
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 Yes Yes
Range 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)
Security 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.
Interoperability Potential for interoperability between vendors. Digi proprietary
Interference tolerance Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS). 900 MHz: Frequency-Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS). 2.4GHz: Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS).
Addressing Two layers. MAC address (64 bit) and Network address (16 bit). MAC address (64 bit) only.
Maintenance More sniffers and diagnostic tools available on market. Simpler addressing can help in diagnosing problems and setting up a network.

For more information on DigiMesh and Digi XBee click here.

Fog Computing in the Internet of Things (IoT)

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The Open Fog Consortium defines Fog Computing this way: “A system-level horizontal architecture that distributes resources and services of computing, storage, control and networking anywhere along the continuum from Cloud to Things.” In his recent Fog Computing report, Aapo Markkanen at Machina Research puts Digi in this category. He says, “Digi is well placed to a make a play in fog computing, given its strong communications portfolio and additional capabilities [such as] Device Cloud and device management.” We couldn’t agree more!

Intelligence on the edge of the network allows our customers to store, shape and translate machine and sensor data to maximize connections from the device to the cloud. Digi Device Cloud enables our customers to bring enterprise routing features to the edge of their networks enhancing security, storage, and redundancy.

The concept of Fog Computing accurately describes the way our customers are managing mission critical applications across multiple wireless protocols making it easier to configure, deploy and manage devices on the edge of their networks.

Click here to learn more about Digi Device Cloud >>

Flying Eye Relies on Digi’s XBee for Drone Connectivity and Parachute Deployment

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France-based Flying Eye has become one of the high-performance drone industry’s emerging leaders. Demand for drones has skyrocketed in recent years and as demand has increased, the functions of drones have become increasingly varied. Flying Eye drones are used to spray crops, capture photographs and videos of remote destinations, and extend the reach of their customers. With the use of drones, in some cases, in densely populated areas, safety is a top priority for Flying Eye.

To ensure a high standard of safety, Flying Eye incorporated Digi’s XBee® RF modules into their drones.

The drones are built with parachutes to be deployed in the event of flight disruption or control failure. It protects the drone from crashing, as well as any people or property that might be in the drone’s flight path. The drone operator’s connection has two separate RF links, one of which is devoted solely to the emergency parachute. The XBee RF module is used to control the two separate radio links.

Flying Eye

The reliability, range, and cost effectiveness of the XBee RF module were all major factors in Flying Eye’s decision to use them in their drones. Not only is Flying Eye able to meet strict regulatory requirements, but their customers’ minds are put at ease by the safety features of the product. With Flying Eye’s drones being used to capture this year’s Euro Cup, and thanks to Digi, the safety of these drones can be guaranteed in packed stadiums across France.

Learn more and check out Flying Eye in action in video here >>

Introducing the XBee SX Module

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Welcome the latest addition to the XBee® family, the XBee SX! This is truly the muscle module of the XBee ecosystem. Don’t let the standard XBee surface mount form factor fool you, it packs a punch with 1-watt of output power. It’s a perfect embedded wireless solution for OEMs that depend on reliable wireless communication.

Some of the key specs you’ll want to know:

  • Maximum 1-Watt Output Power
  • 256-bit AES Encryption
  • DigiMesh Protocol

Just like every other XBee, it’s easy to use and configure with the popular software tool, XCTU. Here is XBee Product Manager, Matt Dunsmore, introducing the brand new module:

Want more details? Click here and visit the XBee SX product page.

Olsbergs Uses XBee to Make Construction Sites Safer

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Olsbergs is a leading manufacturer of electro-hydraulic control systems for cranes. Olsbergs was looking to improve efficiency and safety for construction crane companies and crane operators. They wanted to turn to radio remote-controlled hydraulics. They needed a partner that would meet ETSI standards, as well as the high standards of their own company.

Digi was the company that they turned to. Olsbergs needed a radio module that would be risk-free and precise. With so many of their trucks being used in cities and other populated areas, risk had to be minimized as much as possible. It would have to utilize the entire ISM band to enable more channels and provide more security. The solution was the XBee 868 Low-Power RF module for Europe.

With their new remote controlled hydraulics, truck cranes which previously required two operators, a spotter and a driver, now only require one. With Digi’s help, Olsbergs has improved safety, accuracy, and reliability for crane operators, while reducing costs and saving money for construction companies.

See the full story and video >>

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