Anyone used an Arduino and Xbee Pro board to extended Zigbee Mesh Range?

Another SmartThings Shield option - rather than actually extend the Zigbee network to cover a large distance, is it possible to fit the Arduino with a wifi module, have it join my strong wifi network and then have the SmartThings shield connect to the SmartThings zigbee sensors in the gate area to report back to the hub?

Again not sure if the Shield can act as a relay like this, it probably can’t - and as you say, maybe its better to have the shield talk to some cheap RF devices.

ESP8266 is cheap, but I doubt it can go more than 10-20 m. And you’ll have to power it. 433 MHz sensors run on batteries for many month. The distance is quite good with telescopic antenna.

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Don’t worry i’m planning on powering the Arduino 24/7 - and it wouldn’t need to be a powerful wifi as the network will be strong wherever I position the Arduino, so it’d just need to connect to it. I could put it in the outbuilding and still use 433mhz devices.

Although, I really did need to SmartThings open/close sensor as more than the open close I wanted to use some of the accelerometer logic in the SmartApp.

@realdannys All that is required to make an xBee ZigBee SMT act as a ZigBee repeater is to properly configure it, supply power (3.3v), and allow it to join the SmartThings network. If you follow the steps I laid out in my January Nuts and Volts article you will be off an running. Just supplement the Parallax processor with the Arduino. If all you want it to do is act as a ZigBee HA repeater you don’t even need an Arduino, all routing is done in the core ZigBee stack on the radio. No need for a microprocessor.

If your not in the US you wont be able to use the ZigBee Pro SMT for this but instead just the ZigBee SMT version is for export. The only difference between the two is the output power.


Wow really? I’ve come across quite a few Xbee modules, need to make sure i’m picking up the right ones. Is it one of these?

Can I assume that this

or this, wont work?

Edit: Looking into this a bit more, am I actually right in thinking any of the above would work? They’re all basically the same but with different antenna and socket options? And of course standard Xbee and Pro modules. Apart from the output power in terms of regulations, the ZHA protocol works just fine across countries right? A UK SmartHub is not going to have any issues connecting to a Xbee-Pro or a SmartThings Shield for instance?

Final Xbee question, I obviously need to interface it with the computer for programming, if I were to grab a USB board for it - could I also then use the USB board later to keep it powered all the time so it works as the intended relay? (Eg i’ll plug it into a USB power socket and maybe pop it into a project box for neatness) - do I need to configure it for relay mode during setup too? I tried to read your article but it locks me at page 3 with the juicy info on actually programming the Xbee to connect to SmartThings.

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Finally - if I were to hook up an SMA aerial to the Xbee (probably with an adapter for an SMT model) will any 2.4ghz aerial work ok with Zigbee, i’m presuming it will? Thus something like this should give me the greatest omni range…

Welcome to the wild world of Digi’s model numbering. I swear they couldn’t have made figuring out the correct model number any more difficult. Let me try to help break it down.

Digi has a ZigBee radio with a 2nd processor built in called their programmable module and one that requires an external microcontroller they call their standard module (the are both programmable just one of them has a co-processor added). All of my projects and all the recommendations below are based on their standard module.
There are two general footprints for their ZigBee models, 1) is a through hole board and, 2) is a Surface Mount (SMT) / through hole combination. The chips that are on the SMT / through hole combination have more on board memory and therefore implement more ZigBee features. So those are the chips I use for my products. Even though they are SMT chips you can solder pins to the end of them to make them through hole. That is what I do and what I illustrated in my article.
Your next choice is going to be around the antenna to select. They have U.FL, RPSMA, Wire, and a PCB based antenna options. For your ZigBee router project I suggest you go with either the U.FL or the RPSMA antenna option with the antenna located outside your enclose. For the CoopBoss I use an U.FL model xBee with a U.FL to RPS cable connected to a RPSMA antenna.
Finally we get down to the radio itself. Digi has ZigBee Pro and ZigBee standard modules and as I said earlier the only difference between the two are power. The ZigBee Pro is certified for North America, Australia, and Japan. The ZigBee standard model is certified for all the above plus Europe (ETSI). This document gives you a good comparison between pro vs standard. As far as I know there is no way the SmartThings hub can tell the difference in the models. However, from what I have been told by Digi its against the law to export a ZigBee Pro model to Europe.

If you feel comfortable soldering here is what I recommend for your stand alone ZigBee router configuration:

  1. xBee ZigBee SMT standard (for use in all countries) Digi Part# XB24CZ7UIS-004
  2. 10 position 2 mm headers to solder onto the sides of the above xBee. You will need 2. Part # M22-2511005
  3. U.FL to RPS cable Digi Part # JF1R6-CR3-4I
  4. RPS antenna that can be mounted by drilling a hole through your case Digi Part# A24-HASM-450
  5. Programmer kit to allow you to program the xBee for use in a ZigBee HA network Part # Parallax 32400 and yes this programmer can be used to power the module if you have the USB cable plugged into any USB power source.

Once you have all the hardware setup you will still need to configure the xBee with the correct security settings before it will be allowed to join the SmartThings network. You can reference my Nuts and Volts article, this post Mapping your ZigBee network with Digi’s XCTU and finally this oldy but goody on the parallax web site.

Oh one last thing, If you have a super long distance you may want to consider two of the above configurations. As long as there is line of site between the two antennas they will act as a backbone between your two locations.


This is quite literally THE definition of a project that someone should just package and sell.

I’d be willing to bet good money that a good deal of the people reading this thread are a) scratching their heads b) thinking “oh that’s a good idea but it’s too long and didn’t read” and c) saying “if someone made this thingie and put it in a box I would buy it”

Let’s just say that not all of us are willing to commit the time and effort into putting this together, but are interested in the results. :smile:


Smile yea I hear ya and I think your dead on for 90% of the people who may read it. But for the 10% it may help them out.

Last year I thought it wold be good to have a solar powered ZigBee repeater. So I worked up a design and tested all last winter. I tabled the project since the retail cost would have been close to $200 (Solar Cells, Battery, and hardened case really add to the cost) and I just don’t think people are willing to pay that much.

To be honest if you want a mains powered ZigBee repeater there are tons out there in the $50 price range. The main advantage to the xBee based solution is it will have a fantastic range since it uses external antennas.


I think this would solve a good deal of issues when it comes to message delivery, but not the main problem of the platform as a whole having performance issues, so it’s a toss-up.

Still, if you (like me) have put ST on a restricted diet and you’re also using other products (like TCP / Hue or whatever via their own apps) then this would go a long way towards fixing some issues, particularly for people with big houses or funky layouts.

I personally have 4 repeaters already in various parts of the house to try to get around the limitations. The problem of course is that a lot of these companies suffer from the “cute cell phone” syndrome when it comes to these devices… they’d rather give you something that looks good instead of something bulky that works well.


If @JohnR posts his settings for getting the Xbee to pair with the SmartThings hub on here, I guess its pretty easy to knock together.

One thing id add to your breakdown of the Xbee’s though John that i’ve read is that Series 1 and Series 2 (of which there are 3 variations) are not compatible. They say the series 1 is just for end to end communication and Series 2 is for mesh networking but don’t really explain if thats their own mesh networking or if series 1 works in a ZHA mesh network quite easily.

Also there’s quite a few places in the UK selling Pro devices (even a very big high street electronics chain) so its definitely legal to sell them here…I think the point is, as a user you’re not supposed to transmit them more than 10mw. Considering the standard Xbee’s only go up to 2mw and looking on eBay are actually more expensive in most cases, I wouldn’t touch them.

For £22 I can get a SMT Series 2 Pro with the flex aerial connected. Its nearly double that for a SMA connection but I think that would be over kill, Pro on full power with its flex should easily do my entire property area - using a pro at full power with a high gain aerial would probably cover most of my village! Haha.

You couldn’t really sell these things though, by the time you’ve bought a Pro, a case, a USB board, a USB cable, and spent the time putting the settings in, and offering support - you’ve reached a price no one would would pay.

Also in the UK there aren’t any Zigbee repeaters…the only option is a pluggable device which isn’t repeater as such it just happens to work as one a by product of the system it uses.


What is this price though? :smile:

Because it looks like Aeotec sells repeaters all day on Amazon for $30 and people are happy with it, even though you could theoretically replace a few of those with a decent one with an external antenna.

Well I just said the Xbee Pro alone is about £22 so thats already more than $30.

With the cheapest parts it’d be like £22 Xbee Pro, £6 unofficial usb explorer, couple of quid for a USB cable about £5 for a case, so parts alone are about $50. Then you’ve got to cut the case, program it and put it all together. I want at least $30 for that and even then I couldn’t be bothered to do all that for $30 and sell them. Even if I sold it for $100 I don’t think it would be worth my time.

If you can already get Zigbee repeaters for a measly $30 on Amazon in the US why would this project even be interesting? Hell if I could just buy a repeater in the UK for £20 I wouldn’t even bother looking into this. There are NO ZHA compatible repeaters available over here, for ANY price.

Any mains-powered ZHA device should act as a repeater. That includes light bulbs connected directly to the SmartThings hub (which will cause them to use the ZHA profile rather than the ZLL).

So in the UK that should include the Osram Lightify, the Hue White, and the Cree Connected (although some people report some problems with the Cree).

If you get the Hue, you won’t have any way to reset it to factory again unless you buy another device as well, so Smartthings support recommends using Hue bulbs only with the Hue bridge. But it is another option to consider, especially given the price of £15.

The SmartThings pocket socket included in the standard UK kit is a zigbee plug-in device that will also act as a ZHA repeater. I believe the standalone price is around £45. That’s more than the lightbulbs would cost, but might be more convenient depending on the location.

Aeotec are zwave devices, btw.

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This isn’t really helpful in the context of this thread is it? We’re all well aware that any powered device becomes a repeater, its been said multiple times as I said in the post before…

There’s a difference between something that happens to act as a repeater as a byproduct of the that being the way the zigbee mesh network works and something that is DESIGNED to be purely a powerful repeater with an antenna that will get your Zigbee network many meters outside for instance, hence the Xbee which can take it anywhere from 100m to 3600m! A SmartThings socket is likely to give slightly better coverage in one room of my brick walled house…

…which is also ironic that our Zigbee devices are limited to 10mw or less when in the UK our houses tend to have double brick walls with insulation between them or breezeblocks. The UK SmartThings hub just about gets through ONE brick wall…two and its a no go.


Zigbee is designed as a very low power, low cost mesh network. Separate repeaters are not required precisely because other devices will repeat. This saves money on devices for the total installation. So it’s not just an accident. It’s part of the design of the protocol itself.

As others have mentioned, Zigbee high power devices for any purposes are illegal in the UK and Europe in order to reduce interference in the band. (ETSI EN 300 328) Every individual says, "Oh, well my usage won’t be a problem, " but the regulation is what it is…If you disagree with the regulation, speak with your elected representatives.

Meanwhile, there’s no question that it does require some creativity to lay out a network backbone that can carry the messages as needed. I wish you the best of luck with it.

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Yeah well, a 10mw Xbee Pro is going to do better at repeating a signal in a large outside area and properly built house with brick walls than a 1mw SmartThings socket with no antenna that is placed in a poor position.

But I really couldn’t care less about the 10mw EU limit - and I very much doubt the thousands of other people using Xbee Pro’s over here will either.

Now back on topic, creating an actual powerful repeater using an Xbee.

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So the Xbee Pro S2B came today, someone was selling them very cheap (two for £11!!) they are PCB antennas though so I doubt the distance is great, however for that price I thought they’d be fun to add to the collection and to test with.

I bought a very cheap USB interface board (think it was about £2) it has no reset button and the Xbee’s shipped in end node format so they were a nightmare trying to configure, I though the USB board was broken and there is no reset button it. Turns out there is a firmware restore tool you can use in XCTU so I loaded the one router api you instruct and thankfully that leaves the device on all the time.

I downloaded the xml you link to, though I had to copy the settings over as it was for the standard Xbee rather than the pro, just one setting wasn’t compatible it seems (Scan channels needed to be 7FFF for the pro rather than FFFF on your xml)

Everything wrote ok and I put it next to the SmartThings hub in discovery mode, as you instructive the Xbee diagnostics AI went to 0. The SmartThings app didn’t show a device or anything, I presume thats correct though as it doesn’t have an actual device with features to show? Its just allowed it to join and thus expand the Zigbee mesh network right? I will test a little how this PCB antenna does, but I wont really both testing properly and making a case etc until my Xbee with the flex antenna comes.

Let me know if that sounds right about it joining and expanding the correct network though, it just goes to 0 with no indication within the SmartThings app itself? Thanks :smile:

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Ah its there! It didn’t pop up in the SmartThings app during scanning but afterwards it appears in the list as “Thing” which you can rename. So yeah its in my network!

Haven’t actually seen any range increase with these PCB mounted antenna boards so hopefully will see much better results with the flex aerial unit when it arrives!

Thanks for those settings @JohnR would have never got them setup with that.

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Good job! Glad to see it working for you.