On Monday, March 6 at 10:20 p.m. Pacific time. NASA released TechEdSat 5 (Technical and Educational Satellite 5) satellite equipped with Digi XBee 802.15.4 modules as part of a test program for wireless communications between satellites and payloads from the International Space Station (ISS). TechEdSat 5 has been collecting data every 10 seconds and transmitting it from these radios via Wi-Fi ground link to monitor aerodynamics, gravity vector and magnetic field (for orbital positioning). As of August 2017, TechEdSat 5 continues to generate data from orbit, greatly exceeding its planned 6-week mission length. The data will be used to design passive de-orbit system for future space station payloads, so that experimental samples can be quickly returned from the ISS without waiting for a cargo mission.
The TechEdSat 5 mission has two goals:
Assisted GPS positioning for orbital determination (including aiming of antennas).
Checking the orbit and orbital decay before modulated Exo-Brake deployment, during full deployment and throughout the remainder of the de-orbital braking process.
The TechEdSat program is used to bring engineering interns up to speed with real spacecraft and space operations. Interns do most of the development and testing work, with everything reviewed by professional staff to guarantee mission reliability and safety.
Simple programs can make a big difference! An XBee running small amounts of code can perform some pretty important tasks. Cryptic readings can be transformed into useful data, excess transmissions can be intelligently filtered out, modern sensors and actuators can be employed directly, operational logic can glue inputs and outputs together in an intelligent way.
Here are some useful MicroPython examples that should run within 12KB of RAM, useful even in a small sandboxed implementation. Required parts and a method for simulating limited RAM are noted below.
Send “Hello World”
This example shows how to send some text data via an XBee in transparent mode.
SETUP: Connect the XBee (configured to factory defaults) as shown in the diagram below:
PROGRAM: Load the code sample into your pyboard’s main.py file
# main.py -- Send Text Example v1.0 - XBee MicroPython
from pyb import UART# load UART resources
uart=UART(4,baudrate=9600)# create UART object on X1, X2
uart.write('hello world!')# write data
RESULTS: Connect a second XBee, also configured to factory defaults, to your computer. Then use a terminal program like XCTU or CoolTerm to receive the text data. Each time you reset the pyboard, it sends “hello world!” one time to your computer. The results will look like this:
Software is eating the world and the Internet of Things is no exception. In a new post for IoT NOW, I talk about four “software-minded” trends that I believe hardware vendors will increasingly consider for their equipment designs:
XBee radios have rocketed into space! Early in the morning on July 7, NASA launched a NASA Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket from their Wallops Flight Facility. Onboard the rocket was an experiment running the very first wireless XBee network to leave our planet. Here’s a quick description recorded on launch day:
The rocket carried the SOAREX-8 Exo-Brake flight test from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, a kind of thin-air parachute for returning cargo from the International Space Station or for future landings on Mars. The XBee sensor network was used to collect temperature data, air pressure readings, and 3-axis acceleration parameters.
The NASA team retrieved these readings via an on-board gateway created with an Arduino Mega, XBee radio, and an Iridium module. The Arduino Mega microcontroller was used to manage communications between the local XBee wireless network and the long-range Iridium satellite uplink. All of these components were chosen as part of a NASA initiative to use commercial off-the-shelf parts wherever possible, and to employ rapid prototyping tools to efficiently explore new ideas.
An on-board wireless XBee network relayed science data back to NASA throughout the space flight.
The XBee network soared to an altitude of 206 miles before ending its maiden voyage in Atlantic Ocean after completing its duties. Since all data was relayed successfully back to Earth, NASA did not plan to recover the payload.
“This exhibition takes its title from the Twitter message that British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web) used to light up the stadium at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremonies. His buoyant tweet highlighted the way that the Internet—perhaps the most radical social design experiment of the last quarter century—has created limitless possibilities for the discovery, sharing, and expansion of knowledge and information. As we revel in this abundant possibility, we sometimes forget that new technologies are not inherently democratic. Is design in the digital age—so often simply assumed to be for the greater good—truly for everyone? From initial exploratory experiments to complex, and often contested, hybrid digital-analog states, all the way to “universal” designs, This Is for Everyone explores this question with works from MoMA’s collection that celebrate the promise—and occasional flipside—of contemporary design.”
The XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit that our team developed last year recently took home several nice industry awards. We had set out to create a kit simple enough to help non-engineers quickly connect their creations to the cloud yet flexible enough for professionals to build rapid prototypes using advanced programming and cloud-based data sets. The kit is built around Digi’s XBee ZigBee Gateway. It includes code examples and powerful tools for making Internet-connected projects. It also enables remote control of devices and data through a highly customizable open-source dashboard application, pictured here.
Our XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit won the IoT Innovations 2015 award from ConnectedWorld magazine. ConnectedWorld’s Peggy Smedley notes, ”Building wireless and cloud-connected solutions are made easier for developers as a result of the Digi XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit and XBee Gateway.” We are told that winning products were seen as the most creative and technologically advanced products, services, and platforms currently available for the Internet of Things. That’s pretty great. The kit was also honored with the 2014 M2M Evolution IoT Excellence Award, given by TMC & Crossfire Media. This award “honors innovative products that support the availability of information being deduced, inferred and directly gathered from sensors, systems and anything else that is supporting better business and personal decisions.” We’re certainly happy to be a part of making good decisions!
The XBee ZigBee Cloud Kit includes:
One XBee Gateway – ZigBee to Ethernet/Wi-Fi
One XBee-PRO ZigBee 2.4GHz module
One development board w/breadboard
Cables and power supplies
Basic prototyping components: LED gauges, jumper wires, resistors, vibration motor, temperature sensor, audio buzzer and a potentiometer
The vast majority of what I’ve done is open-source and will continue to be so. I’m largely convinced that shared innovation tends to be the most valuable to society. Still, it’s neat to have an official U.S. government document accredit me as an inventor and a childhood goal pretty much accomplished. Now all I need is my astronaut’s license.
Last week I presented “Constructing an Internet of Things Strategy” at Forensecure’15 near Chicago, Illinois. This talk is about how any business can develop and adopt IoT methods to remain competitive in a connected world. The conference is sponsored by IIT’s Center for Cyber Security and Forensics Education, who were kind enough to invite me to speak. I also joined a panel discussion on “The Internet of Things” with Mel Gehrs,Silver Spring Network’s Distribution Automation expert, and Tonnetta Oubari, Verizon’s Manager of IoT for Smart Cities & New Business Innovation. The panel talked about security, new protocols, building automation and the bright future of the IoT.
“Planning for the Internet of Things has become a competitive necessity. Pundits have endlessly heralded the arrival of an IoT mega-trend. Yet creation of a workable organizational strategy around connected devices has not received nearly as much attention. Many important questions remain. Does the Internet of Things really offer business benefits? Are there any realistic plans that can be implemented today? What does an IoT strategy even look like?
In this presentation, we’ll share the key factors that IoT-ready organizations should consider, the essential people and roles to get involved, and the tremendous real-world advantages that a successful strategy can offer. We will begin by reviewing how IoT methods can address previously intractable problems and the pathways to inventive solutions.
At the podium for “Constructing an IoT Strategy”
Attendees will learn the key elements of an IoT strategy, how each can be put into action, and how to create IoT business cases with valuable outcomes. Hard benefits, soft benefits, customer advantages, social rewards, priorities, and timing considerations will all be covered. Need to author a documented IoT strategy that provides immediate benefits for your organization? Here’s how to get started!“
I was honored to share the stage at SXSW with Sparkfun CEO Nathan Seidle, Silicon Labs’ Peter Vancorenland, Chaotic Moon’s Marc Boudria, and Atlas Wearables’ Peter Li in a panel discussion called ”Making to Manufacturing“ at SX Create. This panel brought together technology veterans to share our triumphs, failures and offer words of wisdom to fellow makers. We focused on the common hurdles entrepreneurs must overcome while taking their hardware creation to full-scale production. The conversation revolved around the best ways to prototype, what tools to use, creative funding sources, selecting partners and the best ways to manufacture hardware. Quality control, proper pricing and the importance of developing a great sales team was stressed.
I spent a fun hour the other day talking with Elicia White on her podcast, Embedded.fm: The Show for People Who Love Gadgets. We chatted about XBees, ZigBee, my book, sensors, data science and more. I had just come from visiting NASA, so I even got to explain a bit about how they are putting XBees in Space.
Elicia is an embedded systems consultant at Logical Elegance. She wrote the book Making Embedded Systems for O’Reilly, works at PARC and interviews like a pro. The episode is called: “Make us All Into Sherlock Holmes.”