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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. >> 

Digi XBee Ecosystem: Let Your Imagination Run Wireless

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Whether you are just learning about wireless communications and Digi XBee or you are an experienced developer, the Digi XBee Ecosystem has everything necessary to explore and create wireless connectivity. This Digi XBee knowledge base provides a limitless world of software and hardware resources, stories of customers solving real wireless challenges, communities eager to connect, and opportunities to feature your own projects in the largest collection on the web. Watch the new Digi XBee Ecosystem video and explore its three main software, hardware, and resource categories.

Digi XBee Software

Using the free user-friendly GUI platform, Digi XCTU, you can easily set up, configure and test everything from simple projects to sophisticated industrial solutions with Digi XBee modules. Check out this section to learn more about the intuitive graphical user interface, Digi XBee API mode, and check out published code libraries.

Digi XBee Hardware

Digi XBee is a complete system of wireless modules, gateways, adapters, and software that are engineered to accelerate wireless deployments on a global scale. Its compact design footprint leverages multiple protocols and RF frequencies suitable for all types of networks including, but not limited to, Thread, 802.15.4, and Wi-Fi open standards. This flexibility reduces manufacturing and engineering costs and accelerates product roadmaps for OEMs. Visit this section for more information about mesh networking, point-to-multipoint communication, and cellular networking.

Digi XBee Resources

In addition to hardware and software tools, the Digi XBee ecosystem provides unmatched resources and support. Here you can ask questions on the Digi Forum, receive answers from community members, and submit projects to be featured on the Machine Talk blog.

>>Fill out this simple Digi XBee Project form to feature your project on the Machine Talk blog for a chance to win a free Digi XBee Development Kit.

WiseConn’s DropControl Sensing Solution Embeds Wireless Connectivity with Digi XBee

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The ability to control water consumption is critical to the success of both small scale farmers and large scale agriculture. Irrigation control experts, WiseConn, designed the DropControl solution to help farmers remotely monitor fields, collect data, and transmit information back to the farmer’s control station, where it can be either programed to make decisions autonomously or managed locally using low-power wireless sensors featuring Digi XBee radio modules. There are currently 1,500 sites and 300 business operations in Peru, Chile, and California that are achieving better yields, improving the quality of crops, saving up to 30 percent on their water consumption, and reducing greenhouse gases after installing DropControl irrigation system.

Having initially relied on open source software stacks connectivity, WiseConn’s eagerness for innovation lead them to integrate Digi XBee Pro 900HP embedded modules combined with DigiMesh networking protocol. “The keys to us were Digi’s low power consumption, ISM compatibility, and the long range,” Ulloa said. “Just as important, we are able to use Digi’s peer-to-peer mesh network. Irrigation and long-range flow control need robust P2P communications that don’t rely on a constantly-connected central coordinator. We had a lot of confidence in Digi. Thanks to the Digi mesh protocol, we were able to focus our resources on irrigation functionality – and not worry about networking intricacies. We also liked Digi’s long product lifecycles. We’ve had, essentially, the same pin layout and firmware for the past five years.”

>>Visit Digi Customer Success stories to see how customers are inventing new business models and changing their respective industries.

Digi XBee Cellular Supports MicroPython Programmability

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Introduction to MicroPython
MicroPython is an open-source programming language based on Python 3, and has been optimized to fit on small devices with limited hardware resources, such as micro-controllers. It includes an interactive REPL (or read-evaluate-print-loop), which allows programmers to connect to an embedded board and execute code without the need for compiling or uploading, ideal for quick experimentation of code blocks and prototyping. It also includes extensive built-in software libraries, making simple programming tasks like network socket connections or I/O pin management quick and easy.

MicroPython on Digi XBee Cellular
Digi XBee Cellular now has MicroPython! With 24KB of RAM and 8KB of Flash available in this MicroPython ‘sandbox’, OEMs now have the power and flexibility to develop and integrate their own unique features. In some simple sensing/actuating use-cases, it can eliminate the need for an external micro-controller, saving PCB space and simplifying the hardware design. MicroPython is great for reading and/or controlling XBee I/O lines (13 Digital I/Os, 4 Analog 10-bit inputs). It could also be used to reduce cellular data consumption by adding local intelligence that dictates what data should and should not be sent over the air, leading to lower monthly data rate cost.

MicroPython Terminal in XCTU
Included in the latest XCTU release (v6.3.8) is a new MicroPython terminal, a tool that allows the user to interact with MicroPython on the Digi XBee Cellular modem. Through the serial interface in the terminal, users can interact with the REPL to test, load, and run MicroPython code. Of course, those users that prefer to use their own terminal program like Tera Term or Putty can continue to do so. But with the new terminal included in XCTU, users have the convenient option to discover, configure AND program their Digi XBee Cellular modem through this single interface.


Simple MicroPython Example for XBee Cellular:

Where can I learn more about MicroPython?
Check out the following resources to learn more about MicroPython and how to use it with the Digi XBee Cellular:

>>Interested in trying out MicroPython? Buy a Digi XBee Cellular Development Kit today and get six months of free data.

Security in the IoT: Digi XBee Cellular Featuring Digi TrustFence

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Security for Connected Devices
Embedded security is a critical requirement for a growing number of connected IoT applications and devices. Evolving technology and network connectivity expose device manufacturers to significant new security risks and engineering challenges. Digi TrustFence™ provides a tested and fully integrated security framework designed for the long product life of embedded devices.

Digi TrustFence is a security framework for IoT systems. Built into that framework are a series of critical features that enable top-to-bottom security assurance; features like secure connections, authenticated boot, secure physical ports, and more. Digi XBee Cellular implements key elements of the Digi TrustFence framework, including:

  • Secure Boot – Ensures only signed software images can run on a device
  • Encrypted Storage – Security keys are protected by an on-board security chip
  • Protected JTAG – Programming interface locked to prevent tampering
  • Secure Connections – SSL/TLS v1.2 encryption for secure data transmissions
  • Life-cycle Longevity – Digi-maintains a future-proof platform architecture

Security threats to embedded devices in IoT solutions are increasingly common, as attacks become more sophisticated. They can include confidentiality breaches, service theft, data integrity, and reduced service availability. IoT systems have unique security requirements and challenges, mostly due to resource limitations. Build secure, connected products with Digi XBee Cellular embedded modems to capitalize on the out-of-the-box, integrated security provided by Digi TrustFence. The result: you protect your brand’s reputation and focus on delivering cellular-connected products without the worrying, risk and hassle of implementing custom security.

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

Cellular, ZigBee, Thread, Wi-Fi, and More: What Does It Mean To Deliver True Compatibility Regardless of Technology?

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True compatibility is a combination of common hardware and software interfaces that are future-proof and provide design flexibility. Digi XBee offers true compatibility with a common footprint and common APIs:

Common Footprint
In one compact design footprint, Digi XBees give our customers access to multiple wireless protocols and RF frequencies including Cellular, ZigBee®, Thread, 802.15.4 and Wi-Fi. This flexibility lowers manufacturing and engineering costs and offers OEMs the ability to quickly expand their roadmap and adapt to different frequencies and protocols for different regions of the globe.

Common Pinouts
Common footprints mean more than just a shared physical design. All Digi XBee modules use the Digi XBee pin signal layout standard. This means that all Digi XBees share the same electrical connections for maximum interchangeability.

Common API and AT Interface
Digi XBee devices can configure their local serial connections in several different ways. The XBee “operating mode” establishes the way the host device communicates with an XBee through its serial interface. These modes are standardized across all XBee devices.

Digi XBee modules support two different operating modes, which are consistent across all the different technology variants:

  • Application Transparent (“Transparent mode”)
  • Application Programming Interface (“API mode”)

Transparent Mode
Digi XBees operate in this mode by default. The device acts as a simple, ‘plug n play’ serial line replacement when it is in Transparent operating mode. The device queues all serial data it receives through the RX/DIN pin for RF transmission to its configured remote destination. When a device receives RF data from a remote device, it sends the data out through the TX/DOUT pin.


  • Provides a simple interface that makes it easy to get started with Digi XBee.
  • Easy for an application to support; what you send is exactly what other modules get, and vice versa.
  • Works very well for two-way communication between Digi XBee devices.

API Mode
API mode is a frame-based protocol that allows you to direct data on a packet-by-packet basis. The host device communicates UART data in packets, also known as API frames. This mode allows for structured communications between computers and microcontrollers, and the Digi XBee.
The advantages of API operating mode include:

  • It is easier to send information to multiple destinations
  • The host receives the source address for each received data frame
  • The host can receive a delivery status for each transmitted frame
  • Parameter changes can be accomplished without entering Command mode

True Compatibility
With these common hardware and software interfaces, integrating a true Digi XBee socket provides two essential advantages to an OEM design:

  1. Future-proof: Digi XBee will continue to maintain consistency as we add support for new technologies, protocols, and frequencies. This means less software and hardware work for OEM developers when they are asked to add new features into their products and services.
  2. Flexibility: It’s quick and easy to drop in different technologies, protocols, and frequencies to expand your roadmap and address new markets or regions.

With the largest selection of global protocols, standard interfaces, design flexibility, mission-critical security and a future-proof footprint, Digi XBee is the best choice for bringing a communications solution to market in record time.

>>Learn how to buy a Digi XBee Cellular Development Kit today with 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.

Future-Proof Your IoT Products Today with Field-Proven zigbee

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Digi XBee® is the most popular module for building zigbee mesh networks. Our new zigbee 3.0 firmware is coming soon which will combine many of the zigbee application layers and will natively support dotdot, the next chapter in enabling smart objects to work together on any network. So, you can confidently design in Digi XBee without having to worry about compatibility with future developments around dotdot. As a matter of fact, the best path to dotdot is with zigbee today.

Click here to read more about dotdot from the zigbee alliance.


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