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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

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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.

Devergy Expands Solar Power Possibilities in Africa

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Did you know that roughly 1.7 billion people are not connected to a power grid? In Sub-Sahara Africa, the number is around 500 million. For many, the infrastructure simply doesn’t exist. The modern day conveniences we take for granted such as being able to read at night, cooking on the stove top and refrigeration can be a hassle, or close to impossible, with no access to a reliable source of electricity.

The challenges of installing a power grid in remote and undeveloped areas can be numerous, so how do we reimagine how to deliver reliable electricity and move past the traditional power grid system? Thankfully, Devergy is solving this tricky problem. Using solar power and wireless technology, Devergy has built a sustainable business that’s helping villages in Tanzania and Ghana meet their energy needs.download

Who is Devergy?
Founded in 2010 by Fabio De Pascale, Gianluca Cescon and Daniel Ponz, Devergy is a social enterprise committed to providing an affordable and reliable source of energy to low-income people throughout Tanzania.

Their customers live in rural areas of the country where a power grid is nonexistent and residents do not have the money necessary to purchase a personal solar home system.

Residents in Tanzania typically spend between 6 and 25 USD per month on kerosene, phone charging, and dry-cell batteries for radios. After the installation of Devergy’s solar grids, residents spend as much as 20% less than what they were spending on kerosene for lighting and 50% less for phone charging. Not only does Devergy provide a clean, renewable and reliable source of energy, but it’s also substantially more affordable.

The service is based on village-sized energy micro-grids, which provide solar power to households and small businesses; it allows the users to connect lights and appliances such as radios, TVs and refrigerators. With the smart micro-grids, the usage of installed power is up to 70% more efficient than with equivalent solar home systems.

The key feature of the system is an energy meter that powers the household or business with a pre-paid pay-per-use approach, where customers top up their credit by using a mobile commerce platform, such as Vodacom M-Pesa. This is just like the system you would use to top-up a pre-paid mobile phone.

How it Works
Devergy uses Digi XBee technology for the communication network in its grids. Hundreds of nodes are connected with XBee–making the solar micro-grids smart, cost effective, and manageable. Devergy relies on XBee modules for its smart meters and is using Digi’s ConnectPort X4 for its ZigBee to GPRS gateways. Fabio, co-founder of Devergy says, “The plug and play, flexible nature of the Digi product was fundamental to get our services to the market faster.”

Devergy’s customers receive an unprecedented service thanks to a system that is designed to require no user maintenance and is remotely monitored for faults, so that the reliability and availability of the service is unmatched. Local representation of the company is ensured by the appointment of a village agent, selected based on recommendation by the village committee and trained by Devergy to perform technical support and sales. This ensures the customers always have a well-known and trusted counterpart to deal with.

Devergy has successfully connected more than 800 customers since 2012 to reliable, clean and safe electricity with a service sufficient to satisfy their needs for many years to come.  Currently, they are active in two regions and quickly growing their customer base. In addition to Tanzanaia, the Devergy grids are also licensed to third parties in Ghana, where they power 3 villages.

Visit Devergy.com to learn more about what they do!

Look What I Made: XBee Project Gallery Update

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We are always finding amazing XBee projects. From drones, to artwork, 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!

 

Interactive Prayer Wheel
Yantra is an Art Tech Science Festival held in Nepal. For this special occasion, the organizers wanted to create a piece of art that combined their cultural heritage with technology as way to connect generations. This goal led them to to build a modern-day prayer wheel.

Terra Spider
Created by students at the California College of the Arts, the goal was to build an autonomous robot capable of repairing and maintaining damaged landscapes. This robot, dubbed Terra Spider, can be dropped into hazardous environments to do just that- repair and maintain damaged landscapes.

Rainforest Monitoring with Drones
The goal of Tapirnet is to apply an economic value to the Amazon Rainforest by developing an automated and sustainable system to document wildlife in the Amazon. The location of this project is the “Reserva Nacional Allpahuayo-Mishana” in Peru.

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.

Digi Employee Hackathon: One Hack to Rule Them All

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The hackathon tradition lives on at Digi and this competition may have been the best one yet– we say that every time, don’t we? Anyways, at this most recent hackathon, we had projects that included hardware modifications, data analytics, software design, and UI enhancements.

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The challenge to our competing teams was to prototype a useful improvement to a Digi product such as–

  • Changing a hardware design to improve user experience.
  • Designing a software change to Device Cloud or The Social Machine.
  • Improving the design of a configuration tool like XCTU or create a new one.
  • Making a prototype for a brand new hardware, software or service product.
  • Creating some other useful improvement of their choosing.

Hackathons give employees an outlet to work on a project or idea they’ve been kicking around for a while, but haven’t had the time to see through. It’s also a chance for participants to work with others outside of their everyday team. And, we had some nice cash and non-cash prizes. Nacho flavored lip balm may or may not have been included among our ‘nice’ prizes.

Here’s a quick look at what each team built.xbee_gateway_v2 (1)

Pimp My Web UI 
Team Members: Mike Wadsten, Travis Lubbers, and Russel Shurts.

No, Xzibit, did not make an appearance at our hackathon to create a redesigned and responsive web UI for the XBee Gateway. But Mike, Travis, and Russell were all up to the challenge. They took our existing web UI for the XBee Gateway and gave it a bit of a refresh. Mike had done some work a few months ago on an updated design and the team used this as a starting point for their project.

With the team’s UI refresh, users are more easily able to modify the configuration of their XBee Gateway from a desktop, tablet, or smartphone! The new dashboard is pictured to the right.

Team Device Cloud Analytics
Team Members: Chris Popp and Greg Bestland

The goal of this hack is to enhance Device Cloud with the ability for customers (and administrators) to run custom queries over their data right in the Cloud.

In the prototype, a user is able to have some of their data saved in a way that allows queries against their data set as a whole rather than having to retrieve all the raw data or only rollups of a single stream.  By looking at their entire data set, the user can start to answer more complex questions without having to pull all of the data into their own systems. Spark-logo-192x100px

In order to make these advanced queries possible, the team used the Apache Spark engine. Now, they are able to answer questions like “What is the average temperature in Group ‘X’?” or “How often is my tank level below my set threshold?” This opens up a whole window of possibilities for Device Cloud as an analytics engine. These features will be considered for inclusion in a future DeviceCloud release.

Code Name Marco Polo
Team Members: Ryan Bezdicek and Sandy Haapala

Marco Polo is the code name for a replacement to Device Cloud’s current API Explorer. What is the API Explorer? It’s a terrific feature within Device Cloud that gives users the ability to run any web service request. This enhancement code named, Marco Polo, has a number of improvements and new features that make it easier to work with and a collaborative experience between Device Cloud users.
Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 8.39.03 AM

One enhancement is a way for users to save their most frequent calls. This eliminates the need to remember complex command sets and adds quick access to their most frequently used web service calls. Admins also have the ability to add, edit, and remove examples on the fly.  Future enhancements will include being able to share saved examples with other users on the cloud platform, authentication improvements and setup of local of the API Explorer for offline use. The team is looking into incorporating this for a future Device Cloud version.

C’Mon Move it
Team Members: Zach Schneider and Dan Harrison

Team ‘C’Mon Move it!’ had the brilliant idea of improving XBee‘s PWM capabilities by extending them; initially with a serial hack and later within the XBee firmware. Currently the pulse width modulation (analog) output on an XBee is fixed at 15.6 KHz with a 50% duty cycle. For many motors in SCADA applications, this will not do. They typically require more robust PWM capabilities, such as 200-3000 Hz with 20-80% duty cycle.

So Dan and Zach forged on and created a new PWM library for XBee. The library is written in Python and runs on an XBee gateway making clever use of the UART serial output to directly drive motors. The PWM now reaches speeds between 600 Hz and 4 KHz at any duty cycle between 10%-90% in increments of 10%.

To demo this new PWM library they built a linear actuator to control the height of a shelf. Using an H-bridge driver board, they are able to adjust the height of the shelf wirelessly. If direct control of motors interests you, be sure to comment or drop us a line.

Wrap Up
After the teams presented and demoed their projects the judges congregated for what was a difficult decision. It was very tough to pick a winner, any one of the projects would have made a fine champion. After a number of recounts and tiebreakers the judges made their final decision. Team DC Analytics won first place with Pimp My Web UI in an extremely close second!

If any of these hacks are something you would like us to include in future software or firmware releases, let us know in the comments section below!