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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. >> 

3 Holiday DIY Internet of Things Projects

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With Black Friday and Cyber Monday behind us, the holidays are officially in full swing. To help get you in the holiday spirit, we’ve curated some of our favorite connected creations that take holiday celebration to the next level.

Here are some of our favorite Internet of Things-powered projects to keep you occupied this holiday season.

Enjoy!

Internet of Things (IoT) meets the Internet of Holidays (IoH)

The OpenDNS Security Labs team took a look at IoT patterns throughout the holiday season and examines the patterns that emerged.

Internet of Things Christmas Tree

Make your own IoT Christmas tree with this handy how-to from our friends at Instructables!

The IoT Holiday Lights Project

Find out what Twitter, a Christmas tree, and minions all have in common with this clever IoT holiday project.


Have you seen a worthy holiday IoT project? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll add it to the list!

IoT Smart Record Player

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First time Digi XBee users, successfully created the Smart Record Player at the 2016 IoT Hack Day in Minneapolis, MN that was organized by IoT Fuse. This Clank, Clank, Clunk record player was created using “off the shelf parts” and “off the shelf technology” also known as the Digi XBee module and the Digi XBee Cloud. This allowed the hackers to solely focus on creating this master piece within the 12 hour time-frame.

The Clank, Clank, Clunk record player created by Ken Chang and his team using Digi XBee at the 2016 IoT Hack Day.

You can watch one of the creators, Ken Chang, explain the smart project in more detail and Get the full Clank! Clank! Clunk! story on Devpost

This Week in The Internet of Things: Friday Favorites

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Smart Stitches Send Doctors Information on Wounds as They Heal
Modern medicine has come a long way thanks to IoT, and researchers at Tufts University who are working towards pushing the limits even further with the development of “smart stitches”. Learn how these “smart stitches” are designed to close wounds while simultaneously updating doctors on the healing progress.

7-Eleven delivers by drone in Reno including, yes, Slurpees
Are you thirsty but it’s too hot to walk to the nearest 7-Eleven? Well, read how you can have slushies, donuts, and more delivered to your door step courtesy of the first delivery drone built by tech company, Flirtey.

Developing Blockly for Propeller: Our Team Includes Three Student Interns Who’ve Progressed Quickly
In addition to helping develop the Blockly for Propeller demo system; these teenage geniuses have been working hard on a few projects of their own. Check out Blake’s Intruder Alert system he made using Digi XBee, Roxy’s M&M Color Identifying robotics project, and watch Carson’s 0.95” OLED in action.

BuzzCloud Wants to Take the Sting Out of Urban Beekeeping With Its iBuzzHive
With Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) on the rise, even the honeybees are taking to IoT in hopes to make beekeeping possible (and painless) in Urban environments. Watch how BuzzCloud plans to use 3D-printing and IoT to save the troubled population of these important pollinators:

Facebook’s Internet-Broadcasting Drone Takes to the Skies for the First Time
In effort to increase internet access across the world, Facebook built a solar powered, lightweight, 42 m wide drone named Aquila. See for yourself how Facebook designed Aquila to stay airborne for 90 consecutive days.

What Are the Differences Between DigiMesh® and Zigbee® Mesh?

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Mesh networking is a powerful way to route data over an RF network. Range is extended by allowing data to hop node to node and reliability and resiliency is increased by “self-healing,” or the ability to create alternate paths when one node fails or a connection is lost.

One popular mesh networking protocol is Zigbee®, which is specifically designed for low-data rate, low-power applications. Digi offers several products based on the Zigbee protocol. Additionally, Digi has developed a similar mesh protocol named DigiMesh®. Both Zigbee and DigiMesh offer unique advantages important to different applications. The following chart highlights these differences:

Zigbee® Mesh DigiMesh®
Node types and their benefits Multiple: Coordinators, Routers, End Devices. End devices can sometimes be less expensive because of reduced functionality. Single: One homogeneous node type, with more flexibility to expand the network. DigiMesh simplifies network setup and reliability in
environments where routers may come and go due to interference or damage.
Battery Deployed Networks Coordinators and routers must be mains powered All nodes are capable of battery operation and can sleep. No single point of failure associated with relying on a gateway or coordinator to
maintain time synchronization.
Over-the-air firmware updates Yes Yes
Range Most Zigbee devices have range of less than 2 miles (3.2 km) for each hop. Available on XBee SX with range of up to 40+ miles for each hop.
Frame payload and throughput Up to 80 bytes. Up to 256 bytes, depending on product. Improves throughput for applications that send larger blocks of data.
Supported frequencies and RF data rates Predominantly 2.4 GHz (250 kbps) 900 MHz (Up to 250 Kbps), 868MHz, 2.4 GHz (Up to 250 Kbps)
Security 128-bit AES encryption. Can lock down the network and prevent other nodes from joining. Both 128 and 256-bit AES encryption. Can lock down the network and prevent other nodes from joining.
Interoperability Potential for interoperability between vendors. Digi proprietary
Interference tolerance Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS). 900 MHz: Frequency-Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS). 2.4GHz: Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS).
Addressing Two layers. MAC address (64 bit) and Network address (16 bit). MAC address (64 bit) only.
Maintenance More sniffers and diagnostic tools available on market. Simpler addressing can help in diagnosing problems and setting up a network.

For more information on DigiMesh and Digi XBee click here.

Prototype XBee and Other Wireless Projects with Tinylab

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You might remember our post about the XBee product turned Indiegogo superstar last year–Plexidrone. Well, there’s another XBee related Indiegogo campaign making headlines. Tinylab is a prototyping platform, developed by Bosphorus Mechatronics, simplifying IoT development with an all-in-one Arduino-based solution.

Tinylab reduces the need to stack multiple Arduino shields, pull out the breadboard and jumper wires, or hunt down that spare LTH sensor in your drawer. This flexible and extensive development board supports Arduino and other development environments, hosts 20 Digital I/O, and additional sensors come pre-attached. And, perhaps most exciting, is the support for a number of wireless technologies like XBee, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi with the ESP8266 chip as seen in the graphic below.

 

tinylab-schematic
 

The Indiegogo campaign got off to a great start and Bosphorus Mechatronics quickly exceeded their goal of $25,000. The crew is shipping development kits to their campaign supporters in May and one level of support will even earn contributors a development kit that includes XBee RF modules.

Also, to demonstrate the board’s capabilities, the team at Tinylab created an wireless lighting demo. The video is showing wireless control of a lightbulb with commands sent over XBee. Check out the video below.

If you are interested in learning more about the Tinylab prototyping platform, click here to visit the Indiegogo campaign and support! You can follow their updates on Twitter or visit the Bosphorus Mechatronics website here.

FogFinder Relies on Arduino and Digi XBee to Tap into New Water Source

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No, it’s not possible to create water out of thin air. But, with a bit of engineering, scientists in Chile are turning foggy air into a reliable water source for nearby residents. The process is almost entirely natural—the sun desalinates the water, the winds push the water to a higher elevation, and gravity allows the collected water to flow back down to the village.

Using large fog collectors, which consist of mesh mounted on a rigid structure, to capture impacting fog water droplets from the air and tapping into the natural processes mentioned above, fog collection could be an economical way to gather and distribute clean water.

The fog collectors are typically installed on hillsides and remote areas where fog is abundant. These installations are especially common in arid climates in Chile where rain runs scarce. As fog passes through, the droplets impact the mesh fibers and collect in a trough below. One of the real challenges and opportunities for innovation lies in determining where to install these collectors, how to orient them, and understanding how efficient they are at collecting water from the air.IMG_0420

While at the Universidad de los Andes in Santiago Chile, Richard LeBoeuf, Associate Professor at Tarleton State University, and Juan de Dios Rivera, of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, developed a new type of sensor called the “Liquid Water Flux Probe” to measure the availability of water at current and potential fog collector sites. The sensor measures the liquid water content and speed of the fog and can be used to understand the optimal location and orientation for each of the collectors.

The sensor is part of a larger system called FogFinder, which Richard LeBoeuf developed in collaboration with Juan Pablo Vargas and Jorge Gómez at the Universidad de los Andes. Together they designed and engineered the FogFinder system, which includes wireless networking.

20151215_182827

With the primary challenge of measuring fog liquid water flux out of the way, the team needed to design a device capable of being deployed in extremely remote environments and easily retrieve sensor data. Since there is no power source to plug into out in the desert, the options are either solar or wind power. Due to their simplicity, a separate solar power system, comprised of a solar panel, battery, and charge controller, is used in conjunction with the FogFinder unit.

To facilitate the collection and transmission of sensor data, the team chose to build the foundation of FogFinder with Arduino and Digi XBee. Both components offered a fast and easy way to get started prototyping the design. Each sensor node is comprised of an Arduino Mega and Digi XBee module, and the team even designed and built custom boards to regulate voltage, interface the sensors and store data on a micro-SD card.

20151215_154618

The node collects data on the following parameters:

  • Liquid water flux
  • Humidity
  • Temperature
  • Flow-rate from fog collectors
  • Pressure
  • Wind speed
  • Wind direction

The team settled on using Digi XBee for local wireless communication since it provided greater range and required less power than Bluetooth. The Zigbee protocol also offers the flexibility to create a mesh network and configuration settings to conserve power-saving valuable battery life. With external antennas and mountain top to mountain top placement of each radio, they have achieved a reliable 1 km link.

Once the data is collected, it’s sent to a remote server over a cellular network. Using a BeagleBone SBC and a cellular modem, data is taken from the local Digi XBee Zigbee network and can be accessed on a remote computer. This data is then analyzed to assess the performance of the fog collector.

What’s next for FogFinder? As the team wraps up the prototyping stage, they’ll be conducting calibration in a wind tunnel to prepare for field tests.  Once the testing phase is complete, the team will work to deploy them as part of a pilot program and start connecting more Chilean residents to a clean source of water.

You can read more about the FogFinder project in the following articles:

The FogFinder project has received support from the Universidad de los Andes through its Fondo de Ayuda de Investigación, Andes Iron – Dominga, and the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

To learn more about Digi XBee click here >>

 

A Better Way to Build Your Next Project: XBee Hardware Tools

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The open source movement and strong maker community has led to the creation of a number platforms that give developers a quick and efficient way to create a proof of concept, prototype, or even a final product. Here a few especially handy hardware platforms for developing XBee projects that we think you might find helpful.

Waspmote
The Waspmote is a sensor mote that gives developers a simple way to create wireless sensor networks connected over XBee. The mote supports all the same network topologies as XBee, so it is possible to create complex mesh networks as well as simple point to point communications. In addition to network flexibility, the motes primary feature is reduced power consumption, which makes it ideal for sensors running on battery.waspmote_mote_runner_24 (1)

What makes the Waspmote especially awesome is the fact that Libelium has developed their own sensor boards that plug directly into the Waspmote–eliminating the need to solder anything or dust off your box of breadboards and jumper wires. They have industry specific sensors boards that are equipped with the sensors needed for a specific applications like Smart Water, Agriculture, Smart Cities, among many others. Visit the Libelium home page to learn more about the Waspmote.

Arduino FIO
The Arduino FIO board was created by Shigeru Kobayashi and SparkFun Electronics in an effort to simplify the process of making a wireless Arduino project. With connections for a LiPo battery and an XBee socket right on board, the board has everything you need to create anything from a lightning sensor to a programmable swarm of robots.

arduino fioPerhaps the most useful feature of the FIO board is the ability to upload sketches wirelessly. Gone are the days of completely tearing down your project so that you can plug it into your computer! Check out this information guide for information on programming Arduino over XBee.

Apitronics
Apitronics is an open platform that enables farmers to collect sensor data via connected sensors deployed throughout farms, greenhouses, and gardens. The data is collected from remote nodes placed around the farm and is aggregated at a central hub. The data can be accessed at a local web page and helps farmers monitor environmental conditions, which allows them to make more informed management decisions.apitronics

With less than 10% of farms using sensors today, the goal is to give small and mid-sized farmers the tools necessary to gather quantitative data–reducing waste and maximizing crop yields. But this platform isn’t just for those with a farming day job, this can be used to monitor your backyard gardens as well! Visit Apitronics website to learn more about their open source agricultural efforts.

duinoPRO
Taking your prototype to production is an issue many start-ups and design teams struggle with. As Arduino has become nearly synonymous with the word prototype, engineers are increasingly in need of an efficient way to turn their Arduino based prototype into a scalable product. DuinoPRO is aimed at the lean start-up community or anyone looking to leverage the highly supported Arduino platform to create a prototype they plan to scale to relatively large volumes in a surface mount facility.

duinoproMaybe we Missed Your Favorite?
Did we miss one of your favorite XBee development tools? Never fear. Just leave a comment below or let us know on Twitter at @XBeeWireless and we will add it to the post!

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