An XBee module is a very small radio device that uses various communication protocols to send information, such as data from a sensor. Radio frequency (RF) XBee modules communicate through a gateway, while cellular XBees connect over cellular networks. That’s the Digi XBee definition. Let’s talk about features, use cases, and how to compare XBees.
Digi XBee modules are robust, versatile, secure and reliable, making them the popular choice for adding wireless communications to connected products. Digi XBee radios are used in every imaginable IoT application, from industrial sensing, smart agriculture and asset tracking to smart city lighting.
Here are some key XBee features:
Let’s look at XBee options for protocols, frequencies, antennas and form factors.
Compare our various XBee modules and find the perfect fit for your application
We've touched on a few of the applications where Digi XBee modules are deployed across the globe. Yet there are so many more! Wherever machinery and systems need to be automated and monitored, wherever sensors need to be deployed, and wherever wireless communications between machinery and applications is a critical business function, you will find XBee.
Digi XBee modules provide the remote communication for agriculture, industry, solar fields, wind farms, telematics, robotics, water management, autonomous vehicles and other transportation use cases. Be sure to peruse our Customer Stories, and filter by "Digi XBee."
The XBee radio module was introduced in 2005 by MaxStream. Digi bought MaxStream the next year and launched a certified Zigbee XBee module. These products proved so popular that Wi-Fi modules followed. Third-parties began building sockets for Digi XBee into their own products. Then in 2018, Digi introduced the Digi XBee 3 line of programmable modules. The family grew, with additional XBee module range and cellular options, and an ecosystem of supporting software, libraries and tools to simplify XBee development. Here’s a quick overview of XBee evolution:
What is Zigbee, and how does it differ from XBee? XBee and Zigbee are sometimes confused because both have a “Bee” in their branding. But whereas XBee is a radio module, Zigbee is a secure communications protocol standard for low-power, local-area wireless mesh networking that operates on global frequencies. XBee modules run Zigbee and many other protocols, making it easy and cost-effective to develop wireless applications.
Several Digi XBee lines come in both regular and PRO versions. The main difference between the two is transmission power, and therefore XBee range.
Regular XBee: The regular versions of Digi XBee 3 RF, Digi XBee RR and Digi XBee SX support medium range applications, requiring a modest amount of transmission power. They use less energy, so batteries last longer, and they generate less heat, are lower-cost, and can be certified in regions that allow only low-power transmissions.
XBee PRO: The Digi XBee-PRO radios include Digi XBee 3 PRO, Digi XBee RR PRO, Digi XBee-PRO 900HP and Digi XBee-PRO SX. PRO modules are considered long-range, for distances from 2 miles up to 65 miles.
Until 2014, XBees used a “series” to describe different modules. Today many sites still compare the two so let’s compare XBee Series 1 vs. Series 2
XBee Series 1: The Series 1 XBee is the same as the Digi XBee 802.15.4. It was called the Series 1 because it was the first XBee ever made, and to distinguish it from the subsequent Series 2 line.
XBee Series 2: The Series 2 XBee is identical to the Digi XBee Zigbee module. It is also similar to the Digi XBee 3 Zigbee module, which added programmability, additional form factors, Bluetooth and other features.
While the “series” nomenclature was replaced by more descriptive terminology, it’s helpful to understand these older Digi XBee definitions.
The Digi XBee line has three broad groups. There are short-range low-power radios, long-range modules that require more energy to carry signals over distances, and Digi XBee cellular modems that join mobile networks.
The following table lists range capabilities and power requirements for the current Digi RF and cellular modules. Ranges are the maximum to expect, and are affected by factors including antennas, local area networks and cellular availability.
Using the globally-accepted 2.4 GHz frequency, these Digi XBee modules can be deployed almost anywhere for short-range connectivity with excellent battery life.
Digi XBee Wi-Fi: With flexible design options, simple provisioning tools and native support for Digi Remote Manager®, this module allows developers to bring cloud-connected Wi-Fi products to market quickly, with minimal effort or cost.
Digi XBee 3 Zigbee: This module creates interoperable mesh networks using the Zigbee protocol standard. Zigbee has been part of the XBee line from the beginning. Digi XBee 3 Zigbee modules come in three compatible sizes, with Bluetooth and programmability onboard.
Digi XBee 3 802.15.4: The 802.15.4 IEEE standard provides fast connectivity, often with no configuration required. Flexible and battery-saving, these modules are available in three Digi XBee 3 footprints with BLE, MicroPython and Digi TrustFence® security.
Digi XBee DigiMesh 2.4: For applications where interoperability with third party devices isn’t required, DigiMesh provides an excellent mesh network with some distinct advantages over Zigbee, including simplicity and improved power management. The Digi XBee 3 version is programmable, BLE addressable and secure.
Digi XBee RR: Digi XBee RR wireless modules accelerate time-to-market for designers, OEMs and solution providers by quickly enabling wireless connectivity and easy-to-add functionality.
Several Digi XBee long range modules operate in the 900 MHz and 868 MHz bands, license-free in North America and Europe respectively. Lower frequency ranges allow greater signal propagation, typically in exchange for a bit more power draw.
Digi XBee cellular modules provide mobile data connectivity in a familiar form factor. These pre-certified modules provide the easiest way to integrate cellular connectivity into OEM devices. Optimized for IoT low-power/low-bandwidth requirements, each comes with a development kit for rapid prototyping. All feature integrated MicroPython programmability, MQTT support for cloud platforms like Azure and AWS, Bluetooth Low Energy for beaconing, connecting to sensors and local configuration using the Digi XBee Mobile app.
Today you can configure and test Digi XBee Cellular solutions with Digi XBee Studio — a free multi-platform application — and manage your cellular modems with our sophisticated cloud platform, Digi Remote Manager®. Learn more about Digi XBee Studio in our tutorial.
An XBee range comparison with cellular modems creates a bit of a paradox because while the distance to the closest cell tower is typically small, the modules can connect from almost anywhere, so their effective coverage distance is very large.
The following is the current Digi XBee Cellular product offering:
Radios need antennas to transmit and receive signals. The right antenna depends upon device size, materials, range requirements and mechanical limitations. Digi offers many options for XBee distance and range requirements. Some antennas require connectors.
The Digi XBee ecosystem provides a host of hardware and software tools to speed the development, integration and manufacturing. These are available from Digi and third-party partners. Here are some of the many tools supporting the Digi XBee line.
Ready to explore? The Digi XBee ecosystem supports your development journey, from fast prototyping to ongoing management, with rapid over-the-air firmware updates for networks of any size. This XBee buying guide provides an overview of the Digi XBee line. Contact the Digi’s sales team to start a conversation!