Digi welcomes our machine overlords


By Nick Nelson

If the past 10 years were about connecting people – via email, social networks and P2P online services – the next 10 will be about connecting machines, so believes Jordan Husney, product manager for Digi International.

Digi has been around since 1985 and became a publicly traded company in four short years (NASDAQ: DGII).  Once a dominant force in computer sharing technology, the advent of Internet protocols and wireless networks forced the company to reinvent itself over time at the risk of falling out of style.

These days, Digi is focused on connecting complex systems on a much larger scale by creating communication channels between devices that can otherwise be difficult, even seemingly impossible to network.

As a basic example, Husney points out that in the past, an EKG machine in a hospital might have needed to sound an alarm to get the attention of nurses; Digi’s technology enables that machine to talk directly to a computer in the nurse’s station in real-time.

One of the company’s most popular products is the XBee, a RF module that can be attached to any electronic device, instantly opening wireless capabilities. Cost-effective and accessible, when combined with the open source Arduino, the possible uses are limited only by imagination.  Most recently, the company announced the industry’s first embedded Android development kit, furthering the DIY potential.

The XBee technology, in combination with some of Digi’s more expansive wireless gateway products and their iDigi device cloud software, is also creating some intriguing new pathways for other companies to build off the platform.

New Boundary Technologies, a developer of web-based applications in Minneapolis, utilizes Digi’s platform for a service called TankVista that enables clients to instantly monitor the conditions of storage tanks around the world. Another company called EcoFactor from California uses Digi gateways to talk to remote thermostats in homes, collecting readings, running them through an analytics engine and adjusting temperatures. The result is a significant reduction in cost and energy.

If Husney is right, and the next decade truly is about connecting machines, then Digi is looking good going into its thirties.