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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.

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  • 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

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

XBee Has a New Home

XBee has a New Home

XBee information has a new home! We’re always looking for ways to share information with our customers, so we’re excited to announce the launch of the revamped XBee resource center. This page has everything you need to know about XBee– how to connect to the cloud, choose the right module, and how to find example projects that will help get you started with XBee.

XCTU Computer

You can also check out what others are building with XBee, whether it be large-scale networks or a project from the XBee Gallery. And if you ever need help with your projects, you can contact an XBee expert by submitting your questions via the ‘Contact an Expert’ form.

Click here to visit the new page.

UPDATE: The Germinator is Alive!

A couple weeks ago, we shared the projects our team in Logroño built for the Digi Employee Hackathon. Here is quick  update on ‘The Germinator Plus’ project. These pictures were taken two weeks after planting and as you can see, the project is in full force!

The Germinator Plus makes it easy to adjust the environment for different species of plants by using Device Cloud, XBee, a microcontroller, and sensors. The sensors monitor heat, light, and water levels and the system maintains the conditions needed for that species of plant. Read more about the project in the full Digi Employee Hackathon post.

The Next Generation of XCTU

You may have heard there is a new version of XCTU available. We rebuilt it from the ground up and added a number of new features. Now, you can graphically diagram your ZigBee networks all from within the XCTU interface. You can even perform tests to determine your XBee’s range with the built in range test. And for all the Mac users out there, we should mention that XCTU is now compatible with OS X! Here’s a quick demo of the software in the video below:

The next generation of XCTU will make building your ZigBee networks a breeze. Want to get started? Head over here to download the latest version of XCTU.

Digi Employee Hackathon: XBee WiFi Visits Logroño

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For the latest Digi Hackathon, Rob Faludi took the show on the road and crossed the Atlantic to hold the first ever hackathon at our office in Logroño, Spain. With XBee WiFi Cloud Kits in hand, the four teams hacked away for what was the most competitive hackathon yet. In a matter of hours, each team had to quickly brainstorm, build, and present their cloud-connected projects.

 

The Garbage M.A.N.

Garbage M.A.N. Smart garbage containers monitoring for smart cities. In Spain, garbage is sorted into four different containers that fill up at different speeds. Garbage trucks need to collect every container no matter how full it is and they do this mainly during the night. The containers may overflow, which is smelly, or be collected when they don’t need to be which is a waste of time, energy and creates unnecessary noise.

The Garbage M.A.N. monitors the fill level with sensors and transmits the information to a central program that calculates routing so that full containers never overflow, and empty containers are not visited unnecessarily. This reduces noise, pollution, smells, collection time and the truck fleet. The prototype uses an XBee Wi-Fi Cloud Kit, Device Cloud and an Android application to display optimized routes. Yes, the Garbage M.A.N. can!
Team members: Sebastián Pastor, Javier Viguera, Ernesto Vara, Arturo Buzarra, and Héctor Palacios.
Awarded: “Least Smelly” and First Prize

 

Germinator Plus
Germinator Plus

An automated system for remote greenhouse seed germination monitoring. Seeds germination requires unique light, temperature and humidity conditions for each species of plant. Germinator Plus provides an automatic germination greenhouse to  monitor and control each of these conditions. It’s easy to configure and use for a variety of different seed species, and everything can be done remotely. Heating, light and watering are all triggered by sensors. When the plants have reached the proper height, the grower is alerted that they are ready to transplant. Germinator Plus prototype uses XBee Wi-Fi, Device Cloud, a ConnectCore 6, water pump, lighting controls, heater, moisture, light and temperature sensors. The result? Perfect plants.
Team members: David Escalona, Diego Escalona, Francisco/Paco Gil Martínez, Carlos Marín, and Isaac Hermida.
Awarded: “Industrial Light & Moisture Award” and Second Prize

 

Lie-Detect-o-Meter
Lie Detect-o-Meter

A mobile battery-operated wristband lie detector for public questioning. Ask your question remotely through the web interface and get a real time answer with an instant decision about its truthfulness. Lie-detect-o-meter is the must have gadget for your political career. The project uses XBee Wi-Fi, Device Cloud, Arduino and sensors for moisture and pulse.
Team members: Mike Engel, Daniel Alesanco, Hector Bujanda, and Alex Gonzalez.
Awarded: “Most Judgmental”

 

The Smart Plug-Y-Play

Unattended computers waste energy. The Smart Plug-Y-Play monitors power consumption and can automatically switch off the computer. In addition users can turn any device on or off remotely, and configure notification alarms to alert them to excessive power consumption or unauthorized use. The system was prototyped with the XBee Wi-Fi, Device Cloud, a motion detector, smart plug and controlled by either a web application or smartphone app.
Team members: Pedro Perez, Ruben Moral, Tatiana Leon, Jesus Nieto, and Alejandro Vaquero.
Awarded: “Most Shocking”

 

With an office full of hackers it was no surprise that every project was a home run. But, we’re just starting to scratch the surface of what the IoT makes possible. Are you a maker, builder, or DIYer looking to build your own Internet of Things project? Learn more about the XBee WiFi Cloud Kit here.

The Pool by Jen Lewin: XBee Art at i Light Marina Bay Festival

 

The Straits Times
Jen Lewin’s project The Pool, is stealing the show at this year’s i Light Marina Bay Festival. The festival aims to promote environmentally-responsible behavior and artists are incorporating recyclable materials and energy efficient lighting in their interactive art installations.

The Pool consists of over 100 interactive pads that emit colorful light and react to users’ movements. As participants move across the installation the pads send out colors and blend together to create a stunning visual display. Each pad has a simple set of rules that reacts to information being sent to and from sensors on every pad throughout the Pool. More than 100 XBee 802.15.4 radios send this information wirelessly from an Arduino in each pad that creates the colorful reactions. The project is monitored and updated remotely using a Digi ConnectPort X2e XBee gateway via Device Cloud.

The Pool was even featured on the front-page of The Straits Times, Singapore’s most widely read newspaper. Congrats Jen! The next stop for The Pool will be at Vivid Sydney May 23.

Check out Jen Lewin’s website to see more of her work.

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