How To Link Smart Energy ZigBee Devices To The Cloud

Jan. 24, 2012
ConnectPort X2e for Smart Energy works with any compatible ZigBee devices and connects them to the iDigi Cloud Service where data can be accessed via smartphone apps.

ConnectPort X2e for Smart Energy

The promise of the cloud is to provide access to information from a wide range of sources using a wide range of devices like smartphones and tablets. Many devices can connect directly to the Internet via Ethernet or WiFi but often a gateway is needed. Likewise, the cloud is not a nebulous environment that works with everything. It require services to be hosted in the cloud that provide storage and management support.

Digi International's ConnectPort X2e for Smart Energy (Fig. 1) is a gateway that works with any compatible ZigBee device. It connects these devices to iDigi Cloud Service that provides access and management support for large collections of devices that might be spread across homes and businesses. Digi's Smartlee app for accessing Cloud Services runs on the iPhone and Android.

ZigBee-based Home Area Networks (HAN) can encompass a range of devices such as a Programmable Communicating Thermostat (PCT) or ZigBee-based In-Home Display (IHD) control panels. The great thing about ZigBee is that multiple ZigBee networks can coexist in the same wireless space. Likewise, devices that are part of different logical networks can be part of a common subnet.

The ConnectPort X2e supports the ZigBee Alliance's Smart Energy Public Application Profile 1.1. This provides the compatibility with the other ZigBee devices within the ZigBee network. The platform provides an upgrade path to Smart Energy 2.0 that should be adopted soon. It can stand-alone Smart Energy networks and Smart Energy metering systems in addition to providing links to the Internet.

Internally the ConnectPort X2e uses a Digi XBee XB module. This has 6.3mW of transmit power with a receiver sensitivity of -102 dBm.

The ConnectPort X2e also runs Python. This allows developers to customize the operation of the gateway. The on-board microcontroller has 64 Mbytes of RAM and 128 Mbytes of flash memory and runs Linux. This allows it to work with Digi X-Grid Solutions. The gateway connects to a wired 10/100 BaseT Ethernet network. A WiFi version is also available. Secure access is provided using SSL tunnels.

Digi provides APIs and application development tools for creating applications that work with its Cloud Services. This includes remote monitoring and asset management. Data can be uploaded from ZigBee devices and stored in the Cloud Services database where it can be access by applications. Data can be provides in the form of Key Performance Indicators (KPI). The web-based management tools provide personalized dashboards and reports.

Digi also provides mobile application development support. This allows custom applications to be created for iPhones, Android and Blackberry platforms. These can access the KPI data.

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