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Endress+Hauser Chose Digi Connect Sensor+ Cellular Gateway for Inventory Management

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Endress+Hauser, a manufacturer of instrumentation measurement technology for the process industry, looked to Digi to help develop a more robust inventory management system to take better advantage of the data from their flow, level, pressure and temperature measurement devices.

“We are serving the chemical industry, oil and gas, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, primaries and water and wastewater reserve-focused industries,” explains Thiemo Fichter, head of product management inventory management solutions, Endress+Hauser. “There, we can measure pretty much every process variable.”

Most customers were still in the manual inventory monitoring mode, unable to automate the replenishment process to get product when and where they needed it consistently. Digi Connect Sensor helped E+H collect and deliver the information customers needed to make more timely replenishment decisions.

“We provide this inventory information into the business process. Our customers can get everything out of one hand, from the sensor in the physical world via the connectivity of the data, converting this into information up to the level where we integrate this information into our customer’s business process, their ERP landscape.”

In the video below, Ficthter explains why Endress+Hauser chose Digi Connect Sensor+ Cellular Gateway

Learn more about Digi Connect® Sensor+ here >> 

Introducing NB-IoT Technologies for Cellular IoT

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NB-IoT (also referred to as Narrowband IoT or NB1) is another new mobile data standard for the growing LPWA market, part of the latest Release (13) from the 3GPP cellular standards body. Similar to LTE-M, NB-IoT is optimized for lower-bandwidth applications (data rates up to 250Kbps) and ideal for devices that sleep most of the time, waking up to report their data periodically. NB-IoT uses a simple architecture based on single carrier frequency division multiple access and a DSSS modulation scheme, which helps decrease hardware cost and complexity. It supports ultra-long battery life (up to 10 years), extended range (up to 7x better than current LTE technologies) and better building/obstacle penetration for a wide range of applications and use-cases. Some example applications include remote/sleepy industrial sensors, commercial meters, precision agriculture sensors, and a wide range of smart city applications.

NB-IoT is not considered an ‘LTE’ technology. It branches out of the LTE framework, and can be deployed in a number of different ways, such as:

  • 180 KHz band within the GSM spectrum
  • Within an LTE guard band
  • Independent 200KHz frequency band

Initial NB-IoT deployments in 2017 and 2018 will be primarily in Europe and parts of Asia. Since carriers in the US have already invested heavily in LTE-M infrastructure updates, it is unlikely they will deploy NB-IoT networks in the short-term future.

NB-IoT vs. LTE-M

Key Benefits of NB-IoT

  • Optimized for low-power consumption, even while it is transmitting over the network: Other cellular technologies like LTE-M focus on saving power by sleeping and limiting their transmit time and frequency. NB-IoT excels in its ability to sleep (with support for eDRX) AND minimize power consumption during data transmission, primarily due to the simplified data transmission method and lower data rate, which reduces the need to do power-hungry signal processing and improves the overall efficiency of the system.
  • Less complex radio design with single antenna will be less expensive than other cellular technologies: This will reduce the barrier to entry for new customers and applications to begin integrating low-power cellular technology into their solutions.
  • Improved range and obstacle penetration: With its reduced data rates and simplified radio design, NB-IoT will have stronger link budgets than other cellular technologies, which will lead to greater range/coverage and strong building penetration, great for applications with devices deployed in difficult to reach places.

Digi XBee Cellular NB-IoT
Digi has successfully completed testing of the XBee Cellular NB-IoT in Europe, in partnership with Vodafone. Engineering sample kits are expected to be available by the end of July, customers interested in early testing should contact Digi for more details.

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

Introduction to LTE-M Cellular Technology

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Introduction to LTE-M
LTE-M (also referred to as LTE Cat-M or Cat-M1) is a new mobile data standard for the growing LPWA, or Low-Power Wide-Area market. It’s part of the latest Release (13) from the 3GPP cellular standards organization. LTE-M is optimized for lower bandwidth applications, devices that can sleep and report their data periodically. It supports ultra-long battery life capabilities (think multiple years), extended range and better building penetration for devices that might be deployed in ‘hard to reach’ places. It is ideal for use-cases including remote/low-density industrial sensors, automated commercial meters for water or gas systems, connected healthcare devices, and even intelligent industrial lighting systems.





New Power-Saving Features of LTE-M
There are two key features built into LTE-M that enable its power efficiency – PSM (Power Savings Mode) and eDRX (extended Discontinuous Reception).

Power Savings Mode (PSM) allows the device notify the cellular network that it’s going to sleep, and when the network can expect it to wake up based on timer values that are sent by the device. Registration to the network is maintained even while the device sleeps. This means that the device can save battery power, then wake up on schedule to exchange data, or earlier if important information like an alarm needs to be transmitted immediately. It can remain in this registered sleep state for up to 12 days. Once the device wakes up and transmits its payload, it is required to wait and listen for responses from the network for a short period of time (4 idle frames), after which it can go back to sleep in PSM.

Extended Discontinuous Reception (eDRX) is a mode that improves power efficiency for cellular devices by reducing the ‘chattiness’ between the device and the network. A normal LTE device is required to be active for a ‘paging cycle’ every 1.28 seconds. An LTE device that leverages eDRX is only required to be active for a paging cycle every 10.24 seconds. This means a device that is connected to the network and communicating or idle is required to be in an active, power-consuming state for about 10x less time, compared to devices that don’t support this mode. eDRX also allows the device to tell the network that it would like to skip some pre-determined number of these 10.24s cycles, extending paging intervals to 40 minutes or more. Both eDRX and PSM save power, but at its core eDRX facilitates reduced power consumption for devices that are awake and connected/idle with the network.

How does LTE-M Compare to Other LTE Technologies?

Top 3 Things to Remember about LTE-M
1. Simpler, less expensive hardware
Devices can connect to LTE networks with simpler modems that only require 1 antenna, because they are half-duplex and have a narrower bandwidth.
2. Longer Battery Life
Devices can leverage the new Power Savings Mode (PSM) and extended discontinuous reception (eDRX) to achieve up to 10 years of battery life
3. Cheaper Data Plans
LTE-M devices will use lower data rates than other LTE devices (typically less than 300Kbps), so they will be less network-hungry, enabling carriers to vastly reduce the monthly cost of data plans for OEMs.

>> Buy a Digi XBee Cellular Development Kit today and get six months of free data.

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.

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