Kilonode: how to test a huge Xbee mesh network

So let’s say that you’re a developer on the Xbee team. You need to test the extremes of what the RF radio modules can do when in a large network. But in addition to numerous nodes, you also need to test the effects of distance on the radios. Since it’s not reasonable to distribute hundreds of the devices (each with their own power source) throughout town, you build a test setup like the 1 kilonode Xbee rig which the project manager, [Jared Hofhiens] is showing off.

He’s holding one blade from the rack-mounted system. Each of those squares is an Xbee module, there’s 32 etched onto the board. On the edge furthest from him there are a set of connectors which mate with the rack connectors, hooking the blade up to a set of terminal servers. These servers allow developers to ssh into individual modules. On the near side of the blade there’s a set of attenuation adjustment circuits. They allow adjustments of 0-40 dB of attenuation in 10 dB increments to adjust how strong the RF signals are, simulating distance between modules.

Thirty-two of these cards are mounted in the three racks seen above to make up the 1024 module node. We really appreciate this look behind the scenes and think you’ll enjoy the video tour after the break. If it leaves you wanting more check out how one company builds cloud storage. [Read more...]

On Air light parses webpage data wirelessly without a computer

[Matt Richardson] built this on-air light to indicate whether a Make streaming show is currently in progress. Despite the obvious cord leaving the bottom of the base (it’s a power cord) his creation is pulling data from the Internet wirelessly. He’s using an Xbee module along with an Arduino to pull this off.

In addition to the light itself there’s a base station that we haven’t seen before. The hardware is a Digi ConnectPort Zigbee-to-Internet Gateway. That’s a mouthful but it’s just a box that acts as an Xbee node and facilitates communication between its own Ethernet port and other Xbee devices in the network. So no, you don’t need a computer but you do need an Ethernet connection somewhere for the base station. [Matt] is running an open source software package on the ConnectPort call Xbee Internet Gateway (xig). Watch the video after the break to see the configuration for this package. It’s a snap, and if you’ve never used an Xbee module before this gives you a good idea of how easy it really is.

[Read more...]

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.

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