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Australian Researchers Improve Indoor Air Quality with ZigBee Based Sensor System

As the cost of energy rises and environmental concerns move us toward new sources of energy, how do we ensure we make the most out of every watt? There are a number of companies and organizations emerging to address this truly global issue.

University of Sydney Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) researchers Tom and Alex Parkinson, built SAMBA to help solve the balancing act between comfort and reducing energy consumption. SAMBA is a platform comprised of remote sensors deployed throughout commercial office environments and a web interface for data visualization. The system collects data points — enabling building managers to improve IEQ and save costs.

The platform is made possible by wireless technologies like ZigBee mesh networking and cellular data communications. Additionally, recent advancements in sensor technology have made it possible to create sensor nodes capable of measuring a variety of parameters, while maintaining a small form factor and remaining affordable.

 

How SAMBA Works
Within each node you’ll find sensors to monitor thermal comfort, acoustics, lighting, and indoor air quality. Processing at each node is handled by an ATmega328 chip running an Arduino sketch. A cool feature of the node is a flash memory chip. This helps prevent any data loss in case there’s a network failure by allowing data to be stored locally. Once the data is collected it hops from XBee to XBee until it reaches the central hub. Data is sent from each node at an interval of once every 5 minutes.

The central hub/cellular gateway is currently a Raspberry Pi with a cellular module. The gateway does some minor processing before sending data over the cellular network to SAMBA’s server. Due to the mesh networking capabilities of the sensor nodes, it is possible to just have one central hub per building. This makes the solution extremely cost efficient. As the team works to take this to production and scale their operation, they’re evaluating replacing the Raspberry Pi with the XBee Gateway.

SAMBA_VideoLink

Click to Watch Video 

Why ZigBee
The development team chose to use ZigBee for a multiple reasons. For one, the mesh networking capability makes the deployment of nodes more flexible and, in many cases, only one central hub is needed per building. Another factor was the development tools at their disposal like the open source Arduino library for the XBee ZigBee Radios. You can access that library here. This library helped them to cut down development time significantly.

The SAMBA crew is already getting some nice recognition throughout Australia. Just last week, Green Cities included them on their list of Weapons of Mass Creation! To learn more about the University of Sydney’s Indoor Air Quality Lab, click here visit their site.

Digi Visits Nuremberg for Embedded World 2015

Wow, what a week at Embedded World! With so much happening and so many of our parters in attendance, Embedded World is easily one of our favorite events of the year. This year we showcased what’s new with XBee by giving multiple hands-on workshops with the recently released XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit. These short demonstrations gave users a chance to see how quickly you can create an IoT prototype, including a working application, with the new development kit.

As another piece of our booth, we had Owlet’s full street lighting solution on display. Owlet enables cities to retrofit their existing street lighting infrastructure into an intelligent system with XBee and sensors. You’ll see a snapshot of the demo in the scrolling pictures below! The ConnectCore 6 was also in full-force as we included it in a public transit demo to show how ConnectCore 6 can handle everything from location tracking to driving multiple HD displays.

Thank you to everyone that stopped by for a chat. We are looking forward to next year!

 

As always, check out the Digi events page for more info about where you find Digi in the coming months. To learn more about the XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit, click here. If you are interested in the ConnectCore 6 visit here for more information.

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.

Connecting with our Global Partners: Digi IoT Conference 2015

We just wrapped up our annual European IoT Partner Conference in Cannes and want to thank everyone that was able to attend. We had a great time connecting with our partners and customers and look forward to the year ahead of us. This event gives as an invaluable opportunity to meet with our partners and learn more about the market and how we can improve as a company.

Throughout the week there were presentations from Digi’s leadership team sharing our goals and plans for our various product lines and the company as a whole. Additionally, Machina Research’s Matty Hatton, spoke about some of the key developments his firm is seeing in the connected technology industry. We also heard from our customers like GTech, Rmoni, and Emtest as they shared how they’re changing their businesses with IoT technology.Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 10.31.15 AM


This yearly gathering also allows us to recognize the success of our many partners across the EMEA region. These are the companies honored as our top channel partners of the year.

We want to thank everyone that was able to attend and make the event a success. We are looking forward to what the next year holds. Check out Digi events page for more info on where  you can find Digi in the coming months.

How Real Was Bud Light’s Life-Size Pac-Man Game? The Technology Talks

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One of the most buzzworthy commercials of Super Bowl XLIX was Bud Light’s Real Life Pac-Man spot for the #UpForWhatever campaign. The advertisement features a life-sized Pac-Man game where a seemingly unaware contender, Riley Smith, is challenged to munch pellets while being chased by ghosts Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.

Here’s the commercial in case you missed it:

The Twitterverse thought that it was awesome and most people wanted to try the game out for themselves.

Real life Pac-Man! A million high fives to the first bar to make that a regular thing in their establishment.” -@mattlindner

Can real life Pac-Man be a thing with permanent game sets around the world?” -@DishNation

New life goal: be in real life Pac-Man.” -@NatalieAlynLind

We have failed as a society if human Pac-Man isn’t a real thing in the next 2-3 years” -@fsmikey

Then, there were others who were too skeptical to fully enjoy the spot:

Hey ad agencies, stop pretending it’s real. Anyway, sick ad. Bud Light” -@MathieuLcz

So, how real was real life Pac-Man? Is it be a game that you could really try in the future? Bud Light states that Smith’s participation was 100% organic. They say it was a live event, a real person, a real game board, all captured in real time. While we’ll leave Smith’s participation and the authenticity of the event up for debate, we can tell you that the game board itself was absolutely real. Bud Light and partners utilized Internet of Things technology to bridge digital and physical worlds and bring the Pac-Man game we all know and love to life.

Here’s How

Rick Galinson and Legacy Effects of Los Angeles, the same shop that provided Jurassic Park, Iron Man and Terminator effects designed the ghosts for the interactive game board.

Each roller-skating ghost costume is lit with about 4,000 LEDs, animated by a tiny open-source computer, the Parallax Propeller QuickStart Board, that communicates using Digi International’s tiny radio module, an XBee-PRO 802.15.4. The remote operator uses a laptop and another XBee module to send commands for the ghost’s flashing sequences.

“With the pressure of over 100 million viewers and a multi-million dollar campaign resting on these electronics, the Propeller chip from Parallax coupled with an XBEE PRO from Digi was an easy choice,” Galinson, SPFX Designer, said. “They performed flawlessly, are easy to implement and will remain my controller and communication products of choice for years to come.”

The technical details of the project had to be as straightforward as possible given short deadlines. Rob Faludi, Digi International’s Chief Innovator and author of Building Wireless Sensor Networks explains, “XBee radios are popular with artists and industrialists alike. They simplify radio communications between devices and the Internet, so critical projects can meet their deadlines without requiring extensive engineering efforts. There’s certainly no postponing the Super Bowl, so XBees were a great choice to ensure this project came off without a hitch.”

A total of five ghost costumes were produced with one serving as a backup. It took about twelve people to assemble the costumes in time for the commercial. Be sure to get a close look at their eyes, which exhibit the original video game character and move with the roller-skating ghost’s movement. Jon McPhalen’s Spin/ASM WS2812 driver figured prominently as a key source code object for this project.

Here’s a behind the scenes look at the game and event coming together:

“It’s now easier than ever with IoT technology to create mesmerizing digital experiences in the physical world. We’re not only seeing this in entertainment with Bud Light’s Pac-Man game, but also commercially with connected solutions for energy systems, transportation monitoring, medical care and even municipal street lighting, Faludi said. “XBees can be a power-up for almost any connected device project.”

So, to answer a question that may be burning in many fan’s minds: yes, it’s totally possible that you too could be running from Blinky the ghost in real life (IRL). Maybe coming to a bar near you? We’re not sure. But one thing we’re positive about is our digital and physical worlds will continue to come together to create these incredible dream-like experiences; both for fun and entertainment and for solving real-world problems.

XBee Tech Tip: How to conduct an XBee range test

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Have you ever wanted to test the strength of connections in your XBee network? Within the XBee configuration software, XCTU, you can perform a range test. This will tell you the amount of packets received and the RSSI values at the local and remote nodes. This video will take you through the steps necessary to perform a range test.

You can download XCTU at this link: http://www.digi.com/xctu

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

Introducing The Official XBee Java Library

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Creating XBee applications just got way easier. Gone are the days of toiling away for every inch of code. In order to make it as simple as possible for you to write applications that interact with XBee, we have created the XBee Java Library. This library supports ZigBee, 802.15.4, DigiMesh and Point-to-Multipoint XBee devices!

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The project includes Java source code, unit tests for the library, and multiple examples that show how to use the available APIs. The examples are also available in source code format.

Here’s a list of what’s included in the library:

  • Configuration of local and remote XBee devices:
    • Configure common parameters with specific setters and getters.
    • Configure any other parameter with generic methods.
    • Execute AT commands.
    • Apply configuration changes.
    • Write configuration changes.
    • Reset the device.
  • Transmission of data to all the XBee devices on the network or to a specific device.
  • Reception of data from remote XBee devices:
    • Data polling.
    • Data reception callback.
  • Reception of network status changes related to the local XBee device.
  • IO lines management:
    • Configure IO lines.
    • Set IO line value.
    • Read IO line value.
    • Receive IO data samples from any remote XBee device on the network.

So whether you’re designing an intelligent lighting application, completely automating your home, tracking your dog’s activity level, or anything else you can dream up– you no longer have to start from scratch. Visit github.com/digidotcom for access to the library and more information.