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Digi modem in micro form factor for IoT edge

Steve Rogerson
February 1, 2018

Digi International has announced the availability of the XBee3 series of RF modules and cellular modems, including in a micro form factor option for supporting IoT innovation at the network edge.
The series extends its modular approach to IoT connectivity, enabling the integration of functions as needs arise and regional requirements change. Included in its micro size, it provides MicroPython programmability and dual-mode radios that give wireless design flexibility and enable easily added functionality for IoT services that can be more quickly developed, prototyped and mass-produced.
At one-third the size of the original XBee RF module, the XBee3 micro form factor – 13 by 19mm – is one of the industry's smallest MicroPython-programmable modules capable of providing RF connectivity for short range and low-power wide area network (LPWAN) applications.
Also available in the existing XBee SMT and through-hole form factors, the XBee3 micro, when installed on interposer boards, automatically provides all the benefits inherent in the module. Additionally, the through-hole form factor is suitable as a validation and migration platform for those requiring the capabilities and features necessary to speed development, prototyping or early-production phase. XBee3 Cellular is available in its original, classic through-hole form factor.
With its reduced size, weight and power consumption, it is suitable for compact and battery-powered applications. It delivers multiple levels of programmability including dual-mode radios, MicroPython for both business rule and application logic, and the tools to manage it all. In addition to edge programmability, it has a low-power microcontroller that can deliver intelligence at the network edge, and the ability to switch between a variety of protocols without changing the device.
Featuring the built-in TrustFence security framework, all XBee3 products have U.FL, pad or chip antenna options.
The series will be initially available in RF (Zigbee 3.0, IEEE 802.15.4) and cellular options (Cat-1). Over the next several months, it will be software-upgradeable to Bluetooth LE and also available in RF protocols (DigiMesh and wifi) and two cellular modems (LTE-M and NB-IoT).
Features include over-the-air changes to devices in the field for bug fixes and added features. It is dynamically reconfigurable, based upon situation.
Business rules can be established to aggregate, store, transform and filter data via the MicroPython programming capability. Users can create alerts and alarms for priority data and device health. There is built-in support for advanced IO including I2C and SPI to drive modern sensors and actuators.
Control logic is provided for devices that require a microcontroller without electronics redesign.
With Digi Remote Manager, it enables better bandwidth management via prioritisation and transmission of actionable information. Dynamic changes can be made to behaviour as requested from cloud platforms such as AWS and Azure, for example for enabling real-time decisions based on local conditions.
It will continue to operate during communications outages by dynamically executed logic that is not cloud-dependent.
The XBee3 Zigbee mesh kit is available for evaluation and testing. The kit includes three XBee3 modules along with three XBee Grove development boards allowing users to build a Zigbee mesh network out of the box.
"With the development of the Digi XBee3, we've combined advanced features and flexibility in a micro form factor to offer the very first smart-edge IoT module," said Scott Nelson, vice president for Minnesota-based Digi. "With intelligence moving to the edge of IoT networks, the market needs hardware that is very capable, very adaptable, secure and extendable. What we've provided in Digi XBee3 is a module that can deliver solutions capable of aggregating and analysing data where it is captured on a distributed network, and apply specific business rules and application logic, essentially the next generation of IoT applications."