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  • AprilBeacon iBeacons/BLE

    I've been looking for some time to explore iBeacons a bit more but couldn't quite find any that seemed to fit what I was looking for. I've seen some mention of receivers/RPis, but this seems a bit much for what I wanted.

    I recently stumbled across some Chinese iBeacons that seem promising. What drew my interest is they have a Wifi Reciever that transmits via MQTT (which i'm using for some other devices).
    http://aprbrother.com/en/product.htm
    They seem to have some decent beacon options for decent prices.

    So far I've only been playing with the USB ones (have some 202 modules also, but need to wait for batteries). I threw together a quick script that uses a device from the MQTT plugin and just parses the result, i'm going to work up a basic plugin to make it a bit more advanced.

    I'm not quite sure what the best way to create/group devices is though. At first i was going to create a separate device for battery/etc, but since each receiver could detect the same beacon that didn't make much sense either. For now I've grouped by receiver (the idea would be you could put a bunch of these Wifi receivers easily in different locations), but this still makes it difficult to use. I've got to figure out a way to average the readings a bit better too (as they fluctuate a bit).

    Anyway, just thought i'd post and see if anyone has any interest/ideas. I'm not a programmer so whatever I come up with i'll post (including the source).

    For anyone who's in to micrcontrollers the wifi receiver itself seems very hackable, its a CC3200 module talking via serial to a bluetooth module. I'm also exploring this a bit more, they mentioned on their forum they're working on web based firmware updates which would make that a lot easier.
    Attached Files

  • #2
    AllanMar,

    This is great! you're a not programmer??
    I have two AprilBeacon that I bought for the RPi project so I get their emails about new products. The Wifi receiver is nice.

    This has a lot of promise. Thanks for posting this!!

    What kind of range are you getting with your usb beacons?
    Tom
    baby steps...starting again with HS3
    HS3Pro: Z-NET & 80 Z wave Devices,
    HSTouch: 4 Joggler (Android Kitkat), 2 iPhone, 3 iPads
    Whole House Audio: 5 SqueezePlay Jogglers w Bose Speakers
    In The Works: 10 Cameras Geovision, new Adecmo/Envisalink Alarm, Arduinos
    System: XP on Fanless Mini-ITX w/ SSD

    Comment


    • #3
      Not a programmer (engineer), I mess around with embedded/hardware stuff a fair bit though (hobbyist level programmer).

      Didn't notice when I bought them (surprising to me the USB ones are the smallest range. Quoted at 15M). I'm probably getting around 20ft out of them (threw several walls though), but I havent really tested them much at all. The Receiver is right next to my computer and they're just randomly plugged in to play with. Waiting to try some of my battery ones and check out the range (ordered the 228 model which has the longest range (50M) to try and use to detect car presence)

      Any ideas on what would make sense for devices/arrangement?
      I'm almost thinking mayb keep the grouping like I have with the text based devices, then also have a group of devices per beacon (individual device for battery/etc, and a device for if its near each receiver (could be many))

      Comment


      • #4
        Hi AllanMar,

        this sounds very exciting. I have tried setting up "In Home GPS" for sometime now. I tried testing with an airbeacon which did not pan out, then i tried using just wifi detection using arp tables on the router, which was too slow. I ended up using jon00's bluetooth detection, in the begining it was slow and inconsistent. After fighting with it for a couple of months i switched to a new bluetooth dongle and it became fast and reliable so homeseer knows when i am home. I would like to take the next step have homeseer be able to identify who is in what room. i could then make zoned audio follow me room to room or change the lighting depending on who is in the room. the possibilities are endless. Is there a beta plugin out for this?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by glacket View Post
          Hi AllanMar,

          this sounds very exciting. I have tried setting up "In Home GPS" for sometime now. I tried testing with an airbeacon which did not pan out, then i tried using just wifi detection using arp tables on the router, which was too slow. I ended up using jon00's bluetooth detection, in the begining it was slow and inconsistent. After fighting with it for a couple of months i switched to a new bluetooth dongle and it became fast and reliable so homeseer knows when i am home. I would like to take the next step have homeseer be able to identify who is in what room. i could then make zoned audio follow me room to room or change the lighting depending on who is in the room. the possibilities are endless. Is there a beta plugin out for this?
          I guess it depends on what you plan to do. Smartphones are not beacons by default (they're meant to detect beacons, but its not very quick). I use Jon00's script as well for pairing devices for phones.

          I've got a basic plugin almost done (using this as a getting started with plugins project. It only supports the Wireless Receiver I mentioned previously (needs a MQTT Server setup also). I've ordered some USB receivers and more beacons also to play with.

          With enough receivers maybe you could get some crude in-house GPS, but its difficult to get something reliable (lots of attempts online of people trying to do that with limited success). The concept is based upon measuring signal strength to relate to distance, but as you likely know lots of things can affect signal strength and throw this off.

          What bluetooth dongle did you get? I'm using the built in one with borderline results (Jon00 script), been looking for one of the AirCable ones but they're still sold out (and pricey)...

          Comment


          • #6
            glacket, could you list the actual BT dongle you use? I switched to a PI as the dongles I tried just would stop working with Jon00's plugin until a reboot happened.

            I gave up on beacons using a standard USB BLE dongle. A worst of both worlds combination - poor xmit strength (which gives a great battery life) means the range and penetration is pathetic, and by the time you get close enough to get detected, the RSSI for finding range is probably wildly fluctuating due to reflections.

            Please report back with any findings AllanMar, I'll be really interested to see if the small keyfob beacons coupled with the wireless dedicated receiver will actually give a decent range and even some reliable range finding

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Furious View Post
              glacket, could you list the actual BT dongle you use? I switched to a PI as the dongles I tried just would stop working with Jon00's plugin until a reboot happened.

              I gave up on beacons using a standard USB BLE dongle. A worst of both worlds combination - poor xmit strength (which gives a great battery life) means the range and penetration is pathetic, and by the time you get close enough to get detected, the RSSI for finding range is probably wildly fluctuating due to reflections.

              Please report back with any findings AllanMar, I'll be really interested to see if the small keyfob beacons coupled with the wireless dedicated receiver will actually give a decent range and even some reliable range finding
              I am using the Kinivo Btd-400. it uses a Broadcom chipset. before buying a new Bluetooth adapter, two things you may are making sure under power options in the control panel, that no usb ports are set to powerdown to save power. I believe this is actually enabled by default. I had to turn It off on my windows 8 machine. Also, in device manager on the Bluetooth device page under advanced tab, there should be another option checked by default "allow windows to turn off this device to save power" make sure this is unchecked. If your default power options are enabled and your running windows 7 or 8 or above that could explain why Bluetooth works intermittently, windows may be powering the device down if sits idle for too long, just a guess. im using my media center pc as my detector in the living room which is adjacent to the garage. I ran a 15ft usb cable through the wall into the garage and plugged the Bluetooth in the garage to give as much range and time as possible for detection when I arrive home. usually it detects my phone between 5-15 seconds consistently.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by glacket View Post
                I am using the Kinivo Btd-400. it uses a Broadcom chipset. before buying a new Bluetooth adapter, two things you may are making sure under power options in the control panel, that no usb ports are set to powerdown to save power. I believe this is actually enabled by default. I had to turn It off on my windows 8 machine. Also, in device manager on the Bluetooth device page under advanced tab, there should be another option checked by default "allow windows to turn off this device to save power" make sure this is unchecked. If your default power options are enabled and your running windows 7 or 8 or above that could explain why Bluetooth works intermittently, windows may be powering the device down if sits idle for too long, just a guess. im using my media center pc as my detector in the living room which is adjacent to the garage. I ran a 15ft usb cable through the wall into the garage and plugged the Bluetooth in the garage to give as much range and time as possible for detection when I arrive home. usually it detects my phone between 5-15 seconds consistently.
                Believe me, I exhausted *all* that kind of stuff under windows 7 - tried around 5 different dongles, different stacks, disabled all power saving in every device (it's a NUC thats on constantly). BT dongle would work for 1-3 days, then literally stop detecting anything until a reboot or unplug and replug from USB. Direct connect to a dedicated port, via powered hubs, etc, nothing would stop the problem.

                If anything, it's hardware from my experience, hence why asking about the actual dongle - I took the same dongles, put them into a PI, and they'd have exactly the same lockup problems as under windows. Entirely different architecture, drivers and OS, and dongles were still pretty damn unreliable.

                Only way I could get the PI with linux reliable was to create the poll script(s) so that it would down and up the BT interfaces each polling sweep - with a nightly reboot for good measure.

                Ironically, the cheaper adapters work better - like the one you've replied with. I'm just hoping that a dedicated poller is better, as I'm guessing that normal BT dongle hardware and drivers aren't really tested for constant polling. They're for connecting and maintaining device connections instead of just pinging discoverable devices.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Furious View Post
                  I'm just hoping that a dedicated poller is better, as I'm guessing that normal BT dongle hardware and drivers aren't really tested for constant polling. They're for connecting and maintaining device connections instead of just pinging discoverable devices.
                  What sort of dedicated poller are you refering to?

                  As I mentioned above the devices I'm referring to are dedicated BLE beacon detectors. They won't detect pairing requests like Jon's script does, and phones aren't very good beacons (meant to detect beacons).

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by AllanMar View Post
                    What sort of dedicated poller are you refering to?

                    As I mentioned above the devices I'm referring to are dedicated BLE beacon detectors. They won't detect pairing requests like Jon's script does, and phones aren't very good beacons (meant to detect beacons).
                    A small keyfob beacon is ideal, as my own experience of phones is that they're not really ideal due to massive differences in the radios, power output, and implementations (example: wife's lumia phone works for 3-4 days then the BT needs to be toggled off and back on). The beacons I bought a while back were just terrible though, so I'm hoping that a proper 1mw transmitter coupled with a dedicated beacon receiver (with its own antenna) will mean I can have a reliable system which can detect a beacon without it needing to be in the same room.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Furious View Post
                      A small keyfob beacon is ideal, as my own experience of phones is that they're not really ideal due to massive differences in the radios, power output, and implementations (example: wife's lumia phone works for 3-4 days then the BT needs to be toggled off and back on). The beacons I bought a while back were just terrible though, so I'm hoping that a proper 1mw transmitter coupled with a dedicated beacon receiver (with its own antenna) will mean I can have a reliable system which can detect a beacon without it needing to be in the same room.
                      I would say that will be difficult with the small keyfob beacons (small device = small antenna). You'd probably need to put a bunch of receivers around (where those Wifi ones are nice) or use something like this:
                      http://www.aircable.net/online/index...&product_id=66
                      I would love to give that a try, but given the cost (gets alot worse being in Canada) I'm not sure that's likely anytime soon.

                      What beacons were you not impressed with?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        There were a few in Jon00's bt thread who bought the long range aircable device but still didn't have any reliable success. Also there was a long range generic no name one on ebay for about $70, but I can't seem to find that any more.


                        Sent from my iPhone
                        Tom
                        baby steps...starting again with HS3
                        HS3Pro: Z-NET & 80 Z wave Devices,
                        HSTouch: 4 Joggler (Android Kitkat), 2 iPhone, 3 iPads
                        Whole House Audio: 5 SqueezePlay Jogglers w Bose Speakers
                        In The Works: 10 Cameras Geovision, new Adecmo/Envisalink Alarm, Arduinos
                        System: XP on Fanless Mini-ITX w/ SSD

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by TomTom View Post
                          There were a few in Jon00's bt thread who bought the long range aircable device but still didn't have any reliable success. Also there was a long range generic no name one on ebay for about $70, but I can't seem to find that any more.


                          Sent from my iPhone
                          I could see that, as alot of the issues with that setup (pairing/searching) don't seem to be range related. (BT Stack/Device problems/etc).

                          The AirCable I linked appears to be the same radio, but setup for beacon detection only. Which is much simpler and likely more reliable.

                          I can't find the $70 one anymore either. I've seen what looks to be it for ~$130, but may as well go with aircable for that.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Furious View Post
                            Believe me, I exhausted *all* that kind of stuff under windows 7 - tried around 5 different dongles, different stacks, disabled all power saving in every device (it's a NUC thats on constantly). BT dongle would work for 1-3 days, then literally stop detecting anything until a reboot or unplug and replug from USB. Direct connect to a dedicated port, via powered hubs, etc, nothing would stop the problem.

                            If anything, it's hardware from my experience, hence why asking about the actual dongle - I took the same dongles, put them into a PI, and they'd have exactly the same lockup problems as under windows. Entirely different architecture, drivers and OS, and dongles were still pretty damn unreliable.

                            Only way I could get the PI with linux reliable was to create the poll script(s) so that it would down and up the BT interfaces each polling sweep - with a nightly reboot for good measure.

                            Ironically, the cheaper adapters work better - like the one you've replied with. I'm just hoping that a dedicated poller is better, as I'm guessing that normal BT dongle hardware and drivers aren't really tested for constant polling. They're for connecting and maintaining device connections instead of just pinging discoverable devices.
                            Hi Furious,

                            I've used Jon00's BT connector with a long range BT 2.0 dongle for years with excellent range and no problems. I use this on a custom built rackmount system. In my living room I have an intel NUC that I use as a PC to run my trainer software. For that I need to use both BT 4.0 and ANT+ dongles. I noticed that plugging them directly into the NUC resulted in such poor reception that even though my trainer is with 6 feet, it could not connect. I moved the dongles a few feet away with a powered hub and they work great. Anyway, you might try investigating different powered hubs than the one you tried. Mine is an ancient belkin 2.0 hub that I purchased because it had multiple controllers that allowed each port to run at full speed.
                            _______________________________________________

                            HS3 : HSpro (3.0.0.460) on Win2012 (vm on ESXi)
                            Plugins: HSTouch, UPBSpud, Kinect, Nest, IFTTT, DirecTV, EasyTrigger, Imperihome, Zwave, RFXcom, UltraMon3, UltraWeatherBug3, UltraGCIR3, UltraLog3, UltraPioneer, PHLocation, Pushover, Pushalot, MCSSPrinklers S, JowiHue
                            Jon00 Plugins: Bluetooth Proximity, Performance Monitor, DB Chart, Links

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                            • #15
                              *bump*
                              Wondered if any updates were around about this AllanMar - still on the lookout for a decent detection system, and would like to know if the aircable stuff went like all the other BLE projects around here

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