What is Xbee?
Manufactured by Digi International, the XBee module is a modem used for communication in low-power circuits. The applications which use this are typically low-cost prototyping experiments and embedded development. The XBee uses the Zigbee protocol which is used to create low-rate wireless personal area networks (LR-WPANs). The Zigbee protocol is quite useful because it has a longer range of action than bluetooth while simultaneously consuming lesser power than a wifi. These features make it perfect in projects involving Arduino, the open source prototyping platform which has become an industry favorite owing to its ease of use and wide applicability.
What sets Xbee apart?
What sets XBee apart is the fact that owing to its using the Zigbee protocol, multiple XBees can be used to set up a wireless mesh network, i.e. these devices will communicate with each other thus making the network more resilient by virtue of its distributed nature. Zigbee devices typically consume little power making them ideal for applications which require a long battery life.
XBee Projects at SA
We used the product in our Smart Farm Project which involved a mesh network of 4 XBees communicating with each other, sending soil monitor, temperature and humidity values. We had initially considered a Wifi module for the project but scrapped the idea in favor of XBees owing to its lesser power consumption and cost and greater reliability due to the fact that the mesh network is self-healing. We were also used to the product, having done a mesh network implementation in our Gas well project. The XBee libraries are also updated frequently and there is a lot of documentation available which makes it attractive for engineers to use. Further, the presence of a free configuration platform – XCTU only adds to its appeal. The XBee can be configured as a router, an end device or as a coordinator. The XBees in a network each have their individual addresses in addition to the PAN address for the whole network. The XBees, once given the PAN address will start communicating with each other thus creating the mesh.