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What Are the Differences Between DigiMesh® and ZigBee® Mesh?

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Mesh networking is a powerful way to route data over an RF network. Range is extended by allowing data to hop node to node and reliability and resiliency is increased by “self-healing,” or the ability to create alternate paths when one node fails or a connection is lost.

One popular mesh networking protocol is ZigBee®, which is specifically designed for low-data rate, low-power applications. Digi offers several products based on the ZigBee protocol. Additionally, Digi has developed a similar mesh protocol named DigiMesh®. Both ZigBee and DigiMesh offer unique advantages important to different applications. The following chart highlights these differences:

ZigBee® Mesh DigiMesh®
Node types and their benefits Multiple: Coordinators, Routers, End Devices. End devices can sometimes be less expensive because of reduced functionality. Single: One homogeneous node type, with more flexibility to expand the network. DigiMesh simplifies network setup and reliability in
environments where routers may come and go due to interference or damage.
Battery Deployed Networks Coordinators and routers must be mains powered All nodes are capable of battery operation and can sleep. No single point of failure associated with relying on a gateway or coordinator to
maintain time synchronization.
Over-the-air firmware updates Yes Yes
Range Most ZigBee devices have range of less than 2 miles (3.2 km) for each hop. Available on XBee SX with range of up to 40+ miles for each hop.
Frame payload and throughput Up to 80 bytes. Up to 256 bytes, depending on product. Improves throughput for applications that send larger blocks of data.
Supported frequencies and RF data rates Predominantly 2.4 GHz (250 kbps) 900 MHz (Up to 250 Kbps), 2.4 GHz (Up to 250 Kbps)
Security 128-bit AES encryption. Can lock down the network and prevent other nodes from joining. Both 128 and 256-bit AES encryption. Can lock down the network and prevent other nodes from joining.
Interoperability Potential for interoperability between vendors. Digi proprietary
Interference tolerance Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS). 900 MHz: Frequency-Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS). 2.4GHz: Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS).
Addressing Two layers. MAC address (64 bit) and Network address (16 bit). MAC address (64 bit) only.
Maintenance More sniffers and diagnostic tools available on market. Simpler addressing can help in diagnosing problems and setting up a network.

For more information on DigiMesh and Digi XBee click here.

Introducing XCTU 6.3

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A new version of everyone’s favorite XBee configuration software, XCTU, is here! Among a few small updates like a refreshed look and feel, UI enhancements, and minor bug fixes, the XBee team has introduced three brand new features to the software. Here’s a look at what you’ll find in XCTU 6.3.


Command Line Interface Support
New to XCTU is Command Line Interface (CLI) Support. Now, users can execute the application in CLI mode without the graphic interface. This is primarily useful for scripting and automation purposes when managing large scale XBee deployments. The following features are supported within CLI mode:

  • List ports – A list of serial and USB ports can be retrieved in
    command line mode.xctu_welcome
  • Update firmware – Firmware of any radio device can be updated in this
    mode.
  • Load profile – Now it is possible to load profiles to connected
    devices through the CLI of XCTU.

Spectrum Analyzer
From within the XCTU interface, users can test and measure the spectrum of the radio’s band. The analysis displays average, maximum, and minimum values of each channel. This is helpful to determine which channel to set your XBee radios to and troubleshoot network issues.

Throughput Tool
With the Throughput Tool users can measure the maximum transfer ratio from one radio module to another within the same network. The tool provides three session modes and several payload configuration options to test different combinations and understand the performance of your wireless network.

Download
If you haven’t already updated from within XCTU, just click here to download the software to your computer. Have fun and if you have questions feel free to tweet us at @XBeeWireless.

XBee Tech Tip: Using the XCTU Spectrum Analyzer Tool

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XCTU 6.3 features a brand new Spectrum Analyzer tool. This makes it possible to measure and test the spectrum using only an XBee radio. The tool generates a report of the noise level for each channel within the radio’s frequency band. With these data points, XBee users can select the optimal channel for their XBee network and troubleshoot network issues.

In this XBee Tech Tip, we’ll take a look at how to run the Spectrum Analyzer tool. Below is a quick screencast that takes you through adding the XBee device to XCTU to running a spectrum analysis and sorting through the data points collected. The video is followed with more information on the tool such as configuring the test and analyzing the network noise levels.

To get started, first access the tool by selecting it from the Tools drop down menu.

Device selection
The first section of the tool contains the device selection control populated with the devices that you have added to XCTU. Select the radio module you want to use to perform the analysis.

Analysis Configuration
The analysis configuration panel is located next to the device selection control. This section allows you to configure the spectrum analysis process:
This is the list of available settings:Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 8.57.25 AM

  • Sampling interval (ms): Determines the time to wait in milliseconds before reading a new noise level sample of the RF channels.
  • Number of samples: Check this option to configure the number of samples to read in the spectrum analysis session.
  • Loop infinitely: Check this option to read samples infinitely until the spectrum analysis session is stopped manually.

When you have configured all the options, click Start Spectrum Analysis button to start reading samples and measure the noise level of each RF channel. You can manually stop the analysis at any time by pressing the same button, now displaying the text Stop Spectrum Analysis.

Data Presentation
When an analysis is started, the chart and channels list are filled with all the RF channels supported by the selected device. Note: the list of supported channels may vary depending on the device type and device region.

Channel Chart
This chart represents the noise level of all the RF channels. Each channel displays 1 bar with the current noise level and two tick marks representing the maximum noise level (green) and the minimum one (red).

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 4.20.16 PM

A blue line is also added to the chart indicating the average noise level of all channels. The spectrum analysis refreshes the noise levels of each channel continuously until the analysis ends or it is stopped.

Along the bottom of the chart, users can filter to hide or display the bars, the max and min noise values and the average noise level line.

Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 4.20.32 PM

Once the spectrum analysis reaches the specified number of samples or is stopped, you can click on each channel to get specific values (seen above). This control displays the current noise level of a channel as well as its average, maximum and minimum noise level.

The Spectrum Analyzer feature supports Digi radios with the following protocols:

  • ZigBee (S2C Modules)
  • 802.15.4
  • DigiMesh
  • XTend Legacy
  • XTend DigiMesh
  • Digi Point

What do you want to learn next?
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

XCTU 6.2 – Linux Support and More

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If you’ve opened up XCTU recently you may have noticed a prompt to update. Among many performance upgrades, version 6.2 of XCTU has a variety of new features and most importantly we now support Linux!Linux

Here are the release notes for XCTU 6.2:

Serial Console Tool
The Serial Console tool has been included within the Tools drop-down menu of the main toolbar. This tool allows you to interact with your radio modules without having to discover and add them to the list of radio modules.

  • Added a control in the consoles toolbar to see and manage the serial port flow control lines.
  • Added a new recording feature to XCTU consoles that allows you to record all the sent and received data in a log file with CSV format.
  • Status icon of consoles tabs now changes depending on the status of the console to display the following actions: connected, disconnected, sending and receiving data.

API Console Frames Filter 
Added a new frames filtering option in the API console in order to filter the frames of the table. This allows you to filter down to specific packet types and even look at packets being sent or received from a specific device on your XBee network.

Firmware Release Notes Viewer
Included a new feature that allows users to explore and read the Release Notes of the released XBee firmwares in all the firmware list controls.

Documentation Updated With More Graphics and Video
We’ve also done a massive overhaul of our documentation which includes step-by-step walkthroughs of each feature as well as some videos like this one on updating firmware:


With XCTU documentation being moved to an online system we can guarantee up to date information and facilitate its access outside XCTU. Additionally, a PDF copy has been included in the tool, so you can access the documentation while working without an internet connection. Click here to access the new resource.

Download
If you haven’t already updated from within XCTU, or you’re a Linux user that has patiently waited for XCTU, just click here to download the software to your computer. Have fun!

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

The Next Generation of XCTU

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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.

XCTU: Next Generation Configuration Platform for XBee

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XCTU is a free multi-platform application designed to enable developers to interact with XBee RF modules through a simple-to-use graphical interface. It includes new tools that make it easy to setup, configure and test XBee.

Unique features like graphical network view, which graphically represents the XBee network along with the signal strength of each connection, and the XBee API frame builder, which intuitively helps to build and interpret API frames for XBee modules being used in API mode, combine to make development on the XBee platform easier than ever.

  • Multi-platform application compatible with Windows and MacOS
  • Graphical Network View for simple wireless network configuration and architecture
  • API Frame Builder development tool for quickly building XBee API frames
  • Module Discovery mechanism enables automatic discovery of modules connected to your PC
  • Device Cloud by Etherios-integrated, allowing configuration and management of XBee devices anywhere in the world

Download XCTU

Other highlights of XCTU include the following features:

  • You can manage and configure multiple RF devices, even remotely (over-the-air) connected devices.
  • The firmware update process seamlessly restores your module settings, automatically handling mode and baud rate changes.
  • Two specific API and AT consoles, have been designed from scratch to communicate with your radio devices.
  • You can now save your console sessions and load them in a different PC running XCTU.
  • XCTU includes a set of embedded tools that can be executed without having any RF module connected:
    • Frames generator: Allows you to easily generate any kind of API frame to save its value.
    • Frames  interpreter: With this tool you can decode an API frame and see its specific frame values.
    • Recovery: Allows you to recover radio modules which have damaged firmware or are in programming mode.
    • Load console session: This tool allows you to load a console session saved in any PC running XCTU.
    • Range test: Gives you the ability to perform a range test between 2 radio modules of the same network.
    • Firmware explorer: With this tool you can navigate through XCTU’s firmware library.
  • An update process allows you to automatically update the application itself and the radio firmware library without needing to download any extra files.
  • XCTU contains complete and comprehensive documentation which can be accessed at any time.

Download XCTU here and learn more about XBee RF modules here.

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