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Wireless Serial Support | Help with Wireless Serial
xBee Wireless Serial Modules

Wireless Serial - xBee and Zigbee

The xBee Wireless Serial Module

The xBee wireless serial module id developed by Digi International. It's a radio that provides a simple and reliable way to add wireless communication to any project. An xBee module requires just four connections: 3.3V supply, power ground, recieve, and transmit. You are also able to control various settings of the xBee through a program called X-CTU. Settings like: the channel that they transmit over, baud rate, flow control, the works!

The three main practical advantages of using an xBee system over a WiFi or similar setup are: range, flexibility, and simplicity. With an xBee system you can achieve considerable more range than a standard wireless router. Especially when you move to a lower frequency like 868 MHz. Digi boasts up to 80km (!!!) with some of their modules. Thanks to the incredible ease in configuring the basic settings of the module you can configure multiple networks to work in the same area, or you can even set the modules to work as a mesh network in more complicated and expansive use-cases. The prime feature of an xBee is its ease of use. You are relieved of managing a more complicated Ethernet or WiFi protocol and just have to manage a single Rx and Tx serial connection. What you send into one of your xBee modules appears out of the other. Out of the box, you can connect the modules to the Rx and Tx of your system and you're off. In a basic setup, no configuration is required. It couldn't be easier.

A common term that you may hear when discussing or researching xBees yourself, is Zigbee. Zigbee is an alliance and standard of cost and energy efficient mesh networks. Xbee employs the Zigbee standard and adds to it and wraps it up in their own neat little package. This is one of the main contributors to the enhanced range of the modules over a standard WiFi radio.

Related Link: Zigbee Alliance http://www.zigbee.org/

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Series Descriptions

XBee modules come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. For example, we carry the xBee Series 1 Pro. These are 2.4 GHz radios that boast 300' (100m) indoor/urban range and 1 mile (1500m) line of sight range. They transmit using a 60mW radio. These radios are also available with a variety of antenna options, such as a PCB trace antenna, wired antenna, and a U.FL connector to attach an external antenna. There are non-Pro versions of the Series 1 available, but the trade-off is range and in most wireless applications it would be a severe limiting factor.

You also have the option of frequencies. You have the standard 2.4GHz that share the same frequency bands as WiFi but you also have lower frequency modules like 868 MHz and 900 MHz. These lower frequency modules limit you in how much data you can push through the network at a given amount of time, but you receive a significant boost in range. I should note that you can NOT mix and match different frequencies on the same network. You have to be either all 2.4 GHz or all 900 MHz for your system to work.

All xBees also can come with variety of antenna options. Some have a chip, or trace antenna that lives on the circuit board itself. These are simpler in that you have no external antenna to knock off. They are also safer by preventing you from accidentally powering the radio without an antenna attached. But you do sacrifice range for this simplicity. As an alternative, they can come with a wire antenna that comes soldered to the module itself. This will give you more range than a chip or trace antenna. Finally, they also come with a variety of RF connectors like U.FL and RPSMA. These allow you to attach a much larger and higher gain antennas to provide even more range for your solution.

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Bridging the Gap to the Internet of Things (IoT)

Although the xBee modules themselves opperate on a different protocol than WiFi, they can be easily bridged to the Internet of Things by using a USB Adapter Board. This adapter board allows your xBee network appear as a COM port on your computer. Once you have this link, you can easily write your own software to access your xBee network from your local home network, or the internet at large. For more information on connecting your device to the IoT, please follow this link to Digi's website.

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Buying Guide

Below is a breakdown of the modules and accesories that we carry.

XBee Modules

XBee Pro 60mW PCB Antenna-Series 1

xBee Pro 60mW PCB Antenna - Series 1

Range: 1 mile
Power: 215mA @ 3.3V
Frequency: 2.4 GHz
Protocol: 802.15.4
Tx Power: 60mW
Data Rate: 250lbps
Antenna: PCB

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XBee Pro 60mW Wire Antenna-Series 1

XBee Pro 60mW Wire Antenna-Series 1

Range: 1 mile
Power: 215mA @ 3.3V
Frequency: 2.4 GHz
Protocol: 802.15.4
Tx Power: 60mW
Data Rate: 250lbps
Antenna: Wire

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xBee Compatible Devices and Adapters

XBee Zigbee RS232 Adapter Board

XBee Zigbee RS232 Adapter Board

Function: Digi's xBee Pro is a 2.4GHz radio that makes wireless communication between devices simple and easy! The modules pack a powerful 60mW signal that allows for long range communication. The module outputs a 3.3V TTL serial signal that can easily communicate with a microcontroller like the Arduino. Based on the popular Zigbee platform and the IEEE 802.15.4 stack these modules provide simple and reliable wireless communication for your next project!

Order Here

XBee Zigbee USB Adapter Board

XBee Zigbee USB Adapter Board

Function: Digis xBee Pro is a 2.4GHz radio that makes wireless communication between devices simple and easy! The modules pack a powerful 60mW signal that allows for long range communication. The module outputs a 3.3V TTL serial signal that can easily communicate with a microcontroller like the Arduino. Based on the popular Zigbee platform and the IEEE 802.15.4 stack these modules provide simple and reliable wireless communication for your next project!

Order Here

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Configuring your XBee

Many aspects of your xBee module can be configured through a program called XCTU from Digi. It can be downloaded here.

The xBee you purchase may not come with the latest firmware installed on it. In order for it to perform optimally, especially when streaming data, the latest firmware should be flashed to the xBee. To flash the module you must remove it from your microcontroller and install it into a PC interface board. Through the same program you can configure a wide range of operating parameters for the module.

  • Download the latest version of X-CTU from Digi here
  • Connect an xBEE RF module to an adapter board
  • Connect the adapter board to your computer
  • Open X-CTU and select the appropriate COM port
  • Configure the baud rate to 9600 and hardware flow control to 8N1
  • Test the connection between the module and the software
  • Switch to the modem configuration tab and select READ under the Modem Paramter and Firmware heading
  • Select the most recent firmware update and select WRITE
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Communicate wirelessly with your microcontroller using the power of xBee. The unit plugs into your PC then transmits and receives a serial data stream from your solution. A simple and easy way to bring your solution to the Internet of Things.
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