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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

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.

This Week in the Internet of Things: Friday Favorites

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.

Why the Internet of Things will Disrupt Everything | Wired

How an Intelligent Thimble Could Replace the Mouse in 3D Virtual Reality Worlds | MIT Technology Reviewdigix2-sg1-300x300

XBee Internet Gateway Update Released

The Internet of Small Things Spurs Big Business | InformationWeek

Internet of Things and Connected Retail Experience | Wired 

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 Employee Hackathon: Minnetonka Tech Support Team

The Digi Employee Hackathons have now become a tradition we all look forward to. We’ve hacked in Digi offices around the world, built cloud connected projects, and above all else, have just had tons of fun. This week our Tech Support team battled it out to see who could build the most impressive project with the XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit.

Here are the projects that went from idea to reality in just hours.

The Coffee Busters

The injustice stops now. No longer will we fall victim to those topping up their morning cups of coffee– only to leave an empty pot for the rest of us. The Coffee Busters’ goal was to make sure no one can flee the scene of an empty coffee pot after pouring the last fresh cup.

 

The team started off by 3D printing a base to hold the coffee pot. Within the 3D printed base is a force resistor that is continually taking measurements and checking to see if the coffee level is getting low. Once the coffee gets low, the device plays a jingle to notify the coffee drinker that ,”Hey, I need to be refilled!” In addition to playing a jingle, the team connected a Digi Watchport Camera to a ConnectPort X4, which snaps a photo when the alarm goes off. If the the coffee drinker fails to fill the coffee pot back up in a timely manner, the photo that was taken at the scene of the crime is sent out to the department via email.
Team Members: Charlie Kotasek, Ron Kinney, and Michael Shatirishvili.
Awarded: Best Buzz

Cool Bees

Servers are expensive and they can get hot. If a server room is approaching warmer than normal temperatures, it’s important that you know as soon as possible, so you can prevent a disaster. Or better yet, let the server room prevent it’s own disaster. The Cool Bees’ project enables servers to let IT staff know when the temperature starts to approach a dangerous level.

 

The team connected a temperature sensor and a cooling fan to the XBee Wi-Fi. Temperature sensor readings were continually sent up to Device Cloud. If a reading was greater than 74 degrees, an alarm was triggered and turned on the connected fan to bring the room’s temperature to a safer level.
Team Members: Jeanne Garmon, Knight Jensen, Margaret Kronenberg, and Scott Peterson.
Awarded: Coolest Project

For the Birds 

Bird feeders are great, but turn your head at the wrong moment and you might miss seeing your winged visitor. Or it turns into a squirrel feeder and no matter what measure you take, you can’t find a way to keep them away. For the Birds channeled this frustration into developing a cloud-connected bird feeder that is full of useful features.

 

First, the feeder snaps a picture when a bird stops by for a bite. A motion sensor attached to an XBee Wi-Fi recognizes when a bird is near the feeder. A picture is taken and the user is sent an email letting them know a bird has stopped by. The team also wanted to be notified when the feeder needs refilling. To do this, they attached a weight sensor to the feeder and when the amount of feed reaches 20% the user is sent an email letting them know it’s time to refill the feeder.

Next item on the road map is to create an anti-squirrel system that keeps the bushy-tailed creatures off the feeder, but also leaves them unharmed!
Team Members: Cheryl Busch, Michael Toenis, and Jennifer Getty
Awarded: Most Shocking

Closing
The Coffee Busters were awarded first place, but each project showcased the creativity of our employees and what is possible with the Internet of Things–even if you only have a few hours to develop your project. Like always, we gained valuable feedback on how to improve the user experience with our products. Now, hopefully we can get a few coffee busters set up around the office and finally solve the mystery of the empty coffee pot.

XBee Tech Tip: Sending Serial Data From One XBee Wi-Fi to Another

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This Tech Tip is brought to you by Digi Applications Engineer Mark Grierson. It is Part 1 in a 3-part series focusing on the XBee Wi-Fi module.

Be sure to answer the XBee Puzzler at the end of this entry for a chance to win an XBee Wi-Fi Development Kit!

In this tech tip, we are going to see just how easy it is to send serial data through from one XBee Wi-Fi radio module to another.

Setup

In order to complete this exercise, you’ll need:

  • 2  XBee  Wi-Fi(S6B) radio modules
  • 2 USB interface boards. These can be the development boards contained in the XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit, any XBIB-U or XBIB-U-DEV interface board, or any third party USB XBee interface board such as the Parallax XBee USB adapter board
  • PC (or Mac) running Next Generation XCTU

Procedure

Sending transparent serial data between 2 XBee Wi-Fi modules.

First we will need to connect 2 Wi-Fi Modules to a Wi-Fi access point that has access to the internet. For brevity, if you need assistance connecting you modules to an access point, please refer to the Quick Start Guide: XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit for assistance.

Note: For the purposes of this article, a basic understanding of XCTU is assumed. For specific help in working with XCTU please see the help section of the XCTU program.

techtip1-may14

  • Connect the radio modules to the PC using the interface boards and launch 2 instances of XCTU.
  • In each instance of XCTU connect to one of the XBee Wi-Fi modules:
    1. Click on the Add Radio icon
    2. Select the correct com port
    3. Ensure data settings are correct (Radio default is 9600, 8, N,1)
    4. Click Finish

techtip2-may14-sm

  • Now click on the radio module in each instance of XCTU to read its settings.

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  • Once you have the 2 instances of XCTU running, verify that the radios have received IP addresses from your DHCP server and then address each radio’s Destination IP address (DL) to match the Module IP Address (MY) of the other radio as shown below.

techtip4-may14-sm

  • You will also want to ensure that the Device Options (DO) setting is set to 0. This will ensure that the serial data is not sent to the cloud.
  • Go to the “Consoles” mode of each XCTU by clicking the terminal icon at the top of XCTU.
  • Open the serial connection to the modules by clicking the “Open Serial Connection” icon on each XCTU instance.   The Icon will change to a connected status  and the background changes to green.
  • You can now type text directly into one of the console log screens and see it appear in red of the other consoles screen.

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  • If you would rather send an entire string at once, this can be accomplished by creating a packet by clicking on the “Add New Packet” icon.   This packet builder also lets you select ASCII or Hex data to be sent.

Using the packet builder, you can create a series of serial strings to transmit from the radio.

Summary

As you complete this exercise, it will become apparent just how easy it can be to connect your XBee Wi-Fi module to any serial sensor or device and have that data sent to any other device connected to another XBee Wi-Fi module. Of course this is just a simple example of how transparent serial data can be transmitted around an XBee Wi-Fi network. XBee modules have many more advanced features including a full API mode to allow your applications to efficiently move data to any IP addressable device worldwide.

In our next issue we will demonstrate sending data back and forth between a host connected to an XBee Wi-Fi module such as XCTU and a non-XBee network client application on a local area network. Until then, have fun experimenting with all of the varied capabilities of these remarkable radio modules.

XBee Puzzler

Which statement best describes how a passive high gain antenna works?

  1. A high gain antenna adds energy to a radio to enhance its range.
  2. A high gain antenna does not add or subtract overall energy to a radio transmission, but rather focuses or re-shapes the radiation pattern in a certain direction.
  3. A high gain antenna removes energy from a radio’s radiation pattern.
  4. A high gain antenna has no effect on the range of a radio link

Submit your answer below. The deadline for entries is June 12, 2014. Three winners will be randomly selected from the correct submissions. Winners will be notified by email. Employees of Digi and its subsidiaries are not eligible for the prize drawing. Good luck!

This XBee Puzzler contest is now closed. The correct answer is: 2. A high gain antenna does not add or subtract overall energy to a radio transmission, but rather focuses or re-shapes the radiation pattern in a certain direction.

 

Meet the Kit that Connects You to the Internet of Things ASAP

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In this video, Digi’s Chief Innovator, Rob Faludi, shows you how easy it is to build a Wi-Fi enabled hardware prototype and develop an application for the Internet of Things with the XBee WiFi Cloud Kit. The kit wirelessly connects with Device Cloud by Etherios out of the box, so you can build custom widgets that interact with your cloud-connected hardware.

Interested in seeing more ideas of what is possible with the XBee WiFi Cloud kit? Check out the projects that came out of our employee Hackathon in Logroño.

Contact a Digi expert and get started today! CONTACT US