Yesterday I posted another item in a series of posts about using Bluetooth features in App Inventor. Bluetooth (together with low power wireless technologies such as Zigbee) are significant technologies that make “The Internet of Things” possible. These low power wireless technologies enable all kinds of devices to communicate with each other and with other devices such as Android phones and tablets.
Today, most Bluetooth devices run Bluetooth version 2.1 up through version 4.2, depending on the device. Bluetooth has undergone considerable enhancements and evolution over the years from providing a short range, lower speed serial data link suited for wireless earphones to providing high speed packet data communications over short distances while using very low power.
Bluetooth continues to evolve with Bluetooth version 5.
Bluetooth 5 adds more improvements including:
Up to 4x longer range
Faster data rates – on par with WiFi for some applications
However – and this is important, most Bluetooth version upgrades require new hardware, and this is true for Bluetooth 5. To use version 5 features you will need version 5 compatible hardware – which is not yet generally available on Android phones and tablets.
This tutorial shows how an App Inventor app can communicate with 2 (or more) Arduino boards and Bluetooth devices simultaneously. These instructions assume you are familiar with the code and hardware presented in Part 1 and Part 2 and “How to connect App Inventor apps to Arduino using Bluetooth“. This tutorial uses the same Arduino source code as in that tutorial.
A follow up tutorial will show how to simplify some of this code for supporting multiple Bluetooth devices.
Bluetooth is a short range, low power, limited speed wireless communications technology. The original Bluetooth technology provided a serial communications link between two paired devices (as compared to an individual data packet sent between up to n devices using the much newer Bluetooth LE – see here and here for information on Bluetooth LE).
Arduino is a microcontroller board for building hardware projects. You can write software for Arduino using a programming language similar to the C++ programming language.
The code used in these examples has been tested with some specific Bluetooth modules connected to Arduino. These include the JY-MCU (Amazon (Prime), Amazon (non-Prime) and also some HC-05 and HC-06 based Bluetooth modules.
Build two Arduino boards each with an appropriate Bluetooth module as described in the prior tutorial.
Compile and load the Arduino software in to each of the Arduino boards.
Test and confirm that your basic LED lights flash for the original, single Bluetooth connection case.
Then, with two working boards, continue to this tutorial.
User Interface View
The original app supported just one device, so there was just a single “Connect” and “Disconnect” button. This version demonstrates how to connect more than one Bluetooth device so we need separate buttons for each device. Similarly, we must add a second status and data sending item to the screen:
Before running this app, be sure to use Android | Settings | Bluetooth to “pair” your Bluetooth devices with Android.
Then, run the app and select Connect to Device 1. This displays a list of available Bluetooth devices in the vicinity. Select your specific Bluetooth device for the connection. Do this for both Bluetooth devices.
Once connected, you can send some simple commands to the Arduino board. Commands are very simple – a single number – to tell the Arduino to do something (this confirms that the Bluetooth link is working). If we enter a single digit 1 and then press Send Numeric 1, the Arduino board will send back 2 bytes of data which will then be displayed on the app screen. If we enter a single digit 4 and then press Send Numeric 1, a value of 4 is transmitted over Bluetooth to the Arduino board, which responds by flashing the externally connected LED.
Because the text box for data entry has its property set to NumbersOnly, a pop up numeric keypad displays when entering data, rather than the usual Android text keyboard.
Video Demonstration this App
I created a short video showing this app in operation. There are two versions of the video – one is standard 2D format and the other is in VR 3D format for viewing on Google Cardboard-like viewers used with smart phones to watch VR videos.
Since 1 December, posts made here did not appear on Facebook or Twitter.
The software that transferred posts from this web site to social media stopped working and was no longer supported. The software developer had, in fact, given 9 months warning that the cross posting software would no longer be supported but I missed that announcement 🙂
I have installed and configured new software which appears to be working. The problem affected 4 web sites that I run so it took some time to find a good solution, test it out, and then roll it out to all of the other web sites too.
Now that this is done, I can get back to more interesting projects. I still have some Bluetooth related projects to finish and post here, plus I hope to post an interesting app that exchanges data between apps on different phones using text messages. I have not written that app yet but it looks straight forward – we hope!
The pedometer uses the phones motion sensors (accelerometers) to identify when the phone (or tablet) is being carried by someone that is walking – and uses this to measure the number of steps you take as you walk. When calibrated to the length of your stride, the pedometer provides a way to estimate the distance you have traveled.
The pedometer is so simple to use, I put this example together while eating lunch today.
This is a simple program!
To use this app, enter your stride length in meters. For illustration, I set the stride length to 1/2 meter or 0.5, as seen in this screen shot:
Press the Start measuring steps button to activate the pedometer and then start walking with your phone. You will soon see the Elapsed distance value increase as you move around.
Time to bring this blog into the modern era. The old style layout looked the same as most blogs of the past 5 or more years. The new layout is visually more interesting and appealing. I will be making a few more changes to this new layout, over the days to come.
See Part 0 for a brief introduction to this series and Bluetooth LE plus our past tutorial series on classic Bluetooth for communicating between Android devices, and between an Android device and an Arduino board with external Bluetooth transceiver.
Note – Bluetooth LE was introduced in the Bluetooth 4.0 specification. As of this writing, the latest version of the specification is 4.2. Bluetooth LE introduced capabilities to support very low power, battery operated devices that are designed to operate for weeks to months on a single battery or battery charge
Does Your Device Support Bluetooth LE?
To find out if your smart phone or tablet can work with Bluetooth LE: Go to the Google Play store and install the free app “BLE Checker” on your Android device. The app is simple – it tells you whether your device supports Bluetooth LE or not and that is all it does.
Devices that support Bluetooth LE will support BLE connections between compatible devices. However, this app does not tell you if your device supports a special BLE feature called “advertisements”. You can use Bluetooth LE without the “advertisements” feature but you will not be able to use all BLE features.