Wireless Arduino programming with ZigBee

ZigBee is a low-power communication system using digital radios. It’s intended to be easier to work with than Bluetooth. Adafruit recently added an adapter board for Digi’s XBee product line and has put together a great how-to to show the devices potential. Using two XBee radios and adapters you can wirelessly program an Arduino board. This would be great if your Arduino was installed in an inaccessible area or maybe it’s over 100feet away from where you’re working. The radios do serial communication just fine. What the how-to covers is getting the reset line working so the Arduino can restart automatically after you program it. Once the radio pair is configured properly, it will pass the RTS line state directly from one device to the other.


  1. biozz says:

    http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/product_info.php?products_id=8471 a simple modification of that may be cheaper and look nicer

  2. biozz says:

    “It can be used as a serial/usb replacement or you can put it into a command mode and configure it for a variety of broadcast and mesh networking options.”


  3. charlie says:

    man, i did that like a year ago… then fried one of the xbees by putting it in backwards. :( and 80 bucks for that shield… shit myself! arduino boards are for pussy’s anyways. miss limor is a cool bean though. guess i must make something myself for you to write about…

  4. ragnar says:

    try a search for rfm12, which is a tranceiver module for 5 euro ($6), those zigbees seems very expensive for the job. separate reveiver (rfm01) or transmitter (rfm02) are 3.50 euro, or $4.

  5. biozz says:

    @ charlie
    well if you want to go there the arduino its self is sort of a pussy way to get things done almost but its the simplest (unless you want to dust off the old basic stamp 2) and it gets most basic things done

  6. fartface says:

    zigbee is cool but horribly overpriced. you can get the 433Mhz Xciever boards for dirt nowdays.

  7. ladyada says:

    @biozz the xbee shield is neat but its not going to be cheaper, there’s also no real easy way to pass along the reset signal without adding more messy components :)

    @fartface/ragnar: 433 & 900 mhz modules have a spot in my heart, but by the time you add error correction, retransmit, sleep mode, packetization, addressing, a/d inputs, point2multipoint, baud rate control, etc. its about $20 each ;) if you Just Want It To Work then I rather like the xbee’s

  8. obor says:

    that’s a good idea, Xbee and Arduino make a good couple to build useful applications. Recently, I made my own RC transmitter/receiver with a similar principle: http://effetdebord.blogspot.com

  9. justDIY says:

    Can anyone point to projects using the zigbee / xbee for anything other than serial cable emulation? zigbee makes a terribly expensive serial cable in my humble opinion.

    Lets see some mesh networking projects done on simple hardware!

  10. paul says:

    at burning man this year there was an impressive example of mesh netowrking in action using arduinos and xbee transceivers. You can see the artist’s site here:


    basically each pod has it’s on xbee/aruduino, multiple directional pressure sensors, and 24 color led’s. If someone steps on the pod; the pod lights up, and the arduino sends a signal to its neighboring pods who in turn light up and pass on the signal. the result is beautiful ripples =)

  11. Octavio says:

    Hi, we at libelium (www.libelium.com) use arduino+xbee to create open hardware sensor networks.
    We have developed squidbee (www.squidbee.com) so anybody can use it for their own developments. And is a growing community that develop with squidbee as you can see in http://www.sensor-networks.org

    I hope this info can be usefull.

  12. vexorg says:
  13. lance says:

    Has anyone published a tutorial like this for bluetooth? The bluetooth boards are rather expensive, and I’m really just looking to getting data through bluetooth, not reprogramming the arduino remotely.

  14. t.h. says:

    can anyone tell me how to use the xbee in
    an ad hoc mode? it seems to always in
    a “Personal Area Network” mode, configured
    to their own way of doing mesh. i’d like
    to be able to receive any kind of zigbee
    msg and send any kind of zigbee msg.

  15. GS says:

    can we connect more than one receiver using one transmitter

  16. Michael says:

    NYCE Control makes cool sensors that you can use with ZigBee / xBee.

    you can probably order online – http://www.NyceControl.com

  17. NYCE Control makes very cool tiny sensors that you can use with ZigBee / XBee.

    I believe you can get them online – http://www.NyceControl.com

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