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A Xbee® Arduino® is any device that combines an Arduino® microcontroller with an Xbee® radio. Xbee® radios are low power digital radios that can be used by computers or electronic devices. Arduino® is an open source hardware and software platform used by hobbyists and professionals to create custom electronic devices.
Arduino® boards come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and costs, each with its own features. One of these, the Fio, is specifically designed to work as an Xbee® Arduino® board. To facilitate this, the Fio comes with a socket at one end that is built specifically to fit the radio. Other Xbee® Arduino® devices are generally created by connecting a special Xbee® shield to the board. Several different boards can be used for this purpose.
In addition to the Xbee&Reg; radio, the Fio can also have standard pin interfaces allowing it to control sensors, lights, motors, or other small electronic components. The Fio generally uses FTDI cable or a special breakout board for uploading new programs. Alternately, a computer connected to an Xbee® radio can be used to wirelessly reprogram the device. The Fio is not outfitted with a USB interface, but can be augmented with this interface or another using an Arduino® shield.
The Xbee® radio has an effective range of up to 100 feet (about 30 meters), and uses very little power. It is relatively easy to configure and can create point-to-point digital connections using its default arrangement. Besides being connected to microcontrollers, the radio can also be attached to a USB adapter and connected to a computer.
This radio typically serves to facilitate communication between two or more Xbee® Arduino® devices. There are several reasons why this communication may be desirable or necessary. For example, a weather sensor device might use the radio to communicate to an indoor component, which could change color or provide other indications of outdoor conditions. Another common use is in robotics, where a radio can be used to communicate the position of robots or remotely control them. Whenever a device has a small amount of data to send a medium distance, an Xbee® radio is a possible solution.
The Xbee® Arduino® is particularly popular because of the combination of a longer range than Bluetooth® and a lower cost than Wifi®. For applications where a wireless interface is not required, many microcontrollers use USB or serial cables to connect to computers or other devices.