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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.

NASA and Digi XBee Wireless Testing Timeline

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As part of their “wireless-in-space” efforts, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) have been using Digi XBee to extend wireless networking capabilities in order to lessen the weight of spacecrafts, increase payload capacity, and create entirely new communication models. Below is the complete timeline of the Digi XBee journey into space:

  • In 2008, the NASA Ames Research Center started to explore a program called SOAREX which stands for (Sub-Orbital Aerodynamic Re-entry Experiments) to test different technologies like flight dynamics, the development of control systems, and sensor verification for future flight applications, improved safety, and data collection. Eventually, NASA engineers began discussing the capabilities of testing the performance of wireless sensor networks on a spacecraft and the potential benefits for future spacecraft.
  • In 2014, they began experimenting with new wireless technology and started using off-the-shelf components, including Digi XBee, to build out a network in order to bring wireless to space.
  • On July 7, 2015 the SOREX-8 Black Brant IX sub-orbital sounding experiment rocket launched from Wallops Flight Facility with eco-brake technology and the first Digi XBee ZigBee to collect sensor data including temperature, air pressure, and 3-axis acceleration parameters. The successfully collected data from the wireless sensor modules validated the potential to someday launch off the International Space Station.
Artist rendering showing Exo-brake deployed.
  • On Monday, March 6 at approximately 12:20 p.m. C.T. NASA released a TechEdSat 5 (Technical and Educational Satellite 5) equipped with Digi XBee® 802.15.4 modules as part of a test program for wireless communications within satellites and payloads from the International Space Station (ISS). Later that day we received confirmation that the TechEdSat 5 is sending data No details beyond that, so stay tune for more good news. In the meantime, watch the successful launch below:

Have an awesome project to share or want to create one with a Digi XBee Cellular Development Kit? Follow and to get in touch with us.

Digi XBee Cellular LTE Cat 1 Development Kit Unboxing

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Integrating cellular technology is easier than ever with Digi XBee Cellular. Digi Chief Innovation Officer, Rob Faludi, gives a preview of what’s included in the Digi XBee Cellular LTE Cat 1 Development Kit and how to get started with the small, cost-effective, and fully-certified embedded modem.

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.

4 Reasons to Attend SOM Success Story Webinar 3/29

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With nearly a century of experience, the electric car pioneer Frazer-Nash designed the first zero-emission taxi in London. The hardware and software design teams spent 16 months trying to develop a chip-down solution before deciding to use a SOM from Digi. Frazer-Nash have since lowered development costs and improved its software throughput by a factor of 15x.

Join us and Digi-Key Electronics on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 at 11 AM ET as we host Frazer-Nash for a live webinar discussion of why they chose a SOM for their design. Below are four reasons to attend and see how systems on modules can improve your wireless designs:

1. Get a behind the scenes look at Frazer-Nash’s evaluation and design process
The Digi ConnectCore 6 system-on-module is one of the few design components not created in-house at Frazer-Nash, there was an extensive evaluation process and ROI hurdles before making the final decision. It is not very common that engineers will share the hidden design process but in this webinar you will hear first-hand what made this project a success with the following:
• Customer insights that directed design and decision making
• Challenges around power consumption
• Environmental, shock, and vibration
• Wireless connectivity
• Size/form factors for a variety of digital displays
• Manufacturability, quality, and certifications

2. Meet the experts behind powering the world’s first zero-emission cab
The Frazer-Nash design teams were led by two engineering experts who will be featured in this webinar and a Digi project expert. Learn more about these speakers:

Greg Starns, Executive Director Software Development Group, Frazer-Nash

“Digi’s solutions were one of the few technologies developed outside of Frazer-Nash and had to meet an incredibly high standards,” said Greg Starns, executive director of software, Frazer-Nash. “The Digi ConnectCore 6 has given us all the capabilities we had hoped for while cutting our development time 15-fold. Its intelligence and usability fell perfectly in line with what we expect from our own development.”


Steven Riddel, Electronics Design Manager, Frazer-Nash







Terry Schneider, VP Product Management, Digi International

3. Receive answers to the most common questions of how SOMs can improve your wireless design
• When does it make sense to use a SOM?
• How do you assess SOM features for your project?
• What are key drivers in selecting a SOM provider?
• How to choose the right wireless protocol for your application?
• What software and tools will support your application?
• How to factor in security into your connected product?
4. Win a FREE development kit
For a chance to win a FREE Digi ConnectCore 6 Development Kit, (1) register for the webinar, (2) follow @DigiDotCom and (3)Tweet at us using the Hashtag #DigiSOMs from now through March 29, 2017 for your chance to win a FREE Digi ConnectCore 6 Development Kit.

Register now for this SOMs Success Story >>

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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


Posted in Cellular | Comments Off on 5 Myths About Cellular Carrier Certification

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.

Posted in Cellular, IoT, Videos, XBee | Comments Off on What are the Differences Between LTE-M and NB-IoT Cellular Protocols?

What’s in a Name? Sorting Out the Alphabet Soup of 3GPP Cellular Naming Conventions

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The 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) is a global consortium of various telecommunications associations. In the late 1990s, the 3GPP was organized to establish 3G cellular specifications based on evolved Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) specifications within the scope of the International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 project of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Since then the scope of 3GPP standards have expanded to cover 4G LTE and evolving standards like LTE Cat 3, LTE Cat 4 and LTE Cat 1. Carriers such as Verizon, AT&T, and Vodafone are rapidly rolling out networks for LTE-M and NB-IoT.

Let’s sort it out:

Example Applications for Narrowband Cellular
These new narrowband standards have made cellular relevant for applications that only need to connect once in a while and send small packets of data. The makers of remotely deployed sensors and equipment that operates in far flung places, often running on battery or solar power, now have a cellular connectivity option. Digi XBee Cellular simplifies embedded cellular connectivity by reducing or eliminating the time and cost of development and certification to incorporate cellular technology into a wide array of applications.

  • Lighting for streets and parking lots – centrally manage and control city-wide networks of street lights.
  • Oil & Gas and industrial process controls – keep an eye on remote equipment, such as tank levels, temperature, pressure and other sensors.
  • Variable message signage (VMS) – applications ranging from signage to traffic sensors.
  • Environmental monitoring – solar panels can report power generation hourly to a cloud-based applications.



Posted in Cellular, XBee | Comments Off on What’s in a Name? Sorting Out the Alphabet Soup of 3GPP Cellular Naming Conventions
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