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NASA Selects Digi XBee for TechEdSat Missions 5, 6, and 7

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After successful launches of TechEdSat 5 (2016) and 6 (2017), in 2018, NASA has again chosen Digi XBee for the TechEdSat 7 launch to collect sensor data including temperature, air pressure, and 3-axis acceleration parameters. The TechEdSat series continues a partnership with San Jose State University, University of Idaho and NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA.

One of the big benefits of TechEdSat program has been to evaluate and demonstrate commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware to lower costs and accelerate development. Digi XBee continues to stand out as a great example of proven commercial hardware that can tolerate the harsh temperatures, shock, and vibration of launch, orbit and re-entry. Each TechEdSat mission has used Digi XBee for an Exo-Brake system to precisely rotate the satellite and bring it back to earth.

Typically, the sensor devices are connected with wiring, but the team chose to move away from traditional wiring and experiment with a wireless network because less cabling on the spacecraft, reducing the size, weight and power (SWaP) need to accomplish the mission. Another important benefit is the ability to relay this data back down to the command center for analysis.

This wireless network is part of NASA’s effort to test the performance of wireless networks on a spacecraft and determine if the technology is suitable for other applications. Due to the high cost associated with launching a rocket, the team must be extremely conservative when implementing new technology. Digi is proud to be a part of these successful missions, and we look forward to Digi XBee being incorporated into more NASA missions.

>>Read the full NASA + Digi XBee timeline for the full story.

Understanding the Zigbee 3.0 Protocol

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Zigbee is a wireless technology developed as an open global standard to address the unique needs of low-cost, low-power wireless IoT networks. The Zigbee standard operates on the IEEE 802.15.4 physical radio specification and operates in unlicensed bands including 2.4 GHz, 900 MHz and 868 MHz.

The 802.15.4 specification upon which the ZigBee stack operates gained ratification by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 2003. The specification is a packet-based radio protocol intended for low-cost, battery-operated devices. The protocol allows devices to communicate in a variety of network topologies and can have battery life lasting several years.

THE ZIGBEE 3.0 PROTOCOL

The Zigbee 3.0 protocol has been created and ratified by member companies of the Zigbee Alliance. Over 300 leading semiconductor manufacturers, technology firms, OEMs and service companies comprise the Zigbee Alliance membership. The Zigbee protocol was designed to provide an easy-to-use wireless data solution characterized by secure, reliable wireless network architectures.

THE ZIGBEE ADVANTAGE

The Zigbee 3.0 protocol is designed to communicate data through noisy RF environments that are common in commercial and industrial applications. Version 3.0 builds on the existing Zigbee standard but unifies the market-specific application profiles to allow all devices to be wirelessly connected in the same network, irrespective of their market designation and function. Furthermore, a Zigbee 3.0 certification scheme ensures the interoperability of products from different manufacturers. Connecting Zigbee 3.0 networks to the IP domain opens up monitoring and control from devices such as smartphones and tablets on a LAN or WAN, including the Internet, and brings the true Internet of Things to fruition.

Zigbee protocol features include:

  • Support for multiple network topologies such as point-to-point,
    point-to-multipoint and mesh networks
  • Low duty cycle – provides long battery life
  • Low latency
  • Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS)Up to 65,000 nodes per network
  • 128-bit AES encryption for secure data connections
  • Collision avoidance, retries and acknowledgements

>>Check out the newest Digi XBee3 Zigbee video to learn more.

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.

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.

 

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.

Modularity

 
Protocols
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.

 

 

Programmability

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

What’s New with the Digi XBee3 Smart Modules?

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We are excited to announce the new Digi XBee3 Series of smart modules. Digi XBee3 builds on industry-leading embedded technology, offers design freedom with easy-to-add functionality and flexible wireless connectivity. The new Micro form factor allows customers to shrink their devices with new low-power requirements making it ideal for battery-powered applications, portable and remote devices. It brings a new era of flexibility to mesh networking and new LTE cellular technologies enabling a higher level of abstraction without the lead times and complexities of chip-down designs. A few advanced features include:

  • Micro size – a reduced size, weight, and power consumption.
  • Micro-Python-programmable – RF connectivity for short range or Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN).
  • Design flexibility – RF and cellular options.

Furthermore, builders of Internet of Things (IoT) devices require more options for connectivity as well as increased computing power for processing data at the edge of the network. Digi XBee3 Series includes ZigBee 3.0 for mesh networking and Digi XBee3 Cellular with the latest LTE technologies like LTE-M and NB-IoT, are all available in the compact and pin-compatible form factor.

One socket allows you to connect to IoT networks around the globe. With the authentic Digi XBee footprint, and end-device certifications, allowing you to future-proof your design and know that Digi has you covered for new wireless technologies as they emerge. From multiple global protocols and expanded programmability to the Digi TrustFence® security framework and future-proof form factor, Digi XBee3 gives you even more options for connectivity.

>>See more about these new smart edge IoT modules and modems here.

Introducing the Official Digi XBee Python Library

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Python developers just got more help in creating solutions with Digi XBees. In order to make it as simple as possible to write Digi XBee applications, Digi just released an official Digi XBee Python Library. This library supports multiple Digi XBee protocols including LTE Cellular, NB-IoT, Zigbee, 802.15.4, DigiMesh, Point-to-Multipoint and Wi-Fi.

The open-source project includes all the Python code, multiple examples that show how to use the available APIs and a collection of functional tests. Main features of the Python library include:

  • Support for ZigBee, 802.15.4, DigiMesh, Point-to-Multipoint, Wi-Fi, Cellular and NB-IoT devices.
  • Support for API and API escaped operating modes.
  • Management of local (attached to the PC) and remote XBee device objects.
  • Discovery of remote XBee devices associated with the same network as the local device.
  • Configuration of local and remote XBee devices:
  • Transmission of data to all the XBee devices on the network or to a specific device.
  • Reception of data from remote XBee devices:
  • Transmission and reception of IP and SMS messages.
  • Reception of network status changes related to the local XBee device.
  • IO lines management:
  • Support for explicit frames and application layer fields (Source endpoint, Destination endpoint, Profile ID, and Cluster ID).
  • Multiple examples that show how to use the available APIs.

So whether you’re designing an intelligent lighting application, monitoring industrial storage tanks, creating smart agriculture sensor networks, or running orbital experiments – Python developers no longer have to start from scratch.

>>Visit the python library for more information.

From Digi XBee Project to Life-Changing Robotic Limb Products

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We first met Easton LaChappelle four years ago when he was only 17-years-old. Easton took us by surprise as a self-taught maker who set his mission on creating brain-powered prostheses powered by Digi’s XBee RF modules. Using 3-D printing and Digi XBees, Easton created what the market so desperately needed, a prosthetic that sold for less than $400, robotic nonetheless.

Easton not only taught himself but found the most useful tools to progress his mission. He used tools and “how to” resources he found in online communities to set himself free from limitations that often hold others back.

We weren’t the only ones to take notice. Today, at 21-years-old, Easton has worked with NASA on The Robonaut, and he’s now working with Tony Robbins, Microsoft, and others to make his dream come true. His company, Unlimited Tomorrow, focuses on making life-changing robotic limbs available and affordable for those who need it most.

It all started when he met a little girl with a prosthetic arm. He found out that her parents had to pay $80,000 for it—and not the ‘smart’ kind that Easton could then see was possible. Take a look at how far he’s come today:

“Easton is an absolute genius! He’s dreamed of transforming people’s lives through robotics since he was just 17 years old (I started funding him when he turned 18) and has turned his dreams into reality! Check out these life-changing results he’s creating with 3D-printed prosthetics!” Tony Robbins says.

To see more amazing Digi XBee projects and meet up-and-coming makers, visit the Digi XBee project gallery here.

You can also learn more about how to get started with Digi’s XBee product line here. >> 

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