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Sensor Solutions for Industrial IoT at #Sensors17

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In one week the Digi team will be among thousands of engineering professionals at Sensors Expo & Conference 2017 (Booth #1231) in San Jose, CA, to discuss innovative sensing technologies and to present connectivity solutions for a variety of industrial applications.

Maximizing LTE Technology for Remote Sensor Monitoring

Before the official event even begins, Brent Nelson, Senior Product Manager, will discuss designing for the Industrial Internet-of-Things (IoT) with embedded technology at the new Pre-Conference Symposia. Join Brent on Tuesday, June 27, from 10 – 10:30 a.m. PT, in Meeting Room 211D, to discuss new technologies specific to sensor OEMs and solution providers in industrial sensor markets. His presentation, “Maximizing LTE Technology for Remote Sensor Monitoring,” will cover critical developments in cellular LTE and will provide details on how to win a FREE Digi XBee Cellular Development Kit.

The Transformative Power of Cellular IoT for Embedded Sensor Applications

On Wednesday, the first day of the show, Senior Business Development Manager, Quinn Jones, joins Ranch Systems President and CEO, Jacob Christfort, on the Embedded Theatre Session stage, from 2 – 2:30 p.m. PT to share “The Transformative Power of Cellular IoT for Embedded Sensor Applications”. Jacob will discuss how Ranch Systems successfully integrates wireless and cloud technology to agriculture and environmental monitoring with patented telemetry equipment, cloud software, and a third-party ecosystem to integrate with other sensors and software systems.

“We’ve been using Digi XBee modules for years and we’re pleased to join Digi on stage at Sensors Expo to talk about how Ranch Systems is connecting sensors today and how we’re evaluating emerging cellular standards for tomorrow.” – Jacob Christfort, CEO, Ranch Systems 


Digi Bring Your Own Sensor BYOS Challenge

After hearing about these monitoring and control solutions for growers, join us at Booth #1231 to challenge your sensor and see how easy it is to incorporate your own sensor into an IoT solution with our “Bring-Your-Own-Sensor Challenge.” Come prepared with your sensor, and our team of engineers will connect it to a live Digi Connect Sensor+ demo and within minutes you will see all of your sensor data, such as level, flow, temperature, live on a mobile device.

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #DigiBYOSChallenge.

>>Register for free today and stay tuned for opportunities to win a Digi XBee Cellular Development Kit.

Endress+Hauser Chose Digi Connect Sensor+ Cellular Gateway for Inventory Management

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Endress+Hauser, a manufacturer of instrumentation measurement technology for the process industry, looked to Digi to help develop a more robust inventory management system to take better advantage of the data from their flow, level, pressure and temperature measurement devices.

“We are serving the chemical industry, oil and gas, pharmaceutical, food and beverage, primaries and water and wastewater reserve-focused industries,” explains Thiemo Fichter, head of product management inventory management solutions, Endress+Hauser. “There, we can measure pretty much every process variable.”

Most customers were still in the manual inventory monitoring mode, unable to automate the replenishment process to get product when and where they needed it consistently. Digi Connect Sensor helped E+H collect and deliver the information customers needed to make more timely replenishment decisions.

“We provide this inventory information into the business process. Our customers can get everything out of one hand, from the sensor in the physical world via the connectivity of the data, converting this into information up to the level where we integrate this information into our customer’s business process, their ERP landscape.”

In the video below, Ficthter explains why Endress+Hauser chose Digi Connect Sensor+ Cellular Gateway

Learn more about Digi Connect® Sensor+ here >> 

Introducing NB-IoT Technologies for Cellular IoT

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NB-IoT (also referred to as Narrowband IoT or NB1) is another new mobile data standard for the growing LPWA market, part of the latest Release (13) from the 3GPP cellular standards body. Similar to LTE-M, NB-IoT is optimized for lower-bandwidth applications (data rates up to 250Kbps) and ideal for devices that sleep most of the time, waking up to report their data periodically. NB-IoT uses a simple architecture based on single carrier frequency division multiple access and a DSSS modulation scheme, which helps decrease hardware cost and complexity. It supports ultra-long battery life (up to 10 years), extended range (up to 7x better than current LTE technologies) and better building/obstacle penetration for a wide range of applications and use-cases. Some example applications include remote/sleepy industrial sensors, commercial meters, precision agriculture sensors, and a wide range of smart city applications.

NB-IoT is not considered an ‘LTE’ technology. It branches out of the LTE framework, and can be deployed in a number of different ways, such as:

  • 180 KHz band within the GSM spectrum
  • Within an LTE guard band
  • Independent 200KHz frequency band

Initial NB-IoT deployments in 2017 and 2018 will be primarily in Europe and parts of Asia. Since carriers in the US have already invested heavily in LTE-M infrastructure updates, it is unlikely they will deploy NB-IoT networks in the short-term future.

NB-IoT vs. LTE-M

Key Benefits of NB-IoT

  • Optimized for low-power consumption, even while it is transmitting over the network: Other cellular technologies like LTE-M focus on saving power by sleeping and limiting their transmit time and frequency. NB-IoT excels in its ability to sleep (with support for eDRX) AND minimize power consumption during data transmission, primarily due to the simplified data transmission method and lower data rate, which reduces the need to do power-hungry signal processing and improves the overall efficiency of the system.
  • Less complex radio design with single antenna will be less expensive than other cellular technologies: This will reduce the barrier to entry for new customers and applications to begin integrating low-power cellular technology into their solutions.
  • Improved range and obstacle penetration: With its reduced data rates and simplified radio design, NB-IoT will have stronger link budgets than other cellular technologies, which will lead to greater range/coverage and strong building penetration, great for applications with devices deployed in difficult to reach places.

Digi XBee Cellular NB-IoT
Digi has successfully completed testing of the XBee Cellular NB-IoT in Europe, in partnership with Vodafone. Engineering sample kits are expected to be available by the end of July, customers interested in early testing should contact Digi for more details.

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

Sloth — Sensor-Based Activity Recognition System

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In just twelve short hours, Pejman Ghorbanzade assembled an array of wearable sensors to create “Sloth,” a project that won first prize at IoTHackDay 2016 in Minneapolis. This sensor-based activity recognition system blends wearable computing with Internet of Things using Digi XBee® modules to create a mesh network of small-sized embedded sensor platforms that can identify daily activities such as cooking, walking, sitting down, etc.

At IoTFuse, the largest IoT conference in the midwest, Ghorbanzade presented his project and explained that by attaching a few accelerometers to different body parts, he can collect human physical motions and transmit them to a central node where we can interpret the type of activity being performed and transmit it to the cloud where it can be accessed by privileged users. This type of wearable tech could be a game changer for healthcare monitoring systems and assisted living applications.

We asked Ghorbanzade what inspired the creation of Sloth, why he chose Digi XBee, and how he overcame design challenges and criticism:

When did you first start working with Digi XBee and why did you start?
My first experience with Digi XBee was in November 2012 when I started my research in wireless sensor networks during my undergraduate studies using a Waspmote Starter Kit. The kit included a sensor platform and a communication shield from Libelium and two XBee modules.

I clearly remember my excitement when I managed to wirelessly transmit power readings from the sensor platform to my computer using XBee modules. Since I had only one board, the applications I could work on were fairly limited, but soon I created a simple system for fall detection of the elderly which perhaps sparked the initial idea of developing Sloth.

Who or what inspired you to create Sloth?
The idea of building a wearable activity recognition system started to develop when I was plotting accelerometer data in tri-dimensional space. Initially, I was not aware of the potential of such system in healthcare monitoring and assisted-living and I was not building the system with a specific application in mind.

However, as the system started to take shape, my colleagues started to ask what it is and what applications it is used for. This helped me gradually realize how such system might be useful for improving the quality of life of the elderly. To think that my system could have such impact was itself a great motivation through the design iteration and development process. It also motivated me to better understand the requirements of personal healthcare monitoring systems and shape the product accordingly.

All of this inspired me to build Sloth; a real-time system that allows physicians and authorized users (e.g. immediate family members) to monitor activities of daily living and get notified when certain conditions are met. I firmly believe that such system could be widely adopted in the near future, considering that our societies are aging and the cost of traditional healthcare monitoring solutions such as home nursing is becoming increasingly prohibitive.

Why did you choose to use Digi XBee for this project?
Sensor-based activity recognition is not a new concept and has been well-researched over the past few years. There are already commercial products in the market and the research community is actively publishing new works on different techniques to detect activities of daily living. Consequently, I soon realized that the only way to make a meaningful contribution in development of wearable systems is to identify and address problems that are less investigated and yet are of great practical value.

One of these problems is energy-efficiency. Wearable systems are expected to have long operational lifetime despite limited power resources. This is especially challenging for wearable activity recognition systems since detecting activities of daily living requires collecting motion data at high sampling rates. At the same time, these systems are expected to function in real-time so there needs to be a continuous flow of wireless transmissions among sensor nodes.

To satisfy these requirements, I had to choose a wireless module that is easy to integrate with my prototype boards, reliably transmits data packets, supports various mesh network topologies and, more importantly, consumes the least amount of power in the long run. After careful consideration of different wireless modules and comparing their results, I chose Digi XBee for my project.

What tools do you find indispensable for accomplishing a project with Digi XBee?
Digi XBee modules are easy to integrate with almost any off-the-shelf board which makes them straightforward to set up and easy to communicate using them. This also removes the need for extra tools and modules. For configuring wireless mesh networks, Digi’s XCTU software makes it easy to define the network topology and inter-network communication policies.

What do you find are your biggest stumbling blocks and what are the best ways you’ve found to overcome them?
My biggest challenge was to design a distributed algorithm to minimize network communication rate while maintaining real-time functionality of the system. This required development of a specialized algorithm that can partially process accelerometer data that are collected at very high sampling rates on individual sensor platforms with fairly limited computational capacity.
This made me thoroughly investigate various machine learning algorithms to better understand their characteristics. After many months of research, I finally developed the algorithm that is used in Sloth today and is specialized to minimize power consumption of the system.

What’s your best advice for handling criticism?
I think for any project idea, it is crucial to hear different opinions and spend time thinking about them. I have tried to explain my project’s idea to anyone that is interested in hope that I can follow their line of thinking to identify the missing links in the story. It is also essential to always admit that your product is far from perfect and spend more time investigating its deficiencies than cherishing its advantages.

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.

Introduction to LTE-M Cellular Technology

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Introduction to LTE-M
LTE-M (also referred to as LTE Cat-M or Cat-M1) is a new mobile data standard for the growing LPWA, or Low-Power Wide-Area market. It’s part of the latest Release (13) from the 3GPP cellular standards organization. LTE-M is optimized for lower bandwidth applications, devices that can sleep and report their data periodically. It supports ultra-long battery life capabilities (think multiple years), extended range and better building penetration for devices that might be deployed in ‘hard to reach’ places. It is ideal for use-cases including remote/low-density industrial sensors, automated commercial meters for water or gas systems, connected healthcare devices, and even intelligent industrial lighting systems.





New Power-Saving Features of LTE-M
There are two key features built into LTE-M that enable its power efficiency – PSM (Power Savings Mode) and eDRX (extended Discontinuous Reception).

Power Savings Mode (PSM) allows the device notify the cellular network that it’s going to sleep, and when the network can expect it to wake up based on timer values that are sent by the device. Registration to the network is maintained even while the device sleeps. This means that the device can save battery power, then wake up on schedule to exchange data, or earlier if important information like an alarm needs to be transmitted immediately. It can remain in this registered sleep state for up to 12 days. Once the device wakes up and transmits its payload, it is required to wait and listen for responses from the network for a short period of time (4 idle frames), after which it can go back to sleep in PSM.

Extended Discontinuous Reception (eDRX) is a mode that improves power efficiency for cellular devices by reducing the ‘chattiness’ between the device and the network. A normal LTE device is required to be active for a ‘paging cycle’ every 1.28 seconds. An LTE device that leverages eDRX is only required to be active for a paging cycle every 10.24 seconds. This means a device that is connected to the network and communicating or idle is required to be in an active, power-consuming state for about 10x less time, compared to devices that don’t support this mode. eDRX also allows the device to tell the network that it would like to skip some pre-determined number of these 10.24s cycles, extending paging intervals to 40 minutes or more. Both eDRX and PSM save power, but at its core eDRX facilitates reduced power consumption for devices that are awake and connected/idle with the network.

How does LTE-M Compare to Other LTE Technologies?

Top 3 Things to Remember about LTE-M
1. Simpler, less expensive hardware
Devices can connect to LTE networks with simpler modems that only require 1 antenna, because they are half-duplex and have a narrower bandwidth.
2. Longer Battery Life
Devices can leverage the new Power Savings Mode (PSM) and extended discontinuous reception (eDRX) to achieve up to 10 years of battery life
3. Cheaper Data Plans
LTE-M devices will use lower data rates than other LTE devices (typically less than 300Kbps), so they will be less network-hungry, enabling carriers to vastly reduce the monthly cost of data plans for OEMs.

>> Buy a Digi XBee Cellular Development Kit today and get six months of free data.

Yocto Project for Embedded Systems Design

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Choosing an operating system (OS) for an embedded system is one of the most complex and critical tasks. It has significant long-term ramifications that affect both development and the market success of a product. There are several factors that make choosing a Linux-based OS a smart choice such as:

  • acquisition cost
  • source code availability
  • broad architecture support

These factors lead to a significantly improved time-to-market and a reduction in platform design risk and effort. However, choosing a specific Linux-based OS can be confusing.

Many ask: “With so many Linux-based platforms available in the market, why use the Yocto Project instead of a standard non-embedded binary distribution such as Debian or Ubuntu?”

Alex González, Digi software engineering supervisor, is a leading authority on Embedded Linux platforms and the author of Embedded Linux Projects Using Yocto Project Linux. In Digi’s latest technical brief, Yocto Project: The Right Choice for Embedded Systems Design, Alex provides an overview and answer to that fundamental question.

The Yocto Project is often described as an umbrella project, that is, a group of different open source projects hosted by the Linux Foundation that come together to collaborate on tools, best practices and software to help create custom Linux-based embedded operating system platforms.

Download the full technical brief here >>

Digi Announces Support for AWS Greengrass

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We are proud to announce that the Digi ConnectCore® line of connected embedded products based on the NXP i.MX6/6UL application processors now supports Amazon Web Services (AWS) IoT and AWS Greengrass. AWS Greengrass compatibility enables intelligent IoT devices to communicate securely over a local network and exchange messages without having a persistent connection to the cloud.

Dirk Didascalou, VP of IoT at AWS

AWS Greengrass is designed to support edge devices with cloud connectivity. Greengrass Core devices interact directly with the cloud while allowing Greengrass group devices to communicate securely via local networks. Developers can use AWS Greengrass to integrate Lambda functions locally and then conveniently deploy them to connected devices with intermittent connectivity.

Source: Amazon Web Services

Move quickly from idea to prototype to deployment with the powerful combination of AWS Greengrass and Digi ConnectCore:

  • Implemented on Yocto Project Linux for embedded devices
  • Integration of embedded AWS Lambda device level functions
  • Digi TrustFence™ device-level security with features such as secure connections, authenticated boot, and secure physical ports
  • Remote device monitoring with Digi Remote Manager®
  • Secure firmware update to group devices using AWS-based firmware images via the Greengrass Core

“Building connected devices for the industrial IoT requires secure local device level intelligence without dependency on constant connectivity,” said Mike Rohrmoser, director of product management, embedded systems at Digi International. “The unique combination of Digi TrustFence™ device security, local Lambda extensions, Digi Remote Manager® integration, and Amazon Web Services’ Greengrass delivers the vision for the next generation of IoT edge intelligence in embedded devices.”

>>To learn more about Greengrass-enabled devices, apply for access to the limited Digi innovation preview.

Apply for access

>>Order a Digi ConnectCore 6UL Development Kit.

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Robot Missions: Shoreline Intervention with Digi XBee

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With beach season right around the corner, that can often mean more debris left behind. Robot Missions brought together makers and environmentalists to create a tool that addresses the increasing amounts of harmful pollution along the shoreline.

Comprised of 90% 3D printed material, Robot Missions, was created for Citizen Science in order to navigate less accessible areas. This robot platform is an incredible alternative solution for shoreline cleanup using semi-autonomous behavior and mobile sensor monitoring with Digi XBee modules. The robot can sweep up small washed up debris (10-50mm) and carry it to recycling.

This winter they completed a winter field test on thin ice to explore safe areas around the shore lake shore. Although the robot lost a wheel in the process, it was a successful test. Watch the frozen field test here:

We look forward to more updates on future expeditions, and in the meantime check out on twitter. 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.

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