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XBee Controls Adam Savage’s Robugtix Spider

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A Hong Kong based company, Robugtix, makes bio-inspired multi-legged robots. That’s right, robotic, XBee-enabled, spiders. And, it just so happens that this eight legged robotic is a favorite of Adam Savage, host and famous maker on the show MythBusters. It was even featured on his YouTube series, Inside Adam Savage’s Cave.

The realistic (and slightly terrifying) arachnid is a 3D printed robot that is extremely lightweight and can very closely mimic the biological movements of a spider. It’s controlled wirelessly by joysticks on a remote control with XBee. The remote includes four joysticks for complete control of the robot, so you can do more than just move left/right and forward/back.

Enhancing Vehicle Telematics with Mobile Devices

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A common application of Internet of Things technology is vehicle telematics. Knowing how your fleet is functioning, where they are located, as well as drivers’ time spent on the road is all crucial for managing a successful fleet.

Quite often, the solutions necessary to monitor these data can be cumbersome, expensive, and take time to be implemented. And what if regulatory standards change?

To solve the problem of lengthy and costly implementations, Digi developed the Wireless Vehicle Bus Adapter, or WVA. It is simply plugged into the vehicles diagnostic port and reads out the data you need via a web services API. Simple solutions that tap into existing infrastructure like these have the ability to quickly turn data points into tangible value for businesses.

The ubiquity of high performance mobile devices is eliminating many of the barriers that can make the implementation of a sensor network difficult. The advancement of smart phones and tablets have simplified establishing these networks through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. This eliminates the need to install cables and develop expensive and proprietary technology. Additionally, well designed user interfaces on mobile devices can create improved functionality and usability.

Learn more about the WVA here.

XBee Piano on Adafruit’s Show and Tell

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On this week’s installment of Adafrauit’s Show and Tell, Jianan shared his project he built for Duke University’s Hackathon. With a team of three other students, he created a giant piano that can be played with with user’s feet.

The build consists of large pads set on the ground that detect pressure and relay signals to the computer. Attached to the a computer is an Arduino Uno with an XBee. XBee relays the signal from the piano to the computer and firmware on the Arduino converts the raw data into a standard MIDI file. A software instrument within Logic Pro then reads this MIDI file and generates the sound.

There is also a remote control that can be used to adjust various parameters. The user can enter a ‘tutorial’ mode, which will show you how to play songs by illuminating LED lights on the correct keys. You can also adjust an attached potentiometer to select between 16 different instruments.

In the video below, you can watch a full demonstration of this giant piano.


Adafruit Industries hosts a weekly Show and Tell over Google Hangouts. This is a great resource to gather ideas for new projects. Add Adafruit to your circle to view their Hangouts.

Disneyland Creates New Experiences with Digi Technology

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Disney’s World of Color has always been a favorite among Disney Land attendees, and a recent update to the show has made it an even more unique and immersive experience. In 2012, Glow with the Show was introduced as a way to bring a new level of interaction between the show and audience.

Glow with the show is the result of thousands of audience members wearing hats that each contain LED lights in each of the hat’s ears. The hats are synched together to flash and change colors. The Disney Tech Crew is able to control the colors of the hat’s ears from one central location. From this spot, commands are broadcasted via infrared. Each hat contains an infrared sensor, which reads the signal and the LED lights respond accordingly.

The device that makes Glow with the Show possible is Digi’s System-on-Module, ConnectCore, which serves as a base station for the light show. Signals are sent to the ConnectCore via Ethernet and the module broadcasts the infrared signal out to the hats. The effect of thousands of hats synched together creates an ocean of color that washes over the audience and creates exciting special effects.

The hats have also been a part of Cars Land, Mad T Party, Fantasmic, and even the nightly firework display Magical. As you walk through different areas of Cars Land, the hats will change in response to the environment. Future plans are  to incorporate Glow with the Show with more areas within Disney parks. Glow with the Show hats are bringing Disney fans closer to their favorite characters and audiences are becoming a part of the show.

We often hear of M2M technology being a solution for business inefficiencies, but here we see it can be also used to create unique and immersive experiences.  Wireless connected devices can be used to create exciting experiences, by making it easier to integrate into our lives and providing a higher level of interaction.

Digital Designs Come to Life with 3D Printing

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Who would have thought that printing could be so innovative? We, along with many others, are excited that 3D printing is becoming more main stream, being used for more projects and becoming more accessible. Here are some basics on what 3D printing is and how it’s bringing digital designs to life.

So, what exactly is 3D printing?

Here’s how Wikipedia defines 3D printing: “Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using additive processes, where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material.”

Looking to get started?

Here’s a great list of 3D Designs for XBee on Thingiverse. Thingiverse is a website by MakerBot that features digital designs for the physical objects. It was created as a destination to get and share downloadable 3D Thing designs.

XBee Protector Box on Thingiverse

“Thingiverse is the go-to place to find out how to make any physical thing. Since 2008, Things on Thingiverse have been downloaded more than 8.5 million times, and as of November 1, 2012, there are more than 25,000 digital Things just waiting for you to download and make.”

At the O’Reilly Strata Conference for the Data Sensing Lab, we used the Printrbot Jr to create boxes to hold equipment for the wireless sensor mote enclosures that were places around the conference (almost 50 of them). It took about 30-40 minutes to print each box. You can see Brian Jepson‘s instructions and information about the enclosure on Thingiverse here.

Strata Conference Sensor Mote Enclosure

To learn more and keep up with 3D printing innovations you can follow Thingiverse, Makerbot, Printrbot and Shapeways on Twitter. Have you made something great with a 3D printer? Want us to share? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter.

Monitor Hurricanes With a DIY Auto-Tweeting Weather Station via Wired

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Image: Juan Peña/Sparkfun

With Hurricane Sandy roaring towards the East Coast, the world is again turning to Twitter to get instant, personal weather reports and photos directly from those affected by the storm. The ability of Twitter to spread pinpoint, as-it-happens information is the exact reason it shines so bright in the face of natural disasters (and civil strife). But for those directly experiencing the hurricane’s dangerous conditions, mindfully tweeting weather updates can quickly become a secondary concern at best.

With the accessibility of easily configurable, low-energy-consuming technology, we can mitigate part of that problem by building a not-too-tricky, self-tweeting weather station. It’s probably too late to put one together for Hurricane Sandy, but for upcoming weather situations it’s a good way to help keep people informed with data and details.

One of the easiest approaches to the project involves setting up an Arduino-controlled weather monitoring system. The easily programmed, modular ability of the Arduino platform allows for a variety of add-on sensors to be utilized, including temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. These sensors can be found pre-built onto one Arduino board, as is the case with SparkFun’s USB Weather Board, which adds the capability for its data to be recorded or shared via its USB output, or wirelessly with an optional Xbee or Bluetooth module.

Sparkfun Weather Board Image: Juan Peña/Sparkfun

Read the Full Article on Wired


Make Your Own with the XIG: The Cat Doorbell

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About the author: Don Schleede currently manages the iDigi security office. Don has worked in the IT field for 25 years. He has served as a Chief Technology Officer for 12 years in mid-sized level financial and technical companies. For the last 7 years, he has exclusively served in security roles as a Senior Security Analyst, Engineer, and Architect. Don holds a number of certifications such as the CISSP, MCSE, RHCE, CCNP, CEH and others. Today, he works in at Digi International, where his love of embedded things, microcontrollers and security can be expressed.

Why a Cat Doorbell? 
Recently, a friend of mine moved. This friend has a few cats who like to go outside. Because of their new surroundings, we weren’t sure that the cats would know where to return to. One night, all the cats except for one came back home. While the cats have been trained to come in when they hear a whistle, this cat must have been out of whistle range– doing whatever cats do. It was getting to be a cold night so we were worried. We did notice that the cats would stand at the door when they were ready to come in, but of course, we would have to see them standing at the door and open it for them. In the morning, we found one cold kitty waiting at the door. No major harm, but we felt guilty for not letting the cat in– the idea of the Cat Doorbell was born.

Here’s how I made the Cat Doorbell and how you can make your own. 

I didn’t want to get too in depth and design our own board for this project, so I used standard parts that I had around. Here’s what I picked from my supplies:

This was assembled as a prototype. For longer term operation, I would suggest mounting things better, and using a level converter for the data pins.

1.  First, I wired up the PIR sensor to the end of the box. The PIR sensor fit perfectly where the waterproof Cat-5 connector was, so I added some crazy glue. I connected the GND and 5V lines to the Arduino, and I connected the sensor line directly to the Arduino, pin 7.

2. I glued the Piezo to the bottom of the box, and I soldered in a 1Kohm resistor in series and plugged it into the Arduino, pin 8.

3. I used some pins to solder the XBee Series 2, which was already programmed with a XIG configuration to the 3.3v and GND lines.

4. Next, I connected the data lines to the Arduino pins 5 and 6. I have heard that the data lines of the XBee Series 2 are not 5v tolerant, but I know many people who have connected these to Arduinos without a problem. For more information, see Rob Faludi’s web page at http://www.faludi.com/bwsn/xbee-level-shifting

5. With some double side tape, I taped the XBee to the side.

6. With the XBee using the XIG, I have a Digi ConnectPort X4 gateway in my house. I loaded the XIG code onto the gateway and validated that the communication works with the XBee. You can find more information on the XIG project here.

7. Next I programmed the Arduino, the program follows this flow:

  • Look for activity on the PIR sensor
  • Send a URL string to the XBee (is used the SoftSerial library)
  • Beep the Piezo like a doorbell
  • Wait 60 seconds. Don’t want multiple activations.
  • Go back to step 1

The URL that was called went to a server that is hosted at Rackspace. The URL is actually a PHP web page, that will interface to SMS to my cellphone (via email). After testing and validating, I put the device outside so it would detect when a cat (or anything else) is at the back door. To call this complete, I waited for a bit for one of the cats to come back. And, sure enough, I got an SMS message on my phone. I went and opened the door and a cat proudly walked in.

Have questions or comments about the Cat Doorbell? Let me know in the comments section below or on Twitter. As I iterate the Cat Doorbell I’ll continue to update this post.

Where Will The Internet Of Things Take Service Design?

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On Tuesday, October 9th, Fjord presented the “Where Will The Internet Of Things Take Service Design” event in New York, co-hosted with IxDA. The evening brought together a packed house of guests ready to explore how the Internet of Things will influence and shape important areas for service design like the future of content, retail, payments and health.

Moderated by Fast Company’s Cliff Kuang, the panelists included:

Steven Dean, Partner, Prehype. Adjunct Faculty, ITP.
Rob Faludi, Collaborative Strategy Leader, R&D, Digi International. Professor, ITP/SVA.
Scher Foord, Executive Director, Design, Condé Nast Technology.
Tim Queenan, Director of Strategy, Google Creative Lab.
Rachel Ramoni, Executive Director, SMART, Harvard Medical School.
Jacob Styburski, VP Customer Experience, Enterprise Growth, American Express.

Some of the highlights and key themes of the evening:

  • The Internet of Things is here, and will become more ubiquitous and invisible.
  • Good service design will continue to humanize the technology and the data around us, making its complexity disappear into the background.
  • Given that, our panelists agreed that it’s high time to kill the term “Internet of Things.” What’s important is to create an “Internet of Things People Want,” that should eventually evolve into the “Internet of Things People Expect.”
  • To make this a reality, designers must create a shared language that allows for collaboration across the companies, industries, and individuals creating the services of tomorrow.

You can find more details and photos of the event here. Have a question or comment about how the Internet of Things and service design? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter, we’d love to hear what you think.

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