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.
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:
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 Transit
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 Lighting
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 Charging
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Damon Williams, a sergeant for the Texas State Guard individually created 30 GPS trackers with the XBee-PRO 900HPand 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 1989world 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Maybe 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!
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.
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.”
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
Powered 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.