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Intelligent Edge Connectivity Highlights at Embedded World 2018

Last week at Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany we teamed up with Silicon Labs to showcase smart edge Internet of Things (IoT) technology with simplified integration of cellular IoT connectivity and dramatically reduced development challenges. Built as a heating, ventilation, and air condition (HVAC) reference application, we demonstrated a complete connected system with a local liquid crystal display (LCD) based graphical user interface, temperature sensors, fan, and cloud connectivity for remote monitoring and control.

The Digi XBee3 cellular and Silicon Labs demo in the Digi Booth Hall 3 Booth #518 at Embedded World 2018.

At the heart of the demo is Silicon Labs’ new Giant Gecko Series 1 microcontroller (MCU) driving the local LCD and user buttons for temperature set point control, temperature sensing, and fan control. The system also demonstrates the innovative local distribution of edge intelligence by taking advantage of Micro Python based data transformation capabilities and smart Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) connectivity on the Digi XBee3 Cellular in combination with the Micrium embedded application running on the Silicon Labs MCU. Integrated AWS IoT cloud connectivity allows for remote access and control of the simulated HVAC system by offering mobile set point control and status monitoring.

HVAC systems are a critical component as part of new building automation concepts in smart city applications, residential structures, and industrial buildings, providing intelligent energy management and improved air quality. A connected HVAC system delivers a host of benefits for the end-customer as well as device manufacturers and service organizations:

The Silicon Labs demo in Hall 4A, Booth 128 at Embedded World 2018.Easy Remote Access and Control

Easy Remote Access and Control 

  • Easy and always available management by end-customers
  • Remote troubleshooting for service organizations

Enhanced user experience

  • Self-learning, intelligent comfort settings based on behavior patterns
  • Potential for future cloud services based integration such as conversational user interfaces

Improved operational management and cost

  • Remote firmware upgrade for security updates and new features
  • Centralized data analytics of operational history to optimize equipment performance and provide detailed usage insight
  • Intelligent optimization of cellular connectivity cost through Digi XBee3 smart modem integration

New Service Concepts

  • Improved reliability through preventive maintenance such as early failure detection of a fan or burner
  • Optimized replacement of consumables such as filters

The system is more than just a connected HVAC demo. It also shows how IoT concepts can deliver immediate value and benefit, while providing a platform with built-in potential for new features and capabilities in the future. It also demonstrates the opportunities that are opening up when edge intelligence and cloud intelligence come together and combine the traditional “big data” concept provided by the cloud with “intelligent data” from the edge. Ultimately, this will reduce the amount and improving the quality of “big data” generated by IoT edge devices while also optimizing the scale of local network traffic required to exchange data between the edge and the cloud, including optimizing the cost of the underlying cloud services. All of those are concepts are required to drive scalability and efficiency of virtually every IoT application combined with the massive scale of connected devices we are going to see.

>>Watch the new Digi XBee3 Cellular introduction video to learn more smart-sized cellular IoT connectivity.

Sum of Smarts: Security, Reliability, Certifications & ROI

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Digi XBee3’s smart security, reliability and certifications all add up to the very smartest return on your investment. While you’re speeding your product to market with your mind at ease, you’re also delivering more funds to the bottom line. Products built with Digi XBee3 can be released sooner and will run more smoothly, creating revenue earlier while greatly reducing costs over the long-term. Here’s how it all adds up in your favor:

Smart Security

Digi XBee3 offers comprehensive security with flexible options to match your application’s needs. Digi TrustFence™ is a suite of security features that provides system protection, authentication and data privacy inside every Digi XBee3.

  • Secure Boot ensures that only properly signed and authorized firmware will run on your modules. Any attempt to load non-approved firmware will fail immediately since firmware is checked both during initial installation and at every runtime.
  • Authentication services are available for both data and device identity to ensure that only your actual devices can send their real data into your system, with rouge devices or modified data locked out by default. Secure Connections encrypt your data in transit and ensure data integrity over the air.
  • Electronic security must always be combined with physical security so that physical access to a single device can’t supply access to your entire network. Digi XBee3’s Protected Ports harden and control access to I/O ports preventing local intrusion and keeping your security keys and private information locked down even when your device can’t be.
  • That physical protection doesn’t stop on the outside. By implementing Secured Storage, Digi XBee3 performs file system level encryption so that sensitive information stays private no matter what. The security landscape is constantly changing, so Digi’s security team constantly evaluates new risks and can quickly supply authorized firmware updates to address any emerging concerns. Digi XBee3’s built-in smart security speeds development, protects deployments and ensures your organization can stay focused on what it does best.

Smart Reliability

Great IoT solutions are always available, always up-to-date and always accurate. Digi XBee3 delivers the whole package, with predictable high-quality manufacturing you can depend on, and long product lifecycles all from a stable partner. Smart Reliability is designed into Digi XBee3 on many levels. Modules communicate reliably right out of the box to help speed the evaluation process as well as providing a known reliable state to fall back on throughout development.

  • Standards-Based – Standard physical and electrical pinouts and a common command set mean that your code and designs work reliably even when supporting multiple protocols. It also means that Digi XBee3 will operate reliably on a variety of development boards available from third-party vendors in addition to the standard reference models provided by Digi International.
  • Mesh Networking – Connection reliability features are provided for all Digi XBee3 variants. Mesh protocols such as DigiMesh and ZigBee offer reliable ad-hoc network creation in a self-healing mesh, so that no unit ever becomes a single point of failure.
  • Digi SureLink™ – Cellular connections stay dependable with automatic retries, connection monitoring and cloud-level alerts so your staff is informed of any outages in the network before your customers are even aware. All Digi XBee3 modules come with a full one-year warranty from a company that’s provided reliable, award-winning communications equipment for over 30 years.

Smart Certifications

Digi XBee3 modules carry international end-device certifications to permit implementation around the globe, often without any further efforts. This can save months of time, tens of thousands in expenditures and help lock down delivery dates. In many cases, Digi XBee3 can be properly included in a product simply by following labeling guidelines, with no additional testing or confirmation required. This will have a direct impact on the bottom line and help maintain focus on building great product rather than struggling to satisfy regulators.

Smart ROI

Let’s do the math. Smart Security + Smart Reliability + Smart Certifications equals the Smartest ROI. Having each of these features built in to Digi XBee3 lowers your non-recurring engineering (NRE) costs while speeding time to market. Faster to market means faster to revenue. You’ll be spending less to get to market sooner. Smart Reliability protects your investment in the field, improving service while reducing or eliminating maintenance expenses. Smart Security deploys quickly and prevents unwanted disruptions, keeping customers happy and revenue flowing unimpeded. Smart Programmability can eliminate unneeded external components and dramatically reduce data costs. Smart Power management allows smaller and less costly batteries to do the work of larger more expensive ones. It also extends battery replacement cycles, lowering ongoing maintenance expenses. You can see why we call Digi XBee3 smart!

Use Case

Here’s an example showing how all of this comes together:

Modern vehicles use electronic networks to communicate between components inside your car. For example, a speed sensor near the transmission sends digitized data over the car’s onboard network to an electronic speedometer display—mechanical connections are a thing of the past. Nearly everything in the car communicates with data, from the gas pedal to the windows. All this data is available through standardized ports, though the format and features vary by manufacturer and model.

A technology startup wants to connect car owners with all the electronic data being generated by their vehicle. They specify a cellular-connected product that sends data from the vehicle’s standard OBD-II port to the cloud. The data must be kept secure in transit, with cloud server access keys stored on the device. Their investors need to see revenue as quickly as possible, therefore development must be fast, and certification delays should be eliminated to meet the schedule and budget. The device should be unobtrusive so components need to be small. Depending upon region and carrier, different cellular modules will be required, so common physical and electronic footprints are mandatory. The automotive environment is challenging; therefore high reliability is essential to product success. Watch this video for more Digi XBee3 Cellular use cases explained:

Digi XBee3 Cellular is the perfect fit. It is already end-device certified so governmental and carrier approval is in place, saving perhaps 3 months on the development schedule. The Digi XBee3 standard command set and API frames, along with its supporting libraries speed up the code-writing and debugging process tremendously. Digi TrustFence security is built right in, including both the SSL/TLS encryption and the secure storage required for protecting cloud authentication keys on the device itself. The common device footprint makes swapping protocols a breeze. Changing an LTE Cat 1 solution to 3G or NB-IoT is as simple as plugging in a new module. The Smart Size and flexible antenna options all help keep the device itself unobtrusive, a plus for customer satisfaction. The whole solution is backed up by Digi’s ongoing reliability and security monitoring efforts, as well as the company’s long product life cycles that protect against component obsolescence. Now drivers can read vehicle diagnostics and also gain access to customizing button-press audio feedback, improving engine tuning or even creating their own remote ignition system. This startup is on its way to getting the best return on their innovation investment–because Digi XBee3 summed up to being the Smartest solution.

>>Check out this latest whitepaper for more advantages of Digi XBee3 Cellular.

FEFEL Develops Smart Foodservice Solution

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An innovative Swiss company, FELFEL, has changed the way their employees eat at work with access to high-quality food on-demand. FELFEL developed a complete, innovative solution that enables employees to choose from fresh and affordable meal options such as “Pollo alla Siciliana” or “Satay Chicken Noodles” instead of boring or non-nutritious meals. Employees can access these meals by simply scanning their badge to unlock the wooden cased refrigerator, selecting their item to scan, and can their manage account details through a web application.

To design its food service solution, they chose the Digi ConnectCore 6 single-board computer to speed time to market by eliminating the traditional risk, effort and complexity of custom board designs without sacrificing flexibility or capabilities. “Many companies in Switzerland are in isolated office parks or remote areas, and the options are limited to vending machines,” said Fah Yik Yong, tech developer at FELFEL. “It all starts with great food choices, of course. But we also wanted to create a custom solution that delivers fresh food with a unique user experience.”

Using 4G LTE technology, FELFEL can pre-plan inventory using real time data that is sent to a central location at its headquarters. This innovative food service solution has already been installed in over 80 locations across Switzerland and Liechtenstein with plans to continue to expand.

>>Read the full customer success story here.

Seven Segment Display with Digi XBee

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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Assemble the Parts
  3. Configure the Radio
  4. Wire up the Circuit
  5. Use it!

1) Introduction

Number communicate clearly. With a simple 7-segment numeric display you can show how many, how much, which one or when with precision. It’s a snap to display numbers wirelessly with an Digi XBee radio.

The Digi XBee directly drives a simple numeric display, and that’s often all a project needs. For example, here’s some characters you can show in seven segments, (click the image to see even more possibilities):

The numbers can be small or huge. For applications that require extensive text, check out our LCD text display example for rich communications. Otherwise when simple numbers and letters fit the bill, here’s how to get ’em….

Digi XBee3: Go Smaller, Run Longer

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The new Digi XBee3 smart modules offer reduced size and weight with increased battery life in plenty of options, all from a reliable partner you can trust. These let Digi XBee3 go smaller, run longer and work smarter while retaining rock-solid stability. It’s perfect for IoT devices that need to be compact, mobile and ultra-efficient.

Digi XBee3 can fit almost anywhere. With a new Micro SMT footprint of just 13mm x 19mm it occupies less than a third of the original XBee form factor. To maintain full compatibility, it is also available in the original Digi XBee through-hole and surface-mount packages, so that even customers who integrated Digi XBee when it first came out can continue to source components that fit their original PCBs. Choose between three standard form factors:

  • Through-hole for maximum flexibility & third-party socket compatibility
  • SMT standard-size for lower cost, greater I/O and backwards-compatible footprint
  • Micro for lowest size, weight and cost to support mobility and maximize ROI

Size, Weight, & Power

Digi XBee3 supports three different antenna types so that you can choose the right solution for your project. Need maximum simplicity? Choose an onboard chip antenna that requires no additional components and works great from inside a non-metallic enclosure. Should you need greater flexibility in positioning your antenna, choose a standard U.FL connector that supports a slew of external and specialty antennas, especially useful if your device lives in a metal box. Finally, if you are creating a PCB trace antenna or simply want an antenna connector someplace else, there’s the RF pad option that enables routing antenna signal to anywhere on your circuit board. Digi XBee3 offers a wide range of alternatives in a tiny package.

Going small means going mobile, and going mobile usually means taking power with you in the form of a battery. You’ll want this battery to be pretty tiny too, and that creates a challenge. Smaller batteries have less capacity, and therefore require more frequent recharging or replacement unless power is properly controlled. Digi helps you meet this challenge with lots of options for managing power to ensure that even small batteries can have long lives. In simple solutions where power is not constrained your Digi XBee3 can remain active all the time. However, when running with a limited power budget it’s most effective to put the device to “sleep” so that it can minimize power use during the downtime. Digi XBee3 supports an external sleep control so that a host device can put the Digi XBee3 to sleep when it’s not needed and wake it when it is. An internal cyclic sleep timer is also available when there’s no host device, like for simple sensor applications that wake every few minutes to transmit a new reading then going back to sleep. Finally, the business rules engine in MicroPython can create programmatic power control for extra, application-specific savings. Most protocols offered on Digi XBee3 also support different levels of sleep, from a deep sleep that uses almost no energy to lighter sleep modes when faster wake times are required. Digi XBee3 knows that getting good sleep is a key to staying smart.

Digi XBee3 Use Case

18.8 million people live with diabetes and many want their doctor to effectively monitor their blood glucose levels without losing any of their independence. They need a blood glucose monitor that is remotely accessible anytime, anywhere. Naturally they’d like it to be lightweight and portable with terrific battery life.

Digi XBee3 has everything required. The module’s smart size and feather weight helps match the glucose monitor to active lifestyles. Power management from the XBee3 ensures it only uses what’s absolutely necessary—extending the period between recharges without degrading the user’s experience. Digi XBee3 enhanced portable and wearable medical devices have the power to send automated updates, notifications and alerts to medical professionals or patients’ loved ones as their health status changes. These solutions empower patients to preventatively monitor their health and improve their overall quality of life while providing peace of mind for their loved ones. Doctors also benefit by making better decisions when patient data is easily and securely accessible in real-time. By fitting in a pocket and needing only infrequent charging, the Digi XBee3-enabled glucose monitor pleases patients and improves their outcomes while reducing overall costs.

This is just one of many ways that Digi XBee3’s small size, power savings and implementation flexibility helps create solutions that are reliable, cost-effective and smart.

>>Want to try these smarts on for size? Here is a ZigBee Mesh Kit to get you started.


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Sum of Smarts Featuring: Modularity and Programmability

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Digi XBee3™ IoT modules go straight to the head of the class. One reason is outstanding flexibility. A single socket allows you to connect with IoT networks around the globe. Digi XBee3 pin-compatible footprints support multiple protocols and unified command frameworks while retaining superior implementation flexibility. As new protocols emerge, Digi XBee3 series will offer them using these same pin-outs, future-proofing your designs. Digi XBee3 also features programmable on-board intelligence. By creating applications on your Digi XBee3 using its MicroPython framework, you can implement business rules for money-saving solutions like intelligent bandwidth control, dynamic power conservation or full outage management. New behaviors can be dynamically implemented over the air so as your business changes, your solution can rise to meet the challenge.


Digi XBee3 currently lets you choose between eight different protocols, and easily change between them without learning new command frameworks, writing new code or even changing your board layout. They include:

  • 802.15.4 for point-to-multipoint local connections
  • ZigBee 3.0 for creating interoperable mesh networks
  • DigiMesh for fast, single-source mesh solutions
  • Cellular for gateway-free applications worldwide including:
    • 3G for legacy compatibility
    • LTE Cat 1 for modern connections
    • LTE-M for lower data needs and improved power management
    • NB-IoT when only minimal cellular bandwidth is required.

Plus, Bluetooth Low Energy is coming soon as a dual-mode add-on protocol for the entire Digi XBee3 line, enabling connections to external wireless sensors and smartphones.

Choice of Command Sets
Configure any way you like. Digi XBee3 offers four interchangeable methods for handling configurations, commands and communications. For easy access to the full configuration, all Digi XBee3 models support AT commands that can be issued from any serial terminal program. For structured interactions with microcontrollers and external devices, every Digi XBee3 supports a standard frame-based API that’s perfect for machine-to-machine transactions. Local configuration is made easy with the graphical user interface provided by Digi’s XCTU software, and remote configuration is enabled from the cloud using Digi Remote Manager. No matter which you choose, the command frameworks are all the same.

Unified Frameworks
All Digi XBee3 AT commands and API frames are standardized across all form factors and protocols. All commands work the same way across all modules, with protocol differences kept to a minimum so that changing between modules is as quick and transparent as possible.

Choice of Gateways
Certain protocols require gateways to connect to the Internet. Digi offers a variety of Wi-Fi, Ethernet and Cellular Digi XBee3 Gateways for use with XBee3 in both commercial and industrial-rated packages. Third party gateways can easily be developed around Digi’s ConnectCore® 6UL embedded platform, or using a custom platform of your own design.




Modules in the Digi XBee3 series all run applications written in MicroPython, an embedded variant of the popular Python programming language. There are so many great reasons for intelligence at the edge:

  • Saving bandwidth costs by only sending useful data
  • Saving battery and replacement costs by using only the power that your application requires
  • Controlling local behaviors dynamically without the cost of unnecessary cloud connections
  • Managing directly connected sensors and actuators, to keep simple projects simple
  • Allowing devices to behave intelligently during communication outages
  • Caching data locally during network outages, then sending it immediately as soon as connectivity returns
  • Adapting to changing business needs by securely accepting new behaviors over the air
  • Testing and debugging deployed applications by dynamically modifying code over-the-air
  • Addressing host device problems from the cloud rather than paying for needless truck rolls

Programmability doesn’t live on its own of course, it takes an ecosystem. Digi XBee3 has the tools and resources you need including full documentation online, software development environments, sample code, example programs, training and open-source expandability. Let your imagination run wireless!

Use Case

How can programmability at the edge can make a difference in real-world IoT systems? Outdoor municipal street lighting is a perfect example. Street lights typically use considerable energy and government maintenance resources. Lights shine brightly all night, whether or not anyone is even in the area. When a streetlight malfunctions, repairs depend upon citizen reports, which may not occur for days or even months after an initial failure. This is a big problem, and just the type that can benefit from intelligence at the edge.

With Digi XBee3 wireless modules, the behaviors needed to improve energy use, reliability and safety can be installed right inside every streetlight. Apps running on each Digi XBee3 module can process motion sensor inputs and intelligently set that streetlight’s brightness accordingly. For example, while a street is unoccupied, lighting can be dimmed to 50%, then smoothly increased to 90% whenever a pedestrian or bicycle’s motion is detected. Since the application runs locally on Digi XBee3, no cloud communication or external microcontrollers are required. This improves reliability while keeping bandwidth and system costs low, at the same time saving so much energy that the system pays for itself. If a streetlight malfunctions, its neighbors can detect the outage locally and increase their own brightness to compensate. This level of safety can be maintained even through network outages, very important during major storms. Naturally the Digi XBee3 application will report outages to the cloud as soon as possible, so that maintenance can begin immediately. Municipalities can test out new ideas by loading upgraded application code to a subset of streetlights as a pilot, before deploying the new code to the entire city.

In this street lighting application, Digi XBee3’s programmability enables energy savings, improves customer service, maintains reliability and reduces maintenance costs while providing a clear path forward for innovation. It can revolutionize your systems in the same way.

>>Want to learn more? Check out this latest whitepaper Wireless Future: Partnering for What Comes Next

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How to Choose the Right Antenna for Your IoT Application

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Antennas come in many shapes and sizes, for many different uses. Some are attached externally to the product for the correct functionality, while others must be designed into the end device so it is both invisible and functional. For example, if you have a device enclosed in a metal box, like a router, your antenna is going to be connected externally. For a mobile device or wearable, however, you probably want a smaller antenna that is built into the internal design. The types of antennas for these different applications vary not only due to size and placement, but also properties and functionality.

In this post, we’ve provided an overview of the most prevalent antenna types and their common IoT applications. Note that most categories of antennas have several sub-types. Additionally, the topic of antennas can quickly get into deep technical detail and mathematical formulas, which is beyond the scope of this post. . If you need further assistance with your antenna selection, our Wireless Design Services team can help.

Topics in this blog

  1. Dipole Antennas
  2. Monopole Antennas
  3. Loop Antennas
  4. Helical Antennas
  5. Patch Antennas
  6. Slot Antennas

1) Dipole Antennas

Dipole antennas are omni-directional, which means they radiate signals in all directions on at least one plane. They are typically large since they are half wavelength structures. This amounts to about 6 inches in length for cellular antennas. These antennas are nearly always used externally, such as for metal box devices like routers and gateways. They may ship with the device or may need to be ordered separately.

Properties of Dipole Antennas

Dipole antennas are very efficient antennas with a consistent performance, omni-directional radiation pattern, and reliable polarization. A dipole antenna has a radiation pattern that is not dependent on the size of the box or the ground plane.  This is accomplished because the dipole has balanced currents on both antenna arms resulting in little current flow on the ground plane or chassis. The radiation pattern looks like a donut with most of the energy being emitted from the broadside of the antenna. The antenna isolates itself from the metal box (chassis), which acts as the ground plane.

Common Applications for Dipole Antennas

Use a dipole antenna when you need to talk in all directions (omni-directional) and don’t know the location of the receiving link. Common applications for dipole antennas include cellular and Wi-Fi applications; there are different dipole models for each of these communication types. (Dipole has limited bandwidth, so different lengths are required for difference frequency bands.) The dipole antenna will work well for an external antenna mounted on a metal enclosure, regardless of the enclosure size. Metal enclosures are very common with industrial applications in harsh environments and external antennas are a near certainty under these constraints. Also, due to their high efficiency and consistent radiation pattern, labs often use dipoles for reference antennas to calibrate antenna measurement systems.

5 Big Blockchain Concepts to Understand for IoT and Security Applications

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Despite the popular belief, blockchain is not the universal remedy for security applications but its future potential to improve IoT security and robustness should not be discredited. During a recent depth Q&A IoT technology expert, Scott Nelson, and a Blockchain security expert, discussed the world of cyber security. Below are five facts to understand about Blockchain security:

  1. Private blockchains are unlikely to offer economic advantage over existing key-based secure databases.
  2. Blockchain works in trustless applications, but with the security comes transparency that can limit utility.
  3. Blockchain works well for data streams that do not change, e.g. time-based temperature and shock experience of a thing, but developers must remember that the robustness of the distributed ledger comes at the expense of flexibility.
  4. Proof-of-stake is more likely to be the right approach to managing a ledger for IoT due to the cost and complexity of proof-of-work used in cryptocurrencies.
  5. Authentication and authorization are not part of blockchain and have to be added and curated to implement a blockchain-based application. The promise of automated transactions from blockchain will only be realized with the addition of authentication and authorization techniques.

These are just 5 key considerations when evaluating Blockchain. Clearly blockchain is not the security panacea that one may perceive from the hype, but it also has some strong attributes that will be valuable to some IoT applications.

>>For a full Q&A on this topic of Blockchain click here.

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