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Design for LPWA with LTE Cat 1 Today. Ready for LTE-M and NB-IoT Networks Tomorrow.

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Build for Today
LTE Cat 1 is a critical cellular technology for low-power, low-bandwidth IoT deployments. While it supports data rates of 10Mbps Downlink / 5Mbps Uplink, it’s not optimal for higher bandwidth applications that require streaming data or large file transfers. LTE Cat 3 or 4 are better suited for applications that require high data rates and are (typically) mains powered, with support for speeds up to 150Mbps Downlink / 50Mbps Uplink. LTE Cat 1, on the other hand, is a great option for LPWA applications that require low-power consumption and transmit smaller amounts of data less frequently. LTE Cat 1 is fully available across North America, so it can be used in customer applications immediately with confidence. With the Digi XBee Cellular and its industry-leading sub-10uA Deep Sleep functionality, OEMs can design their LPWA devices to work with existing LTE Cat 1 infrastructure today, and in the future drop in an ultra-low power Digi XBee LTE-M or NB-IoT (or even LoRa) with little to no hardware or software re-design required.

Ready for Tomorrow
LTE-M and NB-IoT promise to improve range by 4-7x while further enhancing battery life up to 10 years, with significantly lower hardware and data plan costs. However, these new networks are not yet fully deployed and available – carriers are in the early stages of upgrading their infrastructure, with plans to have full service availability that includes new advanced power management features like PSM and eDRX by the end of 2017. It’s a good strategy for OEMs to start LPWA implementations today leveraging LTE Cat 1, allowing a seamless transition to LTE-M and/or NB-IoT as they become fully available in the future.

The Digi XBee line of wireless solutions maintains a consistent hardware footprint, standard pin-out connections and award-winning software interface across a wide variety of communications protocols. They include ZigBee, 802.15.4, DigiMesh, Wi-Fi, as well as longer-range proprietary (100+ kilometer) solutions. Digi XBees manufactured over a decade ago remain hardware and software compatible with the latest XBee products, including the new Digi XBee Cellular LTE Cat 1. Digi’s XBee LTE-M and NB-IoT modems will deliver these new technologies in a fully backwards-compatible and future-proof platform. This is the Digi XBee™ Cellular advantage.

Planning a LPWA solution that needs to work as well in the future as it does today? Digi XBee Cellular LTE Cat 1 is the only modem on the market with the track record to truly connect with confidence.

>>Learn how to buy a Digi XBee Cellular Development Kit today with six months of free data.

Digi XBee Cellular Versus Rudimentary Cellular Breakout Boards

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The Digi XBee Cellular represents a quantum leap ahead of the typical breakout boards on the market today in terms of features, functionality, and ease of development. A breakout board “breaks out” the pins of an underlying cellular module onto a printed circuit board giving you access to use the pins, but little or no additional functionality. Some breakout boards include end-device certification, a SIM slot, and a simple power supply and antenna connector. But, the designer is left having to design in an external microcontroller to manage the module, integrate security elements into their design, and other complex development tasks.

Unlike these breakout boards, Digi XBee Cellular hardware is fully integrated with an on-board cellular module, ARM Cortex M3 microcontroller, power regulator, and security chip, all packed into a compact 24.4 x 32.9mm Digi XBee through-hole footprint. This enables a number of useful features on Digi XBee Cellular that are not available on other cellular modules or breakout boards:

Digi XBee software interface
This runs on the on-board micro-controller and provides an abstraction layer for software designers, including a common AT command interface for configuration and control, an API mode for external devices to intelligently communicate with the XBee, and a transparent serial mode for simple ‘transparent’ communications through the UART, over the cellular network, to the destination IP address or phone number.

Future-Proof design
Digi XBee software interface is consistent across all current and future XBees, and they all share the same Digi XBee footprint. This means it will be easy to drop new wireless technologies into your design as they roll out – technologies like LTE-M, NB-IoT or even LoRa.

• Digi’s easy to use (and free) XCTU software
This software enables you to configure, test, and manage your devices with an intuitive user interface.

• Deep Sleep Mode
In this mode, Digi XBee Cellular consumes less than 10uA. This feature can be configured as cyclic sleep, or pin activated sleep. Other breakout boards support ‘low power modes’ that draw significantly more power.

• Trustfence™ Security Features
These include Secure Boot, SSL/TLS 1.2, Encrypted Storage, and Protected JTAG interface.

• NEW! On-board programmability via MicroPython
Developers will have their own application sandbox directly on the Digi XBee Cellular modem. This enables on-board intelligence for simple sensor/actuator applications, using the digital and analog I/O.

When considering embedded cellular connectivity, it is important consider all of the additional components and work involved in using a breakout board. If time to market and ease of use are vital to your project check out the Digi XBee Cellular development kit which includes a Digi XBee end-device certified modem, a development board, a pre-activated SIM with a live data plan and 6 months of free data service, and the antennas and accessories needed to get cellular up and running in a matter of minutes!

>>Click here to learn more about Digi XBee Cellular.

Bring Your Own Cellular Network

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Connecting to an on-premise network for retail terminals in third party environments may seem like a great idea. It’s probably free to use and easy to set up. That is until something goes wrong.

Digi Product Manager, Andrew Lund, outlines the risks in using third-party networks, and why bringing your own LTE connection is a more secure, reliable, and scalable solution that’s easy to install.

Watch the video below to learn more.

Do you have a topic you’d like to see an Internet of Things expert cover? Let us know in the comments below.

5 Myths About Cellular Carrier Certification

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The following is an excerpt from a recent guest post in Electronic Design’s ‘11 Myths’ series, from Digi Principal RF Engineer, Matthew Schellin. In it, Matthew discusses some common myths about cellular carrier certification to avoid.

1. FCC testing is all that we need for the device

The certification requirements for each carrier are very specific. Although they sometimes adhere to certain Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requirements, they typically include specifications that are unique to each specific network.

2. We don’t need to go through PTCRB certification because we’re using a PTCRB-certified module

Modules can be PTCRB-certified. When a device integrates such a module, the device will still be required to go through PTCRB testing. The process will test the interfaces that changed between the approval of the module and the device under test (DUT). These typically include the SIM card, power supply, and antenna (OTA) interfaces. PTCRB testing for products that contain pre-certified modules includes RSIC and radiated spurious emissions (RSE).

3. As long as we follow the module reference design, we will have low risk of failing certification

Following the reference design will help with certification, but doesn’t necessarily eliminate the risk of failing certification. The surrounding circuitry will affect the performance of the module. Noise from power supplies, cables, or LCD screens has been shown to produce noise in the cellular band that will impact sensitivity levels and lead to certification failures.

4. Our device already has FCC certification, so we can add cellular capability without any issues

FCC certification doesn’t guarantee carrier certification. Some of the things carrier certifications focus on aren’t covered by FCC certification, including RSIC and TIS levels.

5. Our device is certified on one carrier, so we’re good to get onto any carrier network

Each carrier is unique and will have a different set of requirements to meet before the product is allowed on their network. Some carriers care primarily about PTCRB certification and less about factors such as TIS; some require additional testing for Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks; some rely on FCC compliance for RSE testing and others don’t go that route. It’s critical that designers and engineers are aware of the most up-to-date information on each carrier’s requirements.

>>To learn more, read the full article here


What are the Differences Between LTE-M and NB-IoT Cellular Protocols?

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New cellular protocols are set to roll out in 2017 to provide low power and low cost cellular connectivity for industrial Internet of Things applications. Digi Chief Innovator, Rob Faludi, explains both LTE-M and NB-IoT low bandwidth protocols by breaking down the differences between the two and sharing some examples of their use in industrial applications.

Watch the video to learn more and get started with cellular connectivity today with the Digi XBee Cellular Development Kit.

Do you have a topic you’d like to see an Internet of Things expert cover? Let us know in the comments below.

What’s in a Name? Sorting Out the Alphabet Soup of 3GPP Cellular Naming Conventions

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The 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) is a global consortium of various telecommunications associations. In the late 1990s, the 3GPP was organized to establish 3G cellular specifications based on evolved Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) specifications within the scope of the International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 project of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Since then the scope of 3GPP standards have expanded to cover 4G LTE and evolving standards like LTE Cat 3, LTE Cat 4 and LTE Cat 1. Carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, and Vodafone are rapidly rolling out networks for LTE-M and NB-IoT.

Let’s sort it out:

Example Applications for Narrowband Cellular
These new narrowband standards have made cellular relevant for applications that only need to connect once in a while and send small packets of data. The makers of remotely deployed sensors and equipment that operates in far flung places, often running on battery or solar power, now have a cellular connectivity option. Digi XBee Cellular simplifies embedded cellular connectivity by reducing or eliminating the time and cost of development and certification to incorporate cellular technology into a wide array of applications.

  • Lighting for streets and parking lots – centrally manage and control city-wide networks of street lights.
  • Oil & Gas and industrial process controls – keep an eye on remote equipment, such as tank levels, temperature, pressure and other sensors.
  • Variable message signage (VMS) – applications ranging from signage to traffic sensors.
  • Environmental monitoring – solar panels can report power generation hourly to a cloud-based applications.



Make the Most of Your Automobile with Macchina M2 and Cellular Connectivity

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Regardless of our age, we can all attest to the advancements the automobile industry has made throughout its history, but the Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated this change even more with smart cars, hybrid and fully electric cars, and strides being made towards to self-driving cars. It is truly fascinating and our imaginations are sparked with automotive innovation on all scales from green transportation to open-source development platforms, like M2 by Machinna.

Macchina M2 is an open source automotive interface that allows car hobbyists, enthusiasts, and professionals the creative ability to program a device and service into the automotive aftermarket. This ‘one-to-many’ interface allows engineers to design a single device that will sync with different firmware and software architecture. The device includes an Arduino board, equipped with a USB port, LEDs, SD card slot, built in EEPROM, and is compatible with Digi XBee. This socket compatibility combined with the Digi XBee family footprint, users can embed cellular connectivity with Digi XBee cellular. This means makers can bypass complicated end-device certifications and provides end-users the option to upload and download live data. Check out the First Look: Macchina M2 article on Hackaday for more software and hardware design details.

We are excited to partner with this project  and our community to bring embedded cellular IoT innovation to the automotive industry. Watch the video below to see just how easy it is to connect Macchina to Digi XBee Cellular, and let us know what you think!

Carrier Certification Testing: Avoid Last-Minute Delays and First-Test Failures

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With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) and its expanded communications requirements, comes the increase of IoT devices designed and manufactured for use on cellular networks. To keep the wide availability of cellular WANs under control combined with the demand for IoT solutions, cellular carriers maintain high compliance standards that require certifications tests before an IoT device is allowed on their networks. This compliance process is complicated, complex and ever-changing due to the variety of carrier requirements and how they may vary from one product design to the next.

Below are four recommendations to stay ahead of cellular carrier requirements and passing initial carrier certifications – the first time:

  • Know the key design functions of supporting compliance
    Successful cellular compliance is divided into two key parts – hardware and firmware designs. Selecting the correct module, antenna and EMI control for your cellular IoT device are critical hardware design functions. To support carrier certifications your firmware should include manual cellular module control, a fallback option to retry data connection, and supported firmware updates along with over-the-air-provisioning.
  • Consider carrier requirements in the early stages of design
    Product design teams have several moving parts to account for when creating project plans for new cellular products. This has frequently caused cellular compliance to be overlooked by designers until the last minute or until it is too late, which often results in first-test failures.
  • Avoid common myths about cellular carrier certifications
    Each cellular carrier requires a variety of individual standards when designing and manufacturing cellular devices, beyond FCC certification requirements, which complicates and confuses the compliance process. This is why OEMs, manufacturers and solution providers should not make any assumptions and should avoid common myths, like the ones mentioned in 11 Myths about Cellular Certification Requirements.
  • Partner with a proven expert
    Working with a proven expert to manage the wide range of carrier requirements will help save resources and increase time to market, without the hassle and headache of having a product fail certification tests. Working with a specialist like, Digi Wireless Design Services, from the early design phase to the final product launch will provide the experience needed to pass both FCC and carrier certification tests.
Contact a Digi expert and get started today! Contact Us
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