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i want to start a home automation project, so finally i choose zigbee as the communication system between the devices. I need something easy to start, so, what do you recomend to buy? there is some nice starter or development kit, with something like RS232 or USB output, just to forget about the zigbee protocols and issues, i need something that almost works out-of-the-box...

thanks! Br

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Digi's online store has an XBee 802.15.4 Starter Kit that includes:

  • (2) XBee 802.15.4 w/ Wire Antenna
  • (1) RS-232 Development Board
  • (1) USB Development Board
  • (1) RS-232 Serial Cable
  • (1) USB Cable
  • (1) Power Adapter
  • (1) 9V Battery Clip
  • (3) Adapters

This kit will not only let you start talking with the XBee modules, but actually program them as well.You can see a complete review of the kit from The ZigBee Project blog.

There's also a more basic kit XBee Wireless Communication Starter Kit at Trossen Robotics:

  • [2x] XBee 1mW Communication Module
  • XBee Explorer USB
  • XBee Explorer Regulated
  • A to Mini B USB Cable

And as always, you can pick up individual modules, Arduino shields, and accessories at SparkFun.com.

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    \$\begingroup\$ thanks for the information, probably i will go with this solution. anyway i have 2 questions about: - what exactly is XBee? (it´s just commercial name?) - digi.com/pdf/ds_idigi_pro_kit_zb.pdf what do you think about this one? maybe using this IP/Zigbee gateway make me the dev easier. thanks \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel M. Apr 16 '10 at 5:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ XBee is the tradename that MaxStream uses for their ZigBee modules. \$\endgroup\$ – jluciani Apr 16 '10 at 11:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @donperignon I've not had any experience with it, but the ConnectPort X4 gateway they include looks pretty cool! My guess would be it makes the monitoring of the XBee network easier, rather than having to have a receiver connected to your server. \$\endgroup\$ – Jared Harley Apr 16 '10 at 13:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @donperignon I've used their ConnectPort X2. It's pretty well supported, runs much of the Zigbee stack in python, which can be modified for additional functionality. The IP interface uses XML RPC, so you can run the entire thing just be doing HTTP POSTs to the IP address. I believe the X4 is similar. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Jun 25 '10 at 22:40
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After spending the last 8 months working on my engineering project involving XBees for my degree, I would recommend a breakout board from ladyada with an FTDI usb to serial cable for programming and an XBee. The board exposes DTR, RST, CTS, RTS, TX and RX for the XBee and regulates the supply voltage down to 3.3V. For automation purposes, there's no reason to go pro unless you live in a mansion imo.

The breakout board uses a level converter to switch between RS232 levels and TTL levels required by the XBee, but if your controller outputs serial on TTL levels, I believe you can omit the MAX232 chip or something to keep it at TTL.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ thanks a lot, i really apreciate your answer, i think once we have running one board, this is the best and cheaper solution! \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel M. Apr 16 '10 at 5:31
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I'd check out the XBee USB Explorer from Sparkfun, an XBee Adapter kit from Adafruit, an Arduino, plus 2 XBee units.

That gives you a way to have your computer directly talk over Xbee (with the USB explorer) and then a microcontroller that can carry out actions on your behalf (the XBee Adapter + arduino).

I'm not recommending the Arduino XBee shield, because it blocks a lot of the outputs from the Arduino. That XBee adapter kit from AdaFruit looks to be a lot more flexible, even if it does require you to breadboard things together instead of having the nice shield stacking action.

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I would recommend one of my ZB1 Boards ;) The ZB1 is an Arduino compatible board with an XBee (Maxstream Zigbee) radio and a USB port. There are a variety of accessories and software examples on the site.

The XBee's are very easy to start with. There are a variety of antenna options and a couple of power levels. The downside is that XBee's cost around $20-$25 each.

XBee's can also run standalone. You can setup the devices to periodically wake, perform a measurement or control task, transmit data and go back to sleep. With a 0.1% duty cycle (transmit 1sec and sleep 1000 seconds) you can get around a year or two on 2AA cells. I did a Zigbee Overview for the last MIT IAP.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Your very first link (ZB1 Boards) has an extra slash at the end, breaking the URL. \$\endgroup\$ – Jared Harley Apr 15 '10 at 22:38
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How about the Atmel Raven? It's a usb stick with zigbee.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I have one of these. It's great for getting low level access to the 802.15.4 radio, but it doesn't make anything easy. Also, you need an AVR JTAG ICE system to program it ( unless you hack it - ossmann.blogspot.com/2010/01/killerbee-on-budget.html ) \$\endgroup\$ – Toby Jaffey Apr 16 '10 at 8:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ A $50 AVR Dragon could be used for debugging and programming. \$\endgroup\$ – Leon Heller Apr 16 '10 at 11:26
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I'm a fan of the freaklabs freakduino since it's an Arduino compatible board that includes the ability to sniff 802.15.4 traffic for easy diagnosis of problems.

I have two freakduinos and an XBee Pro module with AdaFruit's XBee breakout board. I've honestly found the freakduinos easiest for getting started.

Even better, the freaklabs forums see many ZigBee/XBee/802.15.4 related questions and answers.

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If you are into the home automation, why don't you opt for real thing? It's called Z-Wave, a the facto industry standard for wireless home automation (the next X10), and there are hundreds of products Z-Wave enabled. Digikey has boards and dev kits, and there is even a small power plug linux box with Z-Wave and ethernet embedded.

http://www.z-wave.com/modules/Products/?id=66&chk=94b8927269761c1a0c94de9268724ddb

http://web1.zen-sys.com/modules/Products&Techonology/?id=33&chk=7c18247ff46da755b3d1753888e2a342

http://www.tricklestar.com/US/300ZW_US_W.html

http://www.ionicsplug.com/stratusplusplus.html

http://www.digiwave.dk/en/programming/an-introduction-to-the-z-wave-protocol/

http://www.digiwave.dk/en/programming/an-introduction-to-z-wave-programming-in-c/

http://www.smarthome-products.com/p-625-homepro-zcu201-z-wave-usb-interface-euro.aspx

http://plugcomputer.org/plugforum/index.php?topic=1462.0

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