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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 wirelessly 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 there 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.

One Small Step for XBee, One Giant Leap for Wireless

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This winter, Soarex, a NASA sounding rocket, will be launched into space with XBee on-board.  The three-node network is the first XBee ZigBee network to go to space. The rocket will fly roughly 200 miles above earth to test a new parachute-like technology called an exo-brake. Exo-brakes are used to safely return samples from the Earth’s orbit as well as land spacecrafts on other planets that with much thinner atmospheres than Earth.

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Typically the devices that collect samples are connected with wiring. The team chose to move away from traditional wiring and experiment with a wireless network for a number of reasons. For one, less cabling on the spacecraft means less weight, which reduces the amount of fuel needed. Another important feature is the ability to relay this data back down to earth via an Iridium satellite. The Soarex will monitor six different acceleration parameters as well as temperature and air pressure.

This wireless network is part of an effort by NASA to test the performance of wireless on a spacecraft and determine if it will be suitable for other applications. Due to the high cost associated with launching a rocket, the team must be extremely conservative when implementing new technology. Once the network performs multiple successful trials, the team will incorporate XBee into more and more vital missions.

When NASA chooses to experiment with new technology, the initial budget is relatively small, so the engineers went with off-the-shelf components to build out the network. The team is working with Digi’s XBee ZB modules, Arduino microcontrollers, and Sparkfun’s XBee adapter shields.  If the trial run is a hit, they’ll work to build a more customized solution– one that might even feature the XBee Plus!

Soarex will launch with XBee in January 2015. We’ll share some more information and let you know how it goes, so check back in! Until then, check out this video to get an idea of the wild ride XBee will be taking.

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!

A Simpler and More Intelligent Internet of Things with Digi and Temboo

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The ongoing drought in the western United States underscores the importance of maintaining and conserving a reliable supply of fresh water—whether for drinking, irrigation, fire control or manufacturing, reliable water storage is essential. Of course, half the battle in maintaining a water supply is managing it: once a tank system has been installed and filled, water must be properly distributed when it is needed and retained when it is not. If tanks are remote and many are spread over a wide area, monitoring them can become a costly and time-consuming obligation.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 12.03.09 PMThese are the sorts of challenges that Digi and Temboo are overcoming by building a more intelligent Internet of Things. A network of Digi hardware running Temboo Choreos is flexible and smart—devices can be programmed to execute a wide variety of processes, and be reprogrammed without being interrupted. This is a solution that combines ease of automation with the trustworthiness of manual control. To illustrate the solution’s benefits, and demonstrate how the whole system works, we’ve built a model of the water tank problem. This system puts Temboo and Digi to work, keeping water levels right where they ought to be.

Our tank monitoring solution uses an XBee ZigBee radio to wirelessly exchange sensor information and remote control commands using Digi’s new XBee Gateway, a programmable device that joins ZigBee mesh networks to the Internet. A small Temboo client written in Python is installed on the XBee Gateway, allowing it to connect to over one hundred different web services using Temboo Choreos. With Temboo, the memory constraints of the small devices in the network cease to be an obstacle to intelligent behavior, as much of the code required to execute complex processes is offloaded to the cloud.

In our model, a sensor attached to the XBee radio monitors the water level of our tank, and sends those readings to the XBee Gateway. If the tank leaks and the water level falls, a response is triggered on the gateway. First, the gateway uses Temboo’s Yahoo Weather Choreos to check the forecast for rain. Temboo’s Nexmo Choreos are then used to telephone the relevant individual with an automated voice message that gives a real time rain forecast and offers a choice of actions to take by entering a number on the phone’s keypad.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.56.33 AMIf a storm is on its way, there is an option to ignore the alert. If the leakage does not need to be urgently addressed, there is an option to schedule a maintenance event for the future, which the Temboo program on the gateway handles via a Google Calendar Choreo . If the situation is urgent, however, there is another option to activate a backup pump at a different point in the XBee network and refill the tank.  Of course, all of this will only work properly if the sensor and gateway are powered on and functioning, so our system needs to be prepared for any loss of connectivity—if, for any reason, transmission of the level of water in the tank stops, another Temboo Choreo will file a Zendesk ticket to alert support that the system needs attention.

The most exciting thing about this model, however, is that it is only a small example of a massively scalable system. XBee technology can connect hundreds of different devices in a much larger network, and Temboo’s Library contains over two thousand other Choreos that can be used to execute an immense variety of tasks. Modifying the behavior of the Temboo program on the gateway to, for example, switch notification services is just a matter of changing Choreos, a simple task.  Digi’s hardware and Temboo’s software are coming together to build a lighter, smarter and much easier to use Internet of Things.

Demo created using:

Are you using Temboo or XBee in your Internet of Things application? You can share how you’re using wireless technology by tweeting us at @XBeeWireless and @Temboo.

Bar Graphs, Security Systems, and GPS… All with XBee!

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Here are a few more wireless projects you can build with some sensors, Arduino and XBee. Below are project descriptions and links to instructions that will walk you through each step, including example code. Feel free to get creative and put your own spin on these projects!

Wireless Bar Graph Display
Want to monitor the level of light in a room and reflect that data with a shiny LED bar graph? Then check out  this project, which uses an MBed microcontroller, light sensor, LED bar graph, and a pair of XBee radios to get you going on monitoring brightness without even being there. Complete instructions here.

Security Monitor
Let’s build a comprehensive security system! The motion sensor detects when a person passes by and alerts you by displaying a warning on an LCD screen and you can even be alerted with an audio message. For this project, you’ll need an Arduino and XBee radio. After all, Arduino and XBee are best friends in the electrical engineering world! Why else would an XBee shield exist? Complete instructions here.

Device Cloud GPS
Want to track the GPS coordinates of the RC vehicle you’re working on? Well, it’s simple with an XBee gateway, Arduino and Device Cloud. Complete instructions here.

Check out examples.digi.com for more projects. There, you can browse tutorials for beginner, intermediate, and even experienced XBee developers. Once you’re done building, feel free to share them with us on TwitterFacebook, or Google+ using the #XBee hashtag. Happy building!

Three Things You Can Build with XBee This Weekend

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Have a couple spare XBees, microcontrollers, and some free time? Here are a few simple projects that you can build to put those RF modules and other electronic goodies to use. Below, you’ll find project descriptions as well as links to step-by-step instructions.

 

Wireless Text to Speech Device
Want to transform serial data into sound? This project allows you to type into a serial terminal connected to an XBee, and when you press enter, the words are sent to another XBee enabled text-to-speech module that speaks the words out loud on a connected speaker. Click here for instructions.

Wireless Disco Ball Controller
Is it party time? We have the perfect solution! This project uses a set of XBees and an Arduino to control a disco ball’s lighting as well as how fast it revolves. Click here for instructions.

XBee Rock, Paper, Scissors Game
Need a fun way to determine who should do the dishes or take the trash out? How about a wireless and interactive game of Rock, Paper, Scissors? This project uses two Mbed microcontrollers and a couple of Digi XBee radios to enable two people to choose a button representing either Rock, Paper, or Scissors and determines the winner on your own LCD screen. Click here for instructions.

Check out examples.digi.com for more projects. There, you can browse tutorials for beginner, intermediate, and even experienced XBee developers. Once you’re done building, feel free to share them with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ using the #XBee hashtag. Happy building!

Digi Employee Hackathon: Developing with Arduino and Mbed Microcontrollers

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Last week, Digi engineers convened at our headquarters in Minneapolis for their annual meeting. We also took this time to hold a Hackathon. For this Hackathon, there was a requirement of using both an Arduino and Mbed microcontroller in each team’s design and connect the two microcontrollers via XBee. Here are a few of the projects that were created.

Aquariometer

The goal of the project was to give fish tank owners and pet shop managers a complete solution for monitoring their aquariums. Temperature changes can be detrimental to aquatic life.  Additonally, continuous monitoring of the tank’s temperature can prevent serious damage to a heater if there is an issue. It’s also important to maintain a proper water level. If the levels get too low, it can cause damage to the aquarium’s filtering system.

The project shows the tank level and temperature at a glance with a shiny RGB LED light strip. The height of the lights represents the level in the tank and temperature is reflected by the color of the lights. So, when the temperature is warm, the lights turn red and when the temperature is cool, the light strip turns blue.

The mbed microcontroller was connected to the temperature sensor and the scale, which is used to measure the level of the tank. XBee sent the sensor readings from the tank to an Arduino which processes the sensor readings and controls the LED strip.

Team Members: Don Schleede and Jayna Locke 

Wireless Scoreboard

We’re a competitive bunch. In the heat of competition, you need a way to keep score. That’s why the wireless scoreboard was created.

The design consisted of an Arduino board and mbed board to meet the competition criteria. The mbed was connected to buttons that the user can push to enter a point. There are buttons for the home and away team as well as a reset button to set the score back to zero. The score is displayed on an LCD screen connected to an Arduino. The two microcontrollers communicate via XBee, so you can place the scoreboard and control panel in convenient locations.

Team Members: Jonathan Young

ReMorse

People still use Morse code… right? That’s beside the point. Now, there’s finally a way to send your friends and colleagues Morse code messages.

ReMorse is a high-end, lo-fi, vintage, wireless communication device that makes it easy to send very important, highly secure, messages to those you need to reach. The user simply enters in their message on a laptop, hits send, and the message begins playing from the speaker. The receiver processes the morse code and translates the message.

Team Members: Aaron Kurland, Gene Fodor

CarDuinoIMG_0118

Have you ever left for work in a hurry only to second guess whether or not you closed the garage door? Fear no more. The CarDuino ensures this is a problem of the past.

The team’s prototype consisted of an RC car and miniature garage door, but could easily be expanded to work in the real world. On board the remote control vehicle is an Arduino and XBee. If the door is left open, the driver is notified with a jingle. They can then choose to close the garage door from their car or acknowledge the alarm and turn it off. The range of the device is about one mile out on the road!

 Closing

The goal of the Hackathon was to familiarize everyone with developing on both the Arduino and MBed platforms. We learned a lot and identified strengths and weaknesses in both platforms and we got some amazing projects as a result. Click here to check out past Hackathons we’ve held at Digi. Here’s to more hackathons in the future!

MIT’s Solar Electric Vehicle Team Crosses the Country with RF Modules

Some of the most creative applications of our products come from students. Every year, we are involved with student-led projects that are breaking new ground in industries like automotive, solar power, smart energy, and more. We support these efforts as it leads to insightful feedback on our products and fuels a talented workforce. Here is one of the many projects Digi is helping to support.

The SEVT is a student organization at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology dedicated to designing, building and racing solar powered electric vehicles in long-distance, international competitions. Their upcoming race, the American Solar Challenge, starts in Austin and the team will travel north all the way to Minneapolis.

MITSEV
In order to optimize energy use, the team needs to analyze the car for any environment–especially weather conditions. The ability to monitor numerous data points and adjust accordingly allows the vehicle to cruise at highway speeds, all while consuming less energy than a hair dryer.

The crew is using two XTend RF modules. One module is used to send data to a strategy computer and another connects to the telemetry computer. The strategy computer is used to optimize the energy budget for each day and calculate the velocity that will produce the highest efficiency. The telemetry computer offers an in-depth view into the the car’s entire electrical system that enables the team to identify anomalies and debug problems on board the vehicle. The team’s current vehicle model, Valkyrie, can cruise for two hundred miles on a full battery and with the solar array, it can cruise indefinitely as long as it is under full sunshine.

The American Solar Challenge  starts on July 21, 2014 in Austin. Over the following week, the teams will cross the country and arrive in Minneapolis July 28, 2014. We’ll have a follow-up post after the race. Wish them luck!

Are you student working with Digi products? Let us know how you are innovating on Twitter, our Facebook Page, or in the comments below. And check out the other student projects we are a part of here.

Contact a Digi expert and get started today! CONTACT US

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