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Customer Showcase: Wireless for Today’s Connected City

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Every day Digi works with customers around the world to deploy connected solutions that businesses rely on. From the ability to monitor device health to using data to make more informed decisions-connected devices are modernizing business operations. Here are a few of the many companies we are proud to work with.

EMTEST | Public Transitcss-featured-emtest (1)
As city populations continue to grow and public transportation demand rises, public transit agencies are finding innovative ways to handle the influx of passengers. Implementing wireless technology at ticketing kiosks and on-board displays helps streamline operations while also helping to improve the overall rider experience.

EMTest, a technology solution provider for transportation, uses the ConnectCore® 6 as the engine that powers its Emlines system. The ConnectCore 6, based on Freescale’s i.MX 6 applications processor, is a compact module that provides engineers all of the features necessary to build unique wireless applications.

EMTest gives transit operators the ability to facilitate ticket sales more efficiently, optimize vehicle routes—and it provides passenger Wi-Fi. With the fare collection system tied into the rest of the operations team, riders are provided with information such as next stop, travel times, and transfer information. The data collected is also essential for more efficient fleet management.

Owlet Nightshift by Schreder | Connected LightingRoundabout at twilight
As cities deploy LED street lights to cut energy costs, they’re also turning to wireless technology for data collection and remote monitoring for their street lighting.

Utilizing Digi wireless technology, Schréder developed the Owlet lighting solution, which enables cities to retrofit out-of-date lighting infrastructure with long lasting intelligent technology. Within each light is an LED array along with a Digi XBee ZigBee module. The XBee radios create ZigBee mesh network-connecting all of the city’s street lights wirelessly. Data from each light is then sent to a single point, a cellular XBee Gateway, which then  connects to a cellular network.

The XBee Gateway allows the city to monitor and control lighting with Owlet’s web-based management tools. Also, municipalities don’t have to wait for a citizen to report an outage or check lights via scheduled inspections. The lights themselves can tell the city when they need to be serviced or replaced.

AddÉnergie | Electric Vehicle Chargingcss-inline-addenergie
Electric vehicles are a rapidly growing market, and with it, so has the need for charging. AddEnergie specializes in providing charging station networks for electric vehicles. The company provides the charging infrastructure for both the Electric Circuit and the VERnetwork™, the two largest charging networks in Canada.

AddEnergie uses XBee modules to connect stations throughout entire parking lots and a single gateway is used at each lot to enable cloud connectivity. In addition to relying on Digi wireless technology, AddEnergie uses the ConnectCard i.MX 28 as the brains of their system.

The system includes proprietary software, PowerSharing™ and PowerLimiting™, which interface with Digi products and notify the charging stations when energy should be lowered to help reduce costs.

To learn more about how Digi customers are changing their respective industries, visit our customer story page here.

XBee Takes Flight at NASA Wallops Flight Facility

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You may remember this post from last year sharing the upcoming NASA experiment involving XBee. Well, after a few delays (launching rockets is complicated!), XBee finally took flight. XBee-Launch-Space

Early in the morning on July 7, NASA launched a NASA Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket from their Wallops Flight Facility. Onboard the rocket was an experiment testing Exo-Brake technology. XBee was used to collect sensor data including temperature, air pressure, and 3-axis acceleration parameters.

NASA is considering Exo-brakes as a possible solution for returning cargo from the International Space Station (ISS), orbiting platforms or as possible landing mechanisms in low-density atmospheres. This was one of many tests used to analyze its effectiveness, but the first to incorporate an XBee connected sensor network. If you would like to read more about the Exo-brake, check out this article.

image3 (4)

We’ll have more coverage coming soon including video interviews with the engineers involved. In the meantime, you can learn more about the experiment in the articles linked below:

NASA’s Official Announcement on the Launch

Wireless-in-Space: How NASA Testing is One Small Step for Planetary Internet | Wireless Design Mag

IoT Tech Goes to Space with NASA | IoT Evolution

Have any questions about the launch or the technology involved in the experiment? You can reach us on Twitter at @XBeeWireless or comment below.

Digi Employee Hackathon: Lindon Edition v2

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Another Digi employee hackathon has come to a close! Rob paid a visit to our team out in Utah to hold a hackathon with Digi’s development staff. This continues what has become a tradition at Digi over the last couple years.

Each event has led to the creation of a number of product improvements and other fun and whimsical projects. Another important benefit is that it gives everyone a chance to collaborate with those they don’t normally work with on a day-to-day basis.

Here’s a look at the winning project.

AT Command Database
The winners of our recent hackathon created an incredibly useful tool for both developers inside our company and for our customers. The team’s final prototype is a new centralized system for managing XBee, XTend and our other radios’ AT command info across our entire wireless product line. Digi’s wireless products use these AT commands to manage setup, networking, security, sensors, actuators, battery use, diagnostics and many more functions.

There are hundred of useful commands that need to be managed, tested and shared between our products, libraries, software and documentation. In addition, the commands are implemented by our partners in third-party products and tools. Changes, updates and corrections to the commands need to be kept in sync across all these implementations, and absolute accuracy is essential.

IMG_7064

Prior to Team AT-DB’s creation, the process for maintaining up-to-date AT command information involved lots of coordination and double-checking. We also needed a more efficient way to accurately process updates when changes occur, and share these with our partners and customers. Each command has a specific syntax, description, parameters and defaults. Certain commands must be implemented differently for different protocols. Details matter!

Here are the main benefits the group demonstrated with their new prototype:

  • The ability to audit radio descriptors and test firmware updates against a single, authoritative source.
  • Automatic synchronization services for Digi software like XCTU, and also for third-party software development partners.
  • Electronic documentation support functions and enhanced support for automated testing.
  • A user friendly front end interface that can be enhanced as new use cases arise.

Hackathons keep us creative and excited about our work as it’s an opportunity to try out new ideas. Successful prototypes like this one inspire and help implement the innovative systems necessary to making and maintaining Digi’s mission-critical products.

Check out this page to see other projects and ideas developed at past Digi Hackathons.

Introducing the Official XBee Library for mbed

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The mbed platform is a popular tool for engineers developing new Internet of Things devices. It is both a platform and operating system for internet-connected devices based on 32-bit ARM Cortex-M microcontrollers. ARM mbed provides rapid development, ease of use, efficiency, security features, and support for a wide range of add-on components including Digi’s wireless solutions. Our team of XBee experts has created a special library to easily connect mbed projects using XBee radios.mbed_logo

The new library supports XBee 802.15.4 and XBee ZigBee modules so developers are able to create simple point-to-point projects or complex mesh networks for their devices. On the mbed website you can find detailed instructions on how to implement the library into your mbed device.

We have also included ready to use examples so you can get started quickly. Click here to access the mbed XBee library.

monitor_combination

In addition to the mbed library we have two other official software libraries for XBee development:

There are also a slew of third party libraries created by the XBee community:

For for more information on mbed, you can visit their site. Have any questions about the XBee library itself? Just shoot us a message at @XBeeWireless or comment below.

Look What I Made: XBee Project Gallery Update

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We come across amazing XBee projects every day, so we wanted to remind you that we’re constantly updating the XBee Project Gallery. Here are just a few of the latest additions.

 

R2-D2
With the help of XBee technology, Chris James of the R2 Builders Club has created compact hand held remotes that control a workable R2-D2 robot. The remotes give the user control of servos, motors, sound playback and more. R2-D2 is finally a reality. May the force be with you.

GPS Trackers
Damon Williams, a sergeant for the Texas State Guard individually created 30 GPS trackers with the XBee-PRO 900HP and the help of Google Maps. The XBee technology allows him to track the whereabouts of his fellow soldiers during a natural disaster. Amidst the noise, weather conditions, working environment, and limited cellular coverage there aren’t too many options to keep in touch with his soldiers. Therefore, his innovation has helped him to communicate with his soldiers and relay potentially life saving information to them.

Taylor Swift LED Dress
During Taylor Swift’s her 1989 world tour she has been spotted wearing a dress with flashing Adafruit’s Neopixel LED lights controlled with XBee. With the help of James Devito, the designer of the dress, she will continue to wear this dress for the rest of her tour as she performs for millions of fans around the globe.

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.

A Better Way to Build Your Next Project: XBee Hardware Tools

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The open source movement and strong maker community has led to the creation of a number platforms that give developers a quick and efficient way to create a proof of concept, prototype, or even a final product. Here a few especially handy hardware platforms for developing XBee projects that we think you might find helpful.

Waspmote
The Waspmote is a sensor mote that gives developers a simple way to create wireless sensor networks connected over XBee. The mote supports all the same network topologies as XBee, so it is possible to create complex mesh networks as well as simple point to point communications. In addition to network flexibility, the motes primary feature is reduced power consumption, which makes it ideal for sensors running on battery.waspmote_mote_runner_24 (1)

What makes the Waspmote especially awesome is the fact that Libelium has developed their own sensor boards that plug directly into the Waspmote–eliminating the need to solder anything or dust off your box of breadboards and jumper wires. They have industry specific sensors boards that are equipped with the sensors needed for a specific applications like Smart Water, Agriculture, Smart Cities, among many others. Visit the Libelium home page to learn more about the Waspmote.

Arduino FIO
The Arduino FIO board was created by Shigeru Kobayashi and SparkFun Electronics in an effort to simplify the process of making a wireless Arduino project. With connections for a LiPo battery and an XBee socket right on board, the board has everything you need to create anything from a lightning sensor to a programmable swarm of robots.

arduino fioPerhaps the most useful feature of the FIO board is the ability to upload sketches wirelessly. Gone are the days of completely tearing down your project so that you can plug it into your computer! Check out this information guide for information on programming Arduino over XBee.

Apitronics
Apitronics is an open platform that enables farmers to collect sensor data via connected sensors deployed throughout farms, greenhouses, and gardens. The data is collected from remote nodes placed around the farm and is aggregated at a central hub. The data can be accessed at a local web page and helps farmers monitor environmental conditions, which allows them to make more informed management decisions.apitronics

With less than 10% of farms using sensors today, the goal is to give small and mid-sized farmers the tools necessary to gather quantitative data–reducing waste and maximizing crop yields. But this platform isn’t just for those with a farming day job, this can be used to monitor your backyard gardens as well! Visit Apitronics website to learn more about their open source agricultural efforts.

duinoPRO
Taking your prototype to production is an issue many start-ups and design teams struggle with. As Arduino has become nearly synonymous with the word prototype, engineers are increasingly in need of an efficient way to turn their Arduino based prototype into a scalable product. DuinoPRO is aimed at the lean start-up community or anyone looking to leverage the highly supported Arduino platform to create a prototype they plan to scale to relatively large volumes in a surface mount facility.

duinoproMaybe we Missed Your Favorite?
Did we miss one of your favorite XBee development tools? Never fear. Just leave a comment below or let us know on Twitter at @XBeeWireless and we will add it to the post!

XBee-PRO 900HP Creates a Mesh Network With the Power to Save Lives

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When you’re at work, how do you typically get in touch with your family if you need to contact them?

You most likely call or send a text message from your cell phone. For the most part, you have your phone on you, and you know they have their phone on them and are accessible.

What if, instead, your family is the Texas State Guard and you’re managing a natural disaster? Your soldiers are out in the field providing relief and support–how do you get in touch? How do you keep track of their location? Certainly amidst the noise, weather conditions, working environment, and limited cell coverage there aren’t too many options.

Damon Williams has experienced this issue firsthand as a Sergeant for the Texas State Guard.

“For the longest time I wasn’t able to monitor where my soldiers actually were. There was no way to know exactly where they were located.”

By day, Damon is a senior firmware engineer at Molex. Using his technical background, he set out to solve the issue he faced while serving his community: how can a soldier’s location easily be communicated from the field?

Damon entered Molex’s Innovation Challenge, an internal competition where employees compete against one another in a bid for the next great Molex innovation.

A typical entrant in the Molex Innovation Challenge creates a presentation and some design mock ups. Having personal stake in the game, Damon turned his idea into a reality. As a long-time maker, Damon knew the XBee product line well and realized the XBee-PRO 900HP would enable him to use mesh networking. He developed a working prototype of 30 personal GPS trackers.

“This is something I believe in. I have soldiers in the field. This is something that we’re constantly up against. For example, right now my bags are packed and in my truck. We’re on alert because of the flooding in Texas.”

An individual carries one of the small trackers. Their exact location can be seen in real time from the command center through video using a Google Maps overlay where pins represent the trackers.

TXSG_DPS

Damon says that this system wouldn’t be possible without the XBee-PRO 900HP. “In addition to using mesh networking for reliability, I went with the 900 for the range. Our packet sizes are very small, so we have real quick blips for data transmission.”

The XBee-PRO 900HP allowed for:

  • Mesh networking instead of cellular
  • Ease of integration
  • Ability for the system to go into sleep mode to conserve power
  • Small packet delivery
  • Accelerated system design speed
  • Integration of all of the modules together
    • Maestro GPS module
    • Bluetooth transceiver
    • Microchip controller

gumPowered by two AAA batteries, the trackers can run for four days (96 hours) with updates every 90 seconds–or for up to two weeks with hourly updates. The trackers are as small as a couple packs of gum.

Although the prototype didn’t take first place in the Innovation Challenge, Damon has implemented the system for his own team and others. He has personally funded and built 130 trackers that are out in the world today. The trackers are used by The National Guard and search and rescue teams including the City of Austin.

“Anytime someone goes down range they have a tracker on. I have a laptop that hooks up to a panel of video screens, and I have a satellite image. There’s a dot and name for every soldier. Commanders love it because they always know where their soldiers are,” Damon explained. “We had a soldier injure himself at night last year, because we knew where he was we could get help in a few minutes versus searching for hours.”

The system also works great for volunteers and first responders. He hopes it will catch on in other applications like firefighting, search and rescue and wide area damage assessment.

Koch Industries now Molex’s parent company, has also expressed interest in funding the project under its innovation division.

Today, with help from the XBee-PRO 900HP, Damon always has eyes on his family. He hopes that others will be able to do the same. For a complete look at the system check out the website: pointsgps.com.

This isn’t the first time the XBee has been used to save lives. Draganfly, a drone used by public safety agencies, selected the XBee-PRO 900HP too. After K-9 units were unable to locate a family lost in the woods while hiking, an infrared-equipped Draganflyer X4-ES unit was sent out to locate the family. Five units were purchased by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Nova Scotia and now respond to emergency response calls, crime investigations, traffic scene reconstruction and search and rescue operations. Draganfly is the first recorded civilian small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) to be credited with saving a life.

XBee Tech Tip: Using Remote AT Commands to Toggle an IO on a Remote XBee

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This Tech Tip is brought to you by Digi Applications Engineer Mark Grierson.

Using API mode it is possible to send commands from a transmitting radio to a receiving radio. This allows for module parameter registers on a remote device to be queried or set.

One useful application of this feature is to toggle an IO on a remote radio from a high to a low state. In this manner the radios can be used as a wireless relay to control a wide variety of remote devices.

Overview

In this tutorial we will be using XCTU to create and send 2 distinct API frames. One frame will toggle the remote radio’s IO high, and the other will toggle the remote radio’s IO low. You could easily program a micro or other piece of hardware to issue these commands.

Setup

To perform this tutorial you will require the following materials:

  • 2 – XBee 802.15.4 RF modules.
  • 2 – Interface boards (USB or RS232) *the use of DEV boards (XBIB-U-DEV or XBIB-R-DEV) will allow the use of onboard LEDs to observe output
  • 1 – PC with XCTU software installed. Click here to download.
  • Serial or USB cables to connect interface boards to the PC

Procedure

Select one radio to operate as your Base and one to operate as your Remote.

Both radios are programmed with the default settings with the following exceptions. API is enabled on the Base radio (AP=1), D4=4 on the remote radio

In this example my radios have the following factory set 64 bit addresses:

Base:

SH=0013A200

SL=403199EB

AP=1

Remote:

SH=0013A200

SL=4055F498

D4=4

Connect the base radio to the PC and launch XCTU. Connect the radio to XCTU by clicking on the Add Devices icon and selecting the appropriate com port and settings and clicking finish.

The Radio will now be listed on the left side of XCTU as in the following screenshot.

Open the Console mode of XCTU by clicking on the Console icon.

Open the serial connection with the base radio by selecting the Connect icon.   The image will change to the connected status.

The Console should indicate that it is opn as an API Console.   If it is showing that it is an AT console, return to the module settings tab and ensure API is enabled (AP=1)

In the Send a single frame section open the “Add a frame” dialog box by clicking on the  .  Rename your frame name to Low, then click on the Packet generator icon  to open the packet generator.

We will now use the built in API frames generator to create two remote AT command (type 0x17) frames paying close attention to the structure of this frame as outlined in the API section of the Product manual. One frame will set the remote radios Digital output High and the other will set it Low.

Select “0x17 – Remote AT Command” as the frame type and then set the 64 bit address to the SH and SL of the remote module.  Set the AT command to ASCII D4 and the Parameter value to HEX 04 as in the following screenshot.

*Please note that the command D4 (bytes 17 and 18) is issued as 44 and 34. 34 is the hex equivalent of the ASCII character 4. The parameter value setting for D4 (byte 19) is issued as 04 and 05. This is the hex equivalent of decimal 4 and 5 respectively.

Click OK and the frame contents will appear in the Add API frame to the list dialog box as follows:

Click on Add frame.

Repeat the procedure for your set high frame changing the parameter value to 0x05 and create a second frame with a frame name of High

Click on Add frame.

Your API console should now look something like this:

Here are the frames configured for the address of my radios. Your packets will contain the address of your remote radio and the checksum will be different.

Note: I have chosen to toggle DIO4 as it is connected to LED 3 on the XBIB-DEV board and allows easy viewing of the toggle process without the use of a voltmeter or scope.

Command to set DIO4 high:

7E 00 10 17 01 00 13 A2 00 40 55 F4 98 FF FE 02 44 34 05 95

Command to set DIO4 Low:

7E 00 10 17 01 00 13 A2 00 40 55 F4 98 FF FE 02 44 34 04 96

You can now send the commands to the base radio which will in turn send remote commands to the remote radio to set its digital output D4 (Pin 11). Do this by highlighting the appropriate frame (high or Low) and clicking on “Send selected frame.”

The LED associated with the D4 pin should go off and on as you send these two frames. You may also verify the state by connecting a multi-meter to Pin 11 of the module to check its voltage state as it is toggled from High to low. The pin should read about 3.3v when high and about 0 volts when low.

You can also view and parse the frames and their corresponding response packets in the Frame log section of the display. A status of 0x00 (OK) indicates that the frame was sent successfully and acknowledged by the remote module.

If you do not receive a response frame please check your API packet for accuracy.

Note: This article is written using the XBee 802.15.4 radios but the concepts are applicable to all of the XBee radio lineup that offer API mode.