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Strata Big Data: Interview

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I spoke live with Mac Slocum at O’Reilly’s Strata Big Data conference about Digi International’s involvement in the Data Sensing Lab here, as well as the future of M2M and the Internet of Things-what I’m hoping will be an Internet of Things People Want. Our part in the lab was to assemble a network of 40 XBee ZigBee radio sensor nodes running Arduino, gateway their data via a ConnectPort X2e running the XBee Internet Gateway and post everything to the iDigi Device Cloud where it could be passed off via Amazon Web Services to a team of visualization experts for analysis. Here’s the interview:

Connecting Light System Diagram

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Here’s how the Connecting Light system is created from Digi equipment for the 73-mile-long installation of 400 giant illuminated balloons on Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. The huge network will go live tonight for an crowd expected to bring traffic along the 80-mile World Heritage site to a crawl as thousands of spectators flock to the interactive event. Connecting Light is a perfect example of a large-scale system for centrally controlling remote devices—the same advanced infrastructure that hospitals use to monitor patient ventilators, infusion pumps or dialysis machines, and that forward-thinking power utilities use to network their entire grid.

The technology required for Connecting Light was assembled by Digi Professional Services—our solutions experts who network dynamic message signs along highways, smart thermostats for utility networks and positive train control systems for railroads. Putting all these different devices online is arguably the next big revolution for the Internet. Organizations are starting to demand visibility to their remote assets along with centralized control for everything out in the field as their competitors begin benefitting from the systems currently being put in place. It’s an exciting time to be involved with this stuff!

The diagram above shows how Programmable XBees, ConnectPort GSM mobile routers and the iDigi Device Cloud all work together to form a reliable backbone behind a breathtaking artwork that spans England’s coasts.


Digi at Parallax Expo

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This weekend Digi shared its technology at the Parallax Robotics & Microcontrollers Expo in Rocklin California. The Expo included vendors, robot competitions, robot demonstrations, training for kids of all ages in soldering and programming, tours of the Parallax manufacturing facility and some pretty amazing quadcopter flights. We donated two iDigi starter kits and five Building Wireless Sensor Networks books to a raffle that benefits the local food bank. Despite some rain, the event was packed with families and enthusiasts both days, a few of whom had come from overseas just to attend.

We were really impressed with a new SumoBot setup that uses XBees to transmit accelerometer data from a remote tilt controller, and a quadcopter recovery system for XBee broadcasts of GPS data in case of an “unexpected landings.” I also got a chance to present my Fun with XBees talk that shares some of the astonishing creative work people are doing with iDigi, ConnectPorts and XBees. Next up is Maker Faire Bay Area, so come see us there!

In the meantime, here’s some more photos from the Parallax Expo:


Digi and Intel’s Wind River Create a New Class of Cloud-Connected Wireless M2M Solutions

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Over the last decade we’ve seen the Internet create a new system to connect people. We’re more connected than ever via email, social networks and other peer-to-peer online services. Over the next decade that connection will continue to extend to physical objects, or the Internet of Things. It’s estimated that by 2020 there will be 50,000,000,000 (yes, 50 billion!) connected devices.

That’s why we are partnering with the best. Digi and Wind River, a subsidiary of Intel Corporation, have collaborated to create a new class of cloud-connected wireless machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions based on Intel Architecture. The M2M Solution Builder kits will include a combination of hardware, software, cloud connectivity, and access to tailored M2M development services.

Remote machines are already being used for a vast range of solutions– from wireless EKG monitors in hospitals that transmit data to a doctor’s computer in real-time, to sensors that track food from its growth in the field all the way to its freshness on store shelves. Remote machines are not only improving business operations, they are improving our lives.

The collaborative solution from Digi and Wind River will accelerate market adoption and open the door for more businesses and developers to create money making and  life-changing connected products with cloud-enabled services.

As part of the kit user experience, customers will be able to exercise complete iDigi Manager Pro capabilities for full remote control of these new innovative devices from the internet. Cloud-based desktop and mobile web dashboard applications can be created right out of the box. In addition, through iDigi Application Development Services and Digi’s Spectrum Design Services, Digi offers custom web and mobile application development as well as full wireless and hardware design services. Anything from minor  product customization to complete turnkey development is available using the Intel platform.

The M2M Solution Builder kit is expected to be available in June 2012. Visit Digi for more information.

Connectedness: Bettering Our Lives Through the World’s Food System

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Sara Ohrvall, Senior Vice President of Bonnier R&D and Vincent Horn, Chief Buddhist Geek at Buddhist Geeks are holding a session at SXSW today– Closer to One: Buddhism and the Internet of Things.

Ohrvall and Horn will be talking about how as we begin to network more objects, we are building the “interconnectedness of all things” that eastern philosophers have talked about for millennia.

The session will dive into the question, “Could all this connectedness make us better people?”

How does the Internet of Things work to help us lead better lives? What about healthier lives?

Technologies exist that allow us to “connect our bodies,” for example, exercise tools like RunKeeper, Wii-Fit and FitBit.

But, what about on a larger scale? How can the Internet of Things help us solve health issues world-wide? How can the Internet of Things help us understand and better our food system?

One peek inside the food industry will have you surprised and most likely frightened at the lack of general information on where our food comes from, how fresh it is and the sustainability of our entire food system.

The sustainability of the food system, or the ability to ensure that everyone has enough food to live a healthy life, is known as “food security.”

Digi International’s® client, Libelium, is using wireless sensor networks to monitor food sustainability. These wireless sensor systems, Waspmote sensors, can be used to monitor and control the whole food cycle– from food production and harvesting, transportation and distribution all the way to consumption and even bio-waste outputs– pretty amazing.

Linelium explains how food insecurity impacts the world, “Food insecurity continues to be a major development problem across the globe, undermining people’s health, productivity, and often their very survival. Use of Waspmote sensors can assist in strengthening the collective understanding of how to protect and manage food systems.”



Food Production

  • By combining sensors such as humidity, temperature, and light, the risk of frost can be detected.
  • Monitoring can ensure prevention of plant diseases or manage watering requirements based on soil humidity. This helps to control conditions in nurseries and to closely monitor high performance or delicate crops, such as vineyards or tropical fruit, where the slightest change in climate can affect the final outcome.
  • The information can also help to determine the optimum conditions for each crop, by comparing the figures obtained during the best harvests.


  • The technology integrated in Waspmote (GPS, sensors and clock) makes it possible to control, in real-time, conditions of merchandise.
  • Waspmote can detect and store environmental samples during the product’s transport to determine if  it has been exposed to high temperatures or whether it has been contaminated during the journey.
  • A GPS ensures that the product can be located at all times.


  • Waspmote can operate as a smart label on merchandise containers. It can transmit through ZigBee wirelessly to gather product information, number of units, batches, etc.
  • It can also be used to detect expired food or even to alert a customer that a specific product contains food not suitable for him or her because of his or her allergies.

Food waste and disposal

  • After high temperature days and severe weather events, food wastes can be a source of disease and contamination. Waspmote sensors can monitor public disposal areas or high risk areas.

The connected technologies that the Internet of Things offers will continue to change the way we live our lives. The Waspmote is a great example of how this change can improve the quality of one of the most important aspects of life, the food system. We are looking forward to hearing Ohrvall and Horn’s perspective at their session today at SXSW, and we thank them for covering this inspiring topic.

U.S. Spectrum Crunch

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What’s the one thing you can’t live without? Many people would say it’s their cell phone. These are not only the way we communicate via voice and text, they’re our link to the Internet, our social networks, video and let’s not forget all that email. However all this communication comes at a price. We’re running low on bandwidth.

The shortfall in available wireless spectrum has been on our minds at Digi International®. We’ve been thinking about innovative solutions to a problem that Americans will soon encounter– the “spectrum crunch.” According to the Federal Communications Commission’s estimates, at the current growth rate, the slight surplus that the U.S. still has with spectrum space will turn into a deficit as early as next year.

As you may have guessed, the demand for cellular coverage has increased along with network traffic.It’s our appetite for instantaneous email, video and apps from mobile devices that will eventually exceed the available spectrum. ”Can you hear me now?” may take on a new meaning as this spectrum deficit threatens to increase the number of dropped calls, slow down data speeds and raise wireless prices.

Global mobile data traffic is just about doubling every year, and will continue to do so through at least 2016, according to Cisco’s Mobile Visual Networking Index, the industry’s most comprehensive annual study. (Resource: “Sorry, America: Your wireless airwaves are full” by David Goldman, CNN Money.)

“We got to this point just by cutting the Internet cord and taking our information infrastructure with us on smartphones. However the smartphone is only a single device. As the Internet of Things expands our number of devices, the connections needed will grow exponentially. Even today there are wireless scales that share our diet successes, radio-conneted shoes to track exercise achievements, parking spaces that announce their availability on the Internet, vehicles proclaiming their locations and so forth” says Rob Faludi, Digi’s Collaborative Strategy Leader. “With at least 50 million new devices anticipated inside this decade, we’re going to need to expand bandwidth and use what we’ve got more efficiently.”

For Digi International, solving this problem is seen as a terrific business opportunity. We’ve been working on systems to manage cellular costs from the cloud, so that devices can stick within their budgets. The XBee Programmable, intelligent ConnectPort gateways and iDigi Connector for microcontrollers all work together to push applications out to the network so that wireless data streams aren’t clogged by raw data. Instead significant operations can be managed locally. Decisions are made on the node or gateway end rather than simply pushing everything up to the cloud. These applications are managed from the cloud instead, keeping wireless spectrum clear for alerts, alarms and reporting. Transmissions are made just-in-time and only exactly what is needed. Digi is also keeping an eye on innovative new research and science such as this new paper by Italian physicists on fusillli pasta-shaped radio waves that expand the carrying capability of the available spectrum. Watch the video below for an empirical demonstration of these spiral waves crossing a lagoon in Venice:

“Digi sees opportunity in managing existing spectrum from the iDigi Device Cloud and deploying innovative engineering solutions in upcoming products” said Joel Young, Digi’s CTO. “Our strategy is to work with customers, partners and providers to ensure that device data flows freely for a long time to come.”

Got other ideas on surviving the coming spectrum crunch? Share them in the comments below.

Digi and Freescale Collaborate: The First Cloud Connected Microcontrollers

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We have exciting news, that we announced at the Embedded World Exhibition, in Nuremberg, Germany. Embedded World hosts engineers who want to share their knowledge, present new solutions and help others reach success. That’s why we decided to announce our collaboration with Freescale there today.

Freescale and Digi® have come together to offer the first cloud connected microcontrollers. The iDigi Device Cloud™ will be integrated into the Kinetis and ColdFire microcontroller platforms. Using the iDigi Connector, an open interface for any type of device, Kinetis and ColdFire users can access the web and mobile applications development platform and device management functionality.

The Kinetis and ColdFire platforms will come out-of-the box with cloud connectivity, making the microcontrollers more efficient. The cloud will help streamline product rollouts, upgrade and service devices with ease and provide access to manage devices remotely.

If you’re attending Embedded World, Digi will demonstrate the integration of the iDigi Device Cloud on a Kinetis K53 Tower System in Hall 1 booth 1-432. The setup shows a cloud-enabled MQX RTOS application with integrated remote device management capabilities (firmware upgrade, system reboot, system information/performance, reliability metrics and alerts) as well as cloud-based information exchange of on-board peripheral status (accelerometer, potentiometer, touch sensors, ADC, PWM,  LEDs.).

Embedded World Conference is determined to offer a environment to set trends and present solutions. The conference provides the perfect platform to share our latest collaborative solution that will enhance the iDigi and Freescale experience for engineers and innovators.

And, if you’re not in attendance, keep an eye on our Facebook Page and Twitter account for information from Embedded World. We’ll be updating you on the innovative ideas that come from the community of engineers who are mapping the future.

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