Learn something new every day
More Info... by email
A USB Xbee® is a small electronic device that connects a Universal Serial Bus (USB) port to an Xbee® radio. Xbee® radios are frequently used by electronic hobbyists, especially in conjunction with the open source Arduino® platform. Xbee® radios allow devices to communicate distances between 100 and 300 feet (about 30 and 90 meters), depending on conditions. The radios work best with a direct line of sight between the devices that are communicating with one another.
USB Xbee® allows a computer, cell phone, or other USB capable device to interface with the radio. This means that these devices not otherwise equipped with Xbee® radios will be able to use an Xbee® radio to communicate remotely with another computer, cell phone, or Arduino® invention. Arduino® devices can also use Xbee® radios to communicate between themselves without the need for an USB device.
The Arduino® platform uses open source hardware, and the USB Xbee® is a common component for that hardware. As such, it is widely available from a variety of manufacturers and retailers. This arrangement helps to ensure that the cost is relatively low compared to similar components of closed-source electronics platforms. Although the Xbee® radio itself cannot easily be assembled at home, the other components necessary to create it are available at electronic supply stores.
Any project that needs to communicate over a significant distance could use an USB Xbee® radio. One example is a remote control car that takes instructions from a smartphone. Another is an outdoor wireless weather station that interfaces to a computer to alert the user of sudden changes to outdoor conditions. A more practical possibility is a device to wirelessly change complex arrangements of Christmas lights without leaving the home or running a control cable out to the lights.
There are two common alternatives to USB Xbee®. One of these is Bluetooth®, a short range wireless communications protocol typically used with cell phones or accessories. Common applications include wireless keyboards and wireless headsets. Although Bluetooth® has more bandwidth than Xbee® radios and is already supported by many cell phones and some computers, its effective range is about 12 feet (3.66 m), even with a line of sight.
Another alternative is WiFi®, a high bandwidth connection commonly supported on laptops and smart phones. Wifi® typically has a similar range to Xbee® and may already be installed in the location that the Arduino® invention will be used. These networks use more power and may be more difficult to configure.
One of our editors will review your suggestion and make changes if warranted. Note that depending on the number of suggestions we receive, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Thank you for helping to improve wiseGEEK!