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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.

 

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

XBee Tech Tip: Digital IO Line Passing with XBee

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A unique feature of the XBee 802.15.4 modules is the ability to perform digital I/O line passing. Essentially, this feature enables the user to toggle the state of any DIO pin on a transmitting radio and have that same pin on one or more receiving radios toggle their state to match the change. This functionality is an easy way to wirelessly control relays or any other switched equipment.

Note: DIO line passing can only be done with XBee 802.15.4 modules.wck_logo

Components used in this tutorial:

  • Two XBee 802.15.4 radios
  • Two XBee Grove Development Boards
  • Two Micro USB cables

To get started with this example, configure the pin of the XBee where the button is connected as digital input, and configure the pin of the XBee where the LED is connected as digital output. You will also need to configure the first XBee to send a notification to the other XBee when the button changes state.

Let’s get started.

Here are the configuration settings that need to be written to the XBee modules. In this example, XBee A is the transmitting radio and XBee B is the receiving module (click image to enlarge):

Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 9.29.24 AM

More of a visual learner? No worries. Follow along with this video as we write the parameters described above to both of our XBee radios.

Bonus Tip: Boost the reliability of the XBee connection by setting a sample rate on the transmitting XBee (Parameter: IR). If there happens to be interference while the data is being transmitted, it might not be received by XBee B. Setting a sample rate will ensure the change of state is communicated by the following sample rate packets.

Have the radios all set and ready to go? When the button connected to the the transmitting XBee is pressed, the LED of the receiver will light. Cue the drum roll….

If the application requires multiple receiver nodes, the change of state can be sent as a broadcast. To do this, modify the destination low address to “FFFF” on the transmitting radio. Note that this concept of DIO line passing is not specific to only pin 4, it can be applied to any DIO pin on the XBee 802.15.4 module.Wireless-Connectivity-Kit-DMG (1)

For this tutorial we used the new XBee Grove Development Board found in the Wireless Connectivity Kit. Visit Digi-Key to learn more about this new kit.

 

National Geographic Explorers Connect the Okavango Delta to the IoT

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Drones capable of detecting illegal logging in the Amazon Rainforest. Sensor networks to help research the dwindling honeybee population. Smart solar-powered waste collection. This is all happening today thanks to the Internet of Things. In addition to new technologies, the open-source movement has made it possible to share hardware designs, software and even data-making it easy for anyone to aid the global effort to preserve the ecosystems we depend on.

This summer, a team of National Geographic explorers are taking a 1,000 mile journey down the Okavango River in an effort to collect environmental data, discover new species and measure the heartbeat of one of the most remote wetlands in the world. And it’s all being done with Internet connected devices.

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Into the Okavango’s Mission
The Okavango Delta, located in Botswana, is one of the last pristine wetland wildernesses in the world. It’s protected as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, but farther upstream its water supply in Angola and Namibia is still susceptible to human interference.

National Geographic’s Okavango Expedition assembled a team of scientists and engineers to collect data along the Okavango River so that conservation efforts can be more effective, raise awareness and ensure that this remote wildlife sanctuary can be enjoyed for generations to come.

The delta itself stretches a vast 15,000 square kilometers, so the team of researchers needed to find a way to efficiently gather data across the entire area. Since this is such a remote location, additional considerations needed to be made like weatherproof equipment, power sources, and how to network the sensors.

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Connecting Across the Delta
Shah Selbe, the expedition’s lead technologist and conservation engineer at Conservify, created a wireless sensor network that significantly reduces the amount of manual labor required by the team to collect environmental data. Now, they no longer have to use pH strips or manually check sensor readings and record data onto paper. The wireless network completely automates the recording of data, collects more of it, and is more accurate.

Steve Boyes, National Geographic Emerging Explorer, put it best saying, “Shah took us from little strips and pieces of paper – writing down the water quality as we go down – to environmental sensor platforms… We’re going to be measuring the literal heartbeat of that wilderness in real time for the world to see.” 

Shah and team built a wireless sensor network using components you probably have sitting on your desk right now. A Raspberry Pi running a Python script is the center of each network. This central hub processes the data generated from multiple remote nodes and acts as a Wi-Fi gateway. Data is directly uploaded to the web server using JSON. In some especially remote locations, the remote Arduino nodes send data using the Twilio API over a cellular network.

Shah-Photos

Each of the nodes consist of an Arduino, XBee, and multiple sensors. The XBee ZigBee network makes it possible to connect over long distances since data packets can hop between neighboring nodes until they reach the central coordinator. For power, the remote nodes rely on a solar panel and a 6600 mAH battery.

There were a variety of sensor deployed throughout the delta. The main goal is to gather data related to water quality so sensors for water chemistry like pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity, and conductivity make up a bulk of the data collected. The team is also trying to better understand flood dynamics by monitoring flow rate, water level, and turbidity.

On the surface, sensors measure air temperature, humidity, barometric pressure and in the future the team plans to add sensors to detect radiation and other air pollutants.

In addition to the environmental data collected by the sensors, the team is streaming GPS location, research observations, wildlife sightings, photos, and more in real-time on their website.

Rolling out the wireless sensor network and collecting data is just phase 1 of the project. All of the data will be made available to the public through the website’s API. Continuously monitoring the delta will enable the team to detect even the smallest changes in water quality. The design and code used in the project will also be open sourced so the conservation effort can reach and preserve as many marine habitats as possible.

Stay connected to ‘Into the Okavango’ at the following links:

Over the next few years, the team plans to build out the network by adding sensors to the headwaters and other locations across the delta to gain an even more comprehensive understanding of the river and its surrounding environment.

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:

Digi Wireless Design Services & XBee Help Turn Soccer into a Smart Sport

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It’s the final minute of a soccer match and the score is tied. Your team has the ball and the choice to play it safe or make a strategic charge to win the game here and now.

What do you do?

Seattle Sport Sciences, Inc. found themselves in a similar situation with the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) conference just one week away, and only an idea for their next great product.

Seattle Sport Sciences originally made its name in the soccer world with the invention of the SideKick Techne Pro™ training machine, which brings cutting-edge technology to the pitch by launching soccer balls at players to work on a range of skills like goalkeeping and chest passes—all the way up to flying headers and bicycle kicks. The SideKick training machine allows players to perfect these skills through repetition. The coach loads a ball into the SideKick one at a time, and a player can practice one skill, or work through various skills sequentially.

SSS

But, as great technology companies and great coaches alike understand, there’s always room for improvement. Whether in production or on the pitch, it’s not about being where the ball is, it’s about being where the ball is headed.

The idea for the next groundbreaking product was a new product line that automatically launches soccer balls at various targets. This gives the coach the freedom to observe from anywhere and allows players to work on lateral movement, reflex and coordination at the same time.

Remember, this was only a concept, and the NCSAA Conference was seven days away. But Seattle Sport Sciences wanted to do more than simply talk about a cool idea—they wanted to show a live demo.

That’s when Digi Wireless Design Services (WDS) and Seattle Sport Sciences formed a dream team.

Adam Wolf, a Wireless Design Services firmware engineer, was the first to bring up the idea of having something ready for NSCAA.

“I spent 30 years in software development before starting this company. I am rarely impressed by engineering achievements, but this was one for the books. It was actually one week to the day—Wednesday to Wednesday. Digi did not over promise, and I understood and accepted the risks of failure in deciding to go forward,” explained Jeff Alger, CEO, Seattle Sports Sciences. “Communications were terrific, consistently good judgment under pressure throughout, and objectives clearly over-achieved. Clara and Adam even met with us at 11:30 at night at our airport hotel to hand off the prototypes. We were on a plane the next morning and showing those prototypes to coaches that same evening in Philadelphia. It made for a tremendous difference in our conversations with attendees about our future directions to be able to point to and interact with those prototypes.”

“We started the conversation with Digi looking longer-term, assuming sadly that NSCAA was already lost to us, then they pulled it out of the dust bin and made it happen.”

In addition to getting a prototype to the event in less than a week, the system itself needed to be usable by an audience whose main focus and time is spent on the development of talent, not on tinkering with hi-tech gadgets. These are coaches, not techies.

“It should be as easy to deploy as throwing cones on the field,” said one Seattle Sport Sciences team member.

The revolutionary auxiliary control and automation system, which is now a product, not just a prototype, is called ISOTechne™. ISOTechne uses computer control to repeatedly and automatically fire soccer balls to the player.

The new machine is equipped with a set of wireless, hockey puck sized sensors that are distributed in the field. The wireless pucks that are able to handle a wet, muddy outdoor environment connect wirelessly using Digi XBee modules.

Lights give the coach or person setting up the system a signal as to where to put each “puck” on the field. Once deployed, the pucks communicate wirelessly with a master unit and are used for training and assessing players. Pucks signal to the base when and determine where to fire balls. The lights also signal to players where to go next. Prox detectors in the pucks record how close the player gets to the puck and how fast. WDS wrote a program for communication to and from the pucks, the master unit and the ball machine using XBee modules.

For the first time ever, coaches can now objectively compare players’ performance under nearly identical conditions.

Here’s where you can read more about Seattle Sport Sciences and see many more customer stories.

Illinois Institute of Technology Students Bring Connected Solutions to Life with XBee

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Urban gardens that send text alerts when vegetables are ready, autonomous drones, solar powered mesh networks—these innovations aren’t just ideas, they’re real projects that students at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) created in less than eight weeks.

The Interprofessional Projects Program (IPRO) at IIT gives students the opportunity to work with teams across multiple disciplines to bring ideas to life.

“The IPRO program prepares students for the practical challenges they will face in a changing workplace—emulating a cross-functional team.” The program aims to give students hands on experience and create real solutions for the complex issues. 

Students from IIT’s programs including engineering, science, business, law, psychology, design and architecture complete nearly 90 projects via IPRO every year.

Jeremy Hajek, a professor at IIT has students learn about and work with XBee. First his class reads Building Wireless Sensor Networks by Digi’s Chief Innovation Officer, Rob Faludi. Then, they bring their own connected ideas to life.

One group used Digi’s XBee and Arduino to power a solar power mesh network.

“XBees are radio modules that communicate to each other, being able to be set up any topology including point-to-point, star and mesh, and can go much further than Bluetooth. The router and endpoint collect data and send it to the coordinator, which is in charge of all of the data that passes in its network. XBees are useful to a bunch of purposes, we used them not only for monitoring temperature data and displaying it on the monitor, but also uploading this new data on a web server.”

Just like we hear XBee customers say so often, the students mentioned that they selected the XBee because it’s cost effective and easy to use. “It just does exactly what we need it to do,” one of the students said.

To take the project a step further, another group created an Android and Google Glass app to display the data collected by the network. The team pointed out how this could be used by maintenance professionals, landlords and building operators to truly keep their finger on the pulse of facilities.

Digi customers are in fact using XBees to collect and access data to better businesses today.

Similar to some of the solutions that students put together for urban agriculture, DigiBale created a foundational communications system in the form of a “Farm Automation Starter Kit” that can be used to collect data for agriculture processes.

The kit includes ConnectPort X2 Gateway, three Digi XBee-PRO 900HP modules, a subscription to Device Cloud and a smartphone application. Its an ideal setup for creating a mid-sized mesh network that provides accurate soil moisture measurements and converts two electrical devices into automated and remotely managed devices. It enables farmers and growers to setup a system with simple scheduling and activation configuration to devices and access to statistics and activity history of all sensors and devices.

RMONI too, selected XBee due to its ease of use. “We’re not RF experts. We don’t want to worry about the RF design, so it was very convenient to source XBee and get the support of Digi’s partners and resellers to get to market quickly,” said Bart Meekers, CEO, RMONI.

RMONI uses the XBee to track the environment around food and medication while it’s in transit and on store shelves. This helps to ensure safety and quality. Even the slightest increase in temperature while handling the products can lead to deterioration, invalid results and considerable loss in revenue, so this is a vital application.

Schréder created Owlet, a solution that uses mesh networking for intelligent street lights. Each light is equipped with a high performance LED array and a XBee ZigBee module. The XBee modules enable groups of lights to form a ZigBee mesh network, which connects to a cellular WAN—a Digi ConnectPort X4 cellular gateway.

Innovators, whether they’re some of Digi’s bigger XBee customers or students, agree that XBee is the most easy and to-the-point way to add wireless communication to a solution.

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.

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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: