Home > Blog > Posts Tagged "xbee"

Devergy Expands Solar Power Possibilities in Africa

Posted on: No Comments

Did you know that roughly 1.7 billion people are not connected to a power grid? In Sub-Sahara Africa, the number is around 500 million. For many, the infrastructure simply doesn’t exist. The modern day conveniences we take for granted such as being able to read at night, cooking on the stove top and refrigeration can be a hassle, or close to impossible, with no access to a reliable source of electricity.

The challenges of installing a power grid in remote and undeveloped areas can be numerous, so how do we reimagine how to deliver reliable electricity and move past the traditional power grid system? Thankfully, Devergy is solving this tricky problem. Using solar power and wireless technology, Devergy has built a sustainable business that’s helping villages in Tanzania and Ghana meet their energy needs.download

Who is Devergy?
Founded in 2010 by Fabio De Pascale, Gianluca Cescon and Daniel Ponz, Devergy is a social enterprise committed to providing an affordable and reliable source of energy to low-income people throughout Tanzania.

Their customers live in rural areas of the country where a power grid is nonexistent and residents do not have the money necessary to purchase a personal solar home system.

Residents in Tanzania typically spend between 6 and 25 USD per month on kerosene, phone charging, and dry-cell batteries for radios. After the installation of Devergy’s solar grids, residents spend as much as 20% less than what they were spending on kerosene for lighting and 50% less for phone charging. Not only does Devergy provide a clean, renewable and reliable source of energy, but it’s also substantially more affordable.

The service is based on village-sized energy micro-grids, which provide solar power to households and small businesses; it allows the users to connect lights and appliances such as radios, TVs and refrigerators. With the smart micro-grids, the usage of installed power is up to 70% more efficient than with equivalent solar home systems.

The key feature of the system is an energy meter that powers the household or business with a pre-paid pay-per-use approach, where customers top up their credit by using a mobile commerce platform, such as Vodacom M-Pesa. This is just like the system you would use to top-up a pre-paid mobile phone.

How it Works
Devergy uses Digi XBee technology for the communication network in its grids. Hundreds of nodes are connected with XBee–making the solar micro-grids smart, cost effective, and manageable. Devergy relies on XBee modules for its smart meters and is using Digi’s ConnectPort X4 for its ZigBee to GPRS gateways. Fabio, co-founder of Devergy says, “The plug and play, flexible nature of the Digi product was fundamental to get our services to the market faster.”

Devergy’s customers receive an unprecedented service thanks to a system that is designed to require no user maintenance and is remotely monitored for faults, so that the reliability and availability of the service is unmatched. Local representation of the company is ensured by the appointment of a village agent, selected based on recommendation by the village committee and trained by Devergy to perform technical support and sales. This ensures the customers always have a well-known and trusted counterpart to deal with.

Devergy has successfully connected more than 800 customers since 2012 to reliable, clean and safe electricity with a service sufficient to satisfy their needs for many years to come.  Currently, they are active in two regions and quickly growing their customer base. In addition to Tanzanaia, the Devergy grids are also licensed to third parties in Ghana, where they power 3 villages.

Visit Devergy.com to learn more about what they do!

Look What I Made: XBee Project Gallery Update

Posted on: No Comments

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.

Digi Employee Hackathon: One Hack to Rule Them All

Posted on: No Comments

The hackathon tradition lives on at Digi and this competition may have been the best one yet– we say that every time, don’t we? Anyways, at this most recent hackathon, we had projects that included hardware modifications, data analytics, software design, and UI enhancements.

IMG_0300
 

The challenge to our competing teams was to prototype a useful improvement to a Digi product such as–

  • Changing a hardware design to improve user experience.
  • Designing a software change to Device Cloud or The Social Machine.
  • Improving the design of a configuration tool like XCTU or create a new one.
  • Making a prototype for a brand new hardware, software or service product.
  • Creating some other useful improvement of their choosing.

Hackathons give employees an outlet to work on a project or idea they’ve been kicking around for a while, but haven’t had the time to see through. It’s also a chance for participants to work with others outside of their everyday team. And, we had some nice cash and non-cash prizes. Nacho flavored lip balm may or may not have been included among our ‘nice’ prizes.

Here’s a quick look at what each team built.xbee_gateway_v2 (1)

Pimp My Web UI 
Team Members: Mike Wadsten, Travis Lubbers, and Russel Shurts.

No, Xzibit, did not make an appearance at our hackathon to create a redesigned and responsive web UI for the XBee Gateway. But Mike, Travis, and Russell were all up to the challenge. They took our existing web UI for the XBee Gateway and gave it a bit of a refresh. Mike had done some work a few months ago on an updated design and the team used this as a starting point for their project.

With the team’s UI refresh, users are more easily able to modify the configuration of their XBee Gateway from a desktop, tablet, or smartphone! The new dashboard is pictured to the right.

Team Device Cloud Analytics
Team Members: Chris Popp and Greg Bestland

The goal of this hack is to enhance Device Cloud with the ability for customers (and administrators) to run custom queries over their data right in the Cloud.

In the prototype, a user is able to have some of their data saved in a way that allows queries against their data set as a whole rather than having to retrieve all the raw data or only rollups of a single stream.  By looking at their entire data set, the user can start to answer more complex questions without having to pull all of the data into their own systems. Spark-logo-192x100px

In order to make these advanced queries possible, the team used the Apache Spark engine. Now, they are able to answer questions like “What is the average temperature in Group ‘X’?” or “How often is my tank level below my set threshold?” This opens up a whole window of possibilities for Device Cloud as an analytics engine. These features will be considered for inclusion in a future DeviceCloud release.

Code Name Marco Polo
Team Members: Ryan Bezdicek and Sandy Haapala

Marco Polo is the code name for a replacement to Device Cloud’s current API Explorer. What is the API Explorer? It’s a terrific feature within Device Cloud that gives users the ability to run any web service request. This enhancement code named, Marco Polo, has a number of improvements and new features that make it easier to work with and a collaborative experience between Device Cloud users.
Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 8.39.03 AM

One enhancement is a way for users to save their most frequent calls. This eliminates the need to remember complex command sets and adds quick access to their most frequently used web service calls. Admins also have the ability to add, edit, and remove examples on the fly.  Future enhancements will include being able to share saved examples with other users on the cloud platform, authentication improvements and setup of local of the API Explorer for offline use. The team is looking into incorporating this for a future Device Cloud version.

C’Mon Move it
Team Members: Zach Schneider and Dan Harrison

Team ‘C’Mon Move it!’ had the brilliant idea of improving XBee‘s PWM capabilities by extending them; initially with a serial hack and later within the XBee firmware. Currently the pulse width modulation (analog) output on an XBee is fixed at 15.6 KHz with a 50% duty cycle. For many motors in SCADA applications, this will not do. They typically require more robust PWM capabilities, such as 200-3000 Hz with 20-80% duty cycle.

So Dan and Zach forged on and created a new PWM library for XBee. The library is written in Python and runs on an XBee gateway making clever use of the UART serial output to directly drive motors. The PWM now reaches speeds between 600 Hz and 4 KHz at any duty cycle between 10%-90% in increments of 10%.

To demo this new PWM library they built a linear actuator to control the height of a shelf. Using an H-bridge driver board, they are able to adjust the height of the shelf wirelessly. If direct control of motors interests you, be sure to comment or drop us a line.

Wrap Up
After the teams presented and demoed their projects the judges congregated for what was a difficult decision. It was very tough to pick a winner, any one of the projects would have made a fine champion. After a number of recounts and tiebreakers the judges made their final decision. Team DC Analytics won first place with Pimp My Web UI in an extremely close second!

If any of these hacks are something you would like us to include in future software or firmware releases, let us know in the comments section below!

 

A Year in the Internet of Things: Top Posts from the Digi Blog

Posted on: No Comments

Another year is in the books and the Internet of Things conversation continues to evolve.  As 2014 comes to a close we took a look back at some of our most read posts of the year. Here’s to an equally awesome 2015!

Happy New Year! (1)

 

A Simpler and More Intelligent Internet of Things with Digi and Temboo
Rob Faludi and Vaughn Shinnal demonstrate how to use XBee Gateway and Temboo Choreos to build an Internet of Things Application. In this example, they showcase a prototype that monitors the liquid level of a tank.

XBee in Space
Pretty soon XBee will be sent into space on NASA’s Soarex rocket! This marks the first ever ZigBee network in space. Take a look at how NASA’s team of engineers built this one-of-kind telemetry system.

Heat Seek NYC Keeping Others Warm
Did you know NYC handles over 200,000 heating complaints every year? In order to provide proof of poor heating, tenants are tasked with manually recording the temperatures of their apartments. A group of New York City residents recognized this as a major public issue and founded Heat Seek NYC to efficiently address this overwhelming number of complaints and ensure no New York City resident has to spend winter in a cold home.

SteadyServe
SteadyServe is bringing the Internet of Things to the beer industry. Wireless monitoring technology makes inventory management for restaurant owners and supply chain manager easy with real-time data.

MBed and Arduino Hackathon
We love giving Digi employees a chance to play around and this hackathon was a hit. Each team had to use an MBed and Arduino microcontroller and connect them with XBee. Check out what they built!

What are your Highlights from 2014?
These are just a few highlights from what has been busy 2014 for us at Digi. Let us know what your favorite stories are from this year in the Internet of Things. You can share with us either in the comments or @digidotcom. Happy New Year!

This Week in the Internet of Things: Friday Favorites

Posted on: No Comments

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.

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 2.02.29 PM

5 Ways Product Design Needs to Evolve for the Internet of Things | Harvard Business Review

Elements of Connected Products by Jordan Husney | Slideshare

How Formula One Teams are Using Big Data to Gain an Edge | Forbes

Internet of Things as Art: How Sensor can Transform Public Spaces | Biz Journal

10 Enterprise IoT Deployments with Actual Results | Network World

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.

Digi Visits Munich for Electronica 2014

Posted on: No Comments

Last week Digi attended electronica 2014 in Munich, Germany– and it was a busy one. We unveiled the brand new XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit as well as our global distribution agreement with Mouser.  The event was a great opportunity to connect with some of the top minds in the industry as well as our partners and customers from around the globe.

We also shared three brand new demos!

One uses the ConnectCore 6 SBC to drive multiple high-definition displays. The other two demos feature XBee connected to the cloud. We built a street lighting demo to show how cities are using XBee and cloud control to make street lighting more energy efficient. Also on hand was an example cloud-based application built with the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit and the sensors on the kit’s development board.

All of our demos from the show and more can be seen in the pictures below.

 

As always, check out Digi events page for more info about which events you can find Digi at in the coming months. To learn more about the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit, click here.

Let Your Imagination Run Wireless with the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit: Your Idea Deserves a Prototype

Posted on: No Comments

Automated homes, drones, interactive art installations– XBee can be found nearly anywhere. And, more and more devices are using XBee to connect to the cloud. Connecting a device to the Internet should be simple, that’s why we built the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit. XBee_Dev_Board_w_XBeeWith an XBee ZB module and an XBee Gateway, it’s easy to connect your robot, vehicle, sensors, or anything else to the Internet.

Maybe you want to build a mesh network to monitor the health of your garden or perhaps, you have a top secret idea for your business, but you’re unsure where to start. Here are a few examples to help familiarize yourself with the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit and go from idea to prototype and transform your imagination into reality:

3 Simple XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit Examples

Potentiometer
Potentiometer’s are ubiquitous when it comes to building with electronics and they make great starting point when familiarizing yourself with new technology. Here, we’ll connect this analog input to the cloud, so you can view the values on your Heroku-hosted dashboard. Potentiometers can be used for setting a level, determining an angle or just as a simple user interface adjustment. Nicknamed “pots,” these components are variable resistors. With a simple twist you can alter the amount of voltage that flows out through their center pin.

Push Button
Want to control the light in your room from where you’re sitting? If you answered yes, this example is a great place to start with the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit. Remote control of a button is perfect for projects that require user input, or anyplace you need to detect a change in device state. One you’ve built your circuit, you’ll be able to view the status of the button and control it from your web interface.photo (17)

Temperature 
Temperature monitoring is another great starting point with analog sensing. In this example we use everyone’s favorite temperature sensor, the TMP36 low-voltage linear sensor, which is included with your kit. After you’ve built this simple circuit, you can view the temperature on the dashboard.

Let’s Get Started
These are just a few ideas to get you thinking about what is possible with this new XBee kit. You can find all of these examples and more here, and check out the XBee Gallery to find what others have built with XBee.

Interested in getting an XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit? Head over here.

XBee Tech Tip: Connecting to the IoT with XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit

Posted on: 2 Comments

This Tech Tip is brought to you by Digi Applications Engineer Mark Grierson, who will take you through the steps to connect an XBee Smart Plug to the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit and manage it from the XBeegateway.herokuapp.com web application.

The XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit is the easiest way to connect to the Internet of Things (IoT). It features a sample web application that lets users remotely activate various outputs on the development board including LEDs, a vibration motor, a bar graph gauge and an audio buzzer.

In addition, users can build their own circuits on the development board to sense temperature or light, switch on and off other devices via a relay, turn on and off additional LEDs and more. The web application code is open-source, available for anyone to download and use as a learning tool.

The purpose of this article is not to teach you how to set up and use the kit. There is an excellent online user’s guide that will step you through that process found here. http://ftp1.digi.com/support/documentation/html/90001399/90001399_A/Files/kit-getting-started.html

This article assumes that you have set up the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit and have followed the instructions in the getting started guide.

Using the XBee Smart Plug with the New XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit

Now that you have seen how easy it is to web enable just about any device, you may be wondering about Digi’s boxed ZigBee devices such as the XBee Smart Plug, XBee Sensors, AIO and DIO adapters, etc. Can you use these devices with the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit? Absolutely!

1)     Introduction

Using the XBee Smart Plug is an easy way to intelligently monitor and control connected electrical devices. This example uses the XBee Smart Plug and allows you to control the AC relay as well as read and monitor the AC current sensor, the Temperature Sensor and the Light Sensor.

The three sensors generate voltage outputs that are passed to the XBee’s analog-to-digital converter (ADC). These readings are then sent via Device Cloud to the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit’s online dashboard application where you can control and monitor the XBee Smart Plug right in your web browser.xbeegateway1-259x300

2)     Assemble the Parts

To complete this exercise you’ll need:

1 – XBee Gateway

1 – XBee Smart Plug

1 – Device Cloud Accountxbeegateway2-300x300

 

3)     Connect the XBee Smart Plug to the Gateway and Configure

You’ll need to ensure the XBee Smart Plug is connected to your XBee Gateway. If your XBee Smart Plug is new and has not connected to a ZigBee network, this should be as simple as plugging it in while the XBee Gateway is powered up.xbeegate3-201x300

The Green Association (ASSC) light will flash once the XBee Smart Plug has joined a network.

You can then go to the XBee Network tab in the configuration section of the Gateway’s web UI to ensure the smart plug has joined.

deviceconfic1

If the XBee Smart Plug does not show up, click on the “Discover XBee Devices” button to have the XBee Gateway perform a network discovery. If the XBee Smart Plug still does not show up and the ASSC light is flashing on the XBee Smart Plug, this means that the XBee Smart Plug has joined another ZigBee network and must be reset using a 4-button press of the Reset button. Consecutive button presses must occur within 800 milliseconds of each other for the reset to occur.

xbeegateway4

When the reset is successful, the ASSC light will go steady as the XBee Smart Plug looks for a new network to join and will flash again once it joins. Return to the Gateway web UI and click discover to see the XBee Smart Plug is now joined to the XBee Gateway.

Once the XBee Smart Plug has joined the XBee Gateway, configure it by clicking on the extended address of the Smart plug.

deviceconfig2

After a few seconds, the settings of the XBee Smart Plug will be displayed. Click on the Input/Output settings tab and:

  1. Check the Detect box for D4 (D4 is used to toggle the AC outlet)
  2. Ensure that the IR parameter is set to 5000ms
  3. Click the Apply button to save changes 

deviceconfig3

4) View It!

You will use the XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit’s web application to configure three widgets for viewing the temperature current and light readings from your sensor. You will also configure a widget to control the AC relay.

Log in to the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit web application: https://xbeegateway.herokuapp.com/#/login

dcscreen342

The Outlet Widget

First we will create the outlet control widget.

Use the Add Widget button to create a new display widget.

dcwidget

Choose On/Off Switch Widget for the widget type.

Add a label such as “XBee Smart Plug Outlet.”

Choose your XBee Gateway and module by selecting their ID.

Select DIO4 as the output stream and check the device configuration to make sure it is configured properly. Your screen should look like the following.

createnewwidget

Save the changes to see your new Widget on the home screen.

You should now be able to turn the XBee Smart Plug AC outlet on and off using the widget.

The Current Draw Meter Widget

Next we will createa widget to measure the current draw on the XBee Smart Plug. The concepts used to build this widget are the same for the light meter and temp sensor built into the XBee Smart Plug. Only the Input stream and transform will be different.

Use the Add Widget button to create a new display widget.

dcwidget

Choose Gauge Widget for the widget type.

Add a label such as “Current Draw.”

Choose your XBee Gateway and module by selecting their ID.

Select AD3 as the Input Stream and check the device configuration to make sure it is configured properly.

Enter the following formula into the Input Transform:

Enter “((((value/1024)*1200)*(156/47)-520)/180*0.7071)*1000″ into the Input Transform to transform the input from millivolts to milliamps. The formula in brackets converts the millivolt reading into AMPS. The herokuapp application is constrained to whole numbers and will convert a decimal result to the nearest whole number. To make this data more meaningful, we then multiply this value by 1000 to convert to milliamps. The following knowledgebase article is the source for this info: http://www.digi.com/support/kbase/kbaseresultdetl?id=3522#Adapters

Enter mA into the Units field.

Enter 0 for the Low value and 8000 into the High value (the XBee Smart Plug is only rated for loads up to 8 amps).

You screen should look like the following:

widgetsettings

Save the changes to see your new Widget on the home screen.

The Temperature and Light widgets are made using the same procedure as the Current widget with a few small changes.

For the Light Widget use the following:

Label=Light Meter

Input Stream=AD1

Input Transform=(value/1024) * 1200

Units=Lux

Low Value=0

High Value=1000

lightmeter

For the Temperature Widget use the following:

Label=Temperature

Input Stream=AD2

Input Transform= (((((value/1024)*1200)-500)/10)*1.8)+32 for Fahrenheit

= (((value/1024)*1200)-500)/10 for Celcius

Units=Fahrenheit or Celcius

Low Value=0

High Value=150

5) Use It!

Now you can use the XBee Smart Plug to control any AC appliance up to 8 Amps! Additionally, you can monitor the amperage being used along with the Ambient light and temperature around the XBee Smart Plug.

In my screenshot below, I have a 60 watt lamp connected to the XBee Smart Plug.

widget dashboard

Using a variation of Ohms law “P=VxI” we can see that this 60 watt bulb should draw about 500 milliamps at 120 volts. 60W/120V=.5Amps or 500 mA. My meter is showing 494 mA, which is just about right on! Feel free to try other widget types. Use a Bar Graph or Line Graph instead of a Gauge widget.

Now that you have completed this exercise, use what you have learned to add the XBee LTH Sensor, Wall Router or Analog Adapter.The formulas you will need for the transform can be found in this article: http://www.digi.com/support/kbase/kbaseresultdetl?id=3522#Adapters