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Author Topic: Anyone using xbee pro with digimesh firmware?  (Read 656 times)
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Central MN, USA
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Just curious. I started experimenting with them and a digi gateway a few days ago. It seems that they all act as routers and form a network without human interaction (setting up who is coordinator, who are routers and who are end points for zigbee firmware).

I was wondering if anyone else is using digimesh and what your experience is. What I am trying to do is to log data at remote locations and upload them to the internet. Sometimes I have a cluster of sites that may be close enough for xbees to form a mesh network all by themselves using digimesh firmware (in theory) and then share one gateway to the internet. I wonder if someone has done it in practice and how it worked out for you.

Thanks in advance for sharing!
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I've been researching the Digimesh network myself. The only real info I can find comes from the manufacturer. The white paper looks interesting with all features and the range, but it doesn't seem to have much documentation or community activity, which concerns me.

Also, I haven't found any libraries for it...just one link that goes to the Zigbee version, though I don't think the two are interchangeable.

Anyway, hopefully someone has some experience here. I'll post back if I find anything.
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There's plenty of people using xbees. If you use the AT mode then you need no library. Even using the API mode you need no library, just read the documentation. What do you need an xbee for? Is networking required or are you doing point to point? I'm using networking and it's working very nicely. Neat features include remote management and firmware upload etc. You should go ahead and give it a try. The connectPort X2 is a cheap gateway you can start with. But a couple of compatible radios and arduino wireless shields (better than sparkfun xbee shield since it has an ad slot).
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I've found a ton of info on (formerly) Series 1 and Series 2 - Zigbee. However, I've found very little on the actual DigiMesh network with the DM code on the series. I found this post about the different variations of XBee which was very helpful http://forums.parallax.com/showthread.php/128659-XBee-modules-too-many-variations

For my application, I am going to start out with a small Series 1 network just for development purposes. My goal is to design a decentralized, environmental automation and monitoring network for a 2,000 acre development. The system will operate pumps and lights, as well as monitor wind speed and alarms.

I'm looking at maintaining anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 nodes. Each node will only send a few hundred bits of data per hour.

I believe that the zigbee network is limited to about 250 or 300 nodes, so that is why I am investigating the DigiMesh network. I also like the self-healing aspect and the sleep functionality on all units. It seems easier to built out the network piecemeal as well. I also like the mesh bc then I can extend the network on low power rather than having to use the longer range antennas.

Do you have any recommendations for a network this size?
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Right down my alley! I develop environmental data loggers for water resources and soil monitoring. Have several dozen units in the field sending data to servers right now smiley

The DM firmware (proprietary) is said to be more robust compared with the Zigbee (open source) and needs no management. Don't use series 1 hardware! It's not networkable as far as I know and obsolete. Go for at least series 2 xbee pro radios and arduino official wireless shields. I have several radios and antennae from sparkfun, some radios from digi (manufacturer of all xbee devices) and several types of wireless/xbee shields. Get a sparkfun xbee explorer. It's the only thing on the market that can support firmware flash. Try flash firmware with arduino official wireless shield and you will be sorry you did that (I did it once). The pro radios can accept either zigbee or digimesh firmware so don't worry too much. I'd go with digimesh since they put more money on the proprietary stuff.

You also need to decide frequency, 2.4G (short range) or 900M (long range up to many miles).

If you decide to get 900M, don't just get the newest one, which is the 900MHz HP. It's brand new and their gateways don't support them yet. I have two sitting in a box.


Looks like they were working hard over the past two months. They now have 900HP compatible routing gateways.
New 900M HP pro:
http://www.digi.com/products/wireless-wired-embedded-solutions/zigbee-rf-modules/point-multipoint-rfmodules/xbee-pro-900hp

Original 900M pro:
http://www.digi.com/products/wireless-wired-embedded-solutions/zigbee-rf-modules/zigbee-mesh-module/xbee-digimesh-900

They just rolled out connectPortX4 with 900M HP support. I'm going to call them next week to confirm. This project I am doing I have the 900M pro. I bet at deployment I'll switch to 900M HP pro. No sweat. Everything is transparent to programming.
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Thanks for the tips. Too bad I just ordered a set of series 1, since that is what the beginner tutorials say on SparkFun and Adafruit. Oh well, at least I will use them at the hackathon this weekend even if they aren't good in the long run. I did order a set of xbee explorers, though.

The biggest frustration here is the naming. I thought that link that I posted made it clear, but from what you say and what I am reading on Sparkfun, the naming is still complicated. No product on Sparkfun or Adafruit says DM. Am I to assume that if it isn't Zigbee, it is DM?

I'm glad to hear that DM is so robust and not just hype. As for the frequency, this is tough because the development will be built out over a decade. Initially, I would like to use the longer range units, but in the end, for energy efficiency purposes, I would like to use the 2.4G network. I don't think the two can be combined, though. Also, the 28 mile range on the 900 HP is line of sight. This development is in a jungle. I wonder how that would effect range.
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OK, terms, terms, terms!

xbee: a brand name and form factor. The rectangular shape with two cut-off corners and two rows of 2mm pitch headers is the xbee branded form factor. Xbee alone doesn't represent any hardware or firmware. Sparkfun tutorial didn't get this right:
https://www.sparkfun.com/pages/xbee_guide

Digi: company that owns the xbee product name (they probably purchased the company a few years back).

Zigbee: a specification based on IEEE 802.15 developed by Zigbee alliance. It's not a product or name owned by a company, or necessarily comes in rectangles with two corners cut off smiley

802.15.4: again a specification, not a product, although digi produces products called xbee 802.15.4.

Series 1, 2, 3(?!): these are kind of product designations by digi or the company that digi bought. Series 1 can only do point to pint if I understand correctly, probably broadcasting and point-to-point, no networking. Series 2 can do networking, which means, if radio X can't see radio Y, it will attempt to use other radios to reach radio Y, not needing your help.

Zigbee pro: possibly xbee pro ZB, this is a digi xbee brand radio that has Zigbee firmware and is a higher power module. It interconnects with Zigbee from other manufacturers. The ZB of Zigbee refers to the firmware, not the hardware, which is radio and microcontroller. This Zigbee firmware is open source. In a Zigbee network, there is one coordinator that maintains order on the network. It often acts as router and gateway to other network (if it has the hardware capability to tunnel between networks, such as cellular, ethernet, wifi, satellite). Other modules are ASSIGNED as router and/or end devices. End devices can only talk with the router (or coordinator itself) if it wishes to talk to another radio. There are several flavors of Zigbee firmware, coordinator, router, and sometimes end device. You load a radio with one of the firmwares and their roles stick to the firmware. You can swap firmware as you like.

xbee pro DM: this is digi xbee brand radio with digimesh firmware. It is a proprietary firmware. The hardware is the same as Xbee pro ZB, just firmware differs. You can swap firmware in a snap. The DM firmware is superior than Zigbee and every radio can act as router and is free to directly communicate with any other radio, plus the whole network needs no coordinator, preventing the network from going down in case the coordinator goes down.

That was as far as I understand.

Oh, by the way, just play with the series 1 for a bit now. Digi is pushing out their xbee 900MH pro HP series. All the no HP series are gone from their website listings. These modules must be closer to GOD than the xbee 900MHz pro (according to various religions, GOD has the highest power smiley-grin ).

And yes, 900MHz and 2.4GHz are not hardware compatible. If you deploy now, with sparsh network, go with 900MHz and good antenna. Then if you really really have to add a lot of nodes and have settled to 2.4GHz, take all the 900MHz hardware and set up a sparsh network elsewhere. You will always use them to set up a network initially until it grows large enough for 2.4GHz (maybe never for some networks).
 
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Thanks for the info. I got the Series 1 working last weekend. It was fun! The only issue was the range.

I am looking to step up to Series 2 and would like to set up two Xbees 4 miles apart in the city. Is it enough to run an antennae to the roof. All they give is Line of Sight distances, but I've read that this really means something with a football shape.
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While we're on terminology. Digi Intl. now calls Series 1 "XBee 802.15.4" and Series 2 "XBee ZigBee" or "XBee ZB".

http://www.digi.com/products/wireless-wired-embedded-solutions/zigbee-rf-modules/zigbee-mesh-module/xbee-zigbee-802154-rf-modules/
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Real-life situation is very difficult to account for than line of sight with no interference nearby. These antennas are dipole antenna so you get the best signal when they are both vertical and at the same height. If you're having fun with them, use the X-CTU program, set up one xbee  to transmit in the range test tab and you take your other xbee on a laptop and keep walking until your reception is down. What antenna are you using?

Jack, I didn't know that. I guess digimesh is a new term, that is retrospectively applied to their proprietary firmware on "series 2" radios.
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I am looking to step up to Series 2 and would like to set up two Xbees 4 miles apart in the city. Is it enough to run an antennae to the roof. All they give is Line of Sight distances, but I've read that this really means something with a football shape.

The spec on the XBee ZB Pro modules is 2 miles LOS (for USA, less for other countries).

There are other models that go further, though at the expense of data rate.
« Last Edit: March 03, 2014, 07:16:35 am by Jack Christensen » Logged

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I guess digimesh is a new term, that is retrospectively applied to their proprietary firmware on "series 2" radios.

Digi uses designations like S1 and S2 to indicate the hardware platform each product line is built on. Note that hardware is shared among various product lines. DigiMesh modules are built on the S1 hardware (as well as a couple others). I was confused on that, I thought like you did that they were S2 as well.
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Thanks for the link. In a couple of weeks, I'll order a couple Pro-HPs and see how they fare in the city. I found this (apparently) free pdf that covers networking http://www.makershed.com/v/vspfiles/assets/images/122-32450-xbeetutorial-v1.0.1.pdf

Pages 14 and 15 have calculations for distance. It appears that for 4 miles, I will need just over 70 feet of clearance. Seems steep. At any rate, this book covers Series 1, whereas Building Wireless Sensor Networks just covers Series 2.

As for X-CTU, it looks like I'll have to give in and use my Windows netbook. I find it very strange that a company the size of Digi does not offer a program on all platforms.

Cheers!
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I have a hunch that digi didn't own Xbee until recent years. If I were a small company that just builds and sells stuff, I'll not pay Apple just to write a program on its system.
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