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Illinois Institute of Technology Students Bring Connected Solutions to Life with XBee

Digi International Digi International
July 31, 2015
Urban gardens that send text alerts when vegetables are ready, autonomous drones, solar powered mesh networks---these innovations arent just ideas, theyre real projects that students at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) created in less than eight weeks.

The Interprofessional Projects Program (IPRO) at IIT gives students the opportunity to work with teams across multiple disciplines to bring ideas to life.

"The IPRO program prepares students for the practical challenges they will face in a changing workplace---emulating a cross-functional team." The program aims to give students hands on experience and create real solutions for the complex issues. 

Students from IITs programs including engineering, science, business, law, psychology, design and architecture complete nearly 90 projects via IPRO every year.

Jeremy Hajek, a professor at IIT has students learn about and work with XBee. First his class reads Building Wireless Sensor Networks by Digis Chief Innovation Officer, Rob Faludi. Then, they bring their own connected ideas to life.

One group used Digis XBee and Arduino to power a solar power mesh network.

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"XBees are radio modules that communicate to each other, being able to be set up any topology including point-to-point, star and mesh, and can go much further than Bluetooth. The router and endpoint collect data and send it to the coordinator, which is in charge of all of the data that passes in its network. XBees are useful to a bunch of purposes, we used them not only for monitoring temperature data and displaying it on the monitor, but also uploading this new data on a web server."

Just like we hear XBee customers say so often, the students mentioned that they selected the XBee because its cost effective and easy to use. "It just does exactly what we need it to do," one of the students said.

To take the project a step further, another group created an Android and Google Glass app to display the data collected by the network. The team pointed out how this could be used by maintenance professionals, landlords and building operators to truly keep their finger on the pulse of facilities.

Digi customers are in fact using XBees to collect and access data to better businesses today.

Similar to some of the solutions that students put together for urban agriculture, DigiBale created a foundational communications system in the form of a "Farm Automation Starter Kit" that can be used to collect data for agriculture processes.

The kit includes ConnectPort X2 Gateway, three Digi XBee-PRO 900HP modules, a subscription to Device Cloud and a smartphone application. Its an ideal setup for creating a mid-sized mesh network that provides accurate soil moisture measurements and converts two electrical devices into automated and remotely managed devices. It enables farmers and growers to setup a system with simple scheduling and activation configuration to devices and access to statistics and activity history of all sensors and devices.

RMONI too, selected XBee due to its ease of use. "Were not RF experts. We dont want to worry about the RF design, so it was very convenient to source XBee and get the support of Digis partners and resellers to get to market quickly," said Bart Meekers, CEO, RMONI.

RMONI uses the XBee to track the environment around food and medication while its in transit and on store shelves. This helps to ensure safety and quality. Even the slightest increase in temperature while handling the products can lead to deterioration, invalid results and considerable loss in revenue, so this is a vital application.

Schréder created Owlet, a solution that uses mesh networking for intelligent street lights. Each light is equipped with a high performance LED array and a XBee Zigbee module. The XBee modules enable groups of lights to form a Zigbee mesh network, which connects to a cellular WAN---a Digi ConnectPort X4 cellular gateway.

Innovators, whether theyre some of Digis bigger XBee customers or students, agree that XBee is the most easy and to-the-point way to add wireless communication to a solution.