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Interactive art display is a model for technology

Hundreds of large illuminated balloons spanning the width of England have demonstrated advanced machine-to-machine (M2M) communications powered by the iDigi Device Cloud. Digi International’s communications infrastructure for ‘Connecting Light’ showcases technology that businesses use to open new markets, upgrade existing ones and compete in a connected world.

Hundreds of large illuminated balloons spanning the width of England have demonstrated advanced machine-to-machine (M2M) communications

On 31 August, this interactive digital art installation powered more than 400 light-filled balloons communicating in pulsating colour across a Roman monument; the 70-mile-long Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site.

“Central control of widely deployed assets is the next phase of the Internet and this is a great example of how technology can be used to take control of remote devices,” said Larry Kraft, Senior Vice President of Global Sales And Marketing at Digi International. “We created a system that allows anyone with an Internet or cellular connection to easily communicate with hundreds of interactive balloons scattered across England. It’s the same advanced infrastructure that municipalities use to connect street lights and variable message signs along highways, and that power utilities are using to network their entire grid.”

The art project is powered by the iDigi Device Cloud, ConnectPort X4 cellular gateways and programmable XBee wireless modules. The iDigi Device Cloud provides the backbone of the project by supplying the infrastructure required to access, control, configure and upgrade each illumination device securely over the Internet.

To connect the balloons to the iDigi Device Cloud, each Connecting Light balloon had a programmable XBee RF module. Together, the balloons created a vast ZigBee network. This network was then attached to a custom application hosted on the iDigi Device Cloud via ConnectPort X4 cellular gateways. The operators could easily monitor balloon status and manage balloon light patterns remotely through the Connecting Light website, and spectators could control the balloons with their mobile phones.

Zachary Lieberman, founder of YesYesNo, the artist group responsible for creating the art, commented: “We realised a symbolic connection between the wall and the 2012 Olympics – the wall represents what was once a border and the Olympics is an extension of borders. So we responded by creating a communications infrastructure with the help of Digi that would allow people anywhere to send messages along the wall. Digi provided a turnkey solution in less than two months that is allowing us to make our vision a reality.”

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