Android/iOS/Windows/Mac/Linux as Micro-Presence Bluetooth Beacons?

Just be aware that the ability to do this has changed with different versions of the android operating system, with newer versions having less ability to do it. So as you review various project descriptions, check the version of android that the author is using as it will make a big difference.

Also, with the cost of radius networks eddystone-capable “radbeacon dot” beacon device down to $14, there’s less reason to create virtual beacons from phones these days.

Thanks! :slight_smile:

Less, yes, but none = no.
Again, since I already have a network of Android devices in my house (and will be adding more over time as I add to my collection of wall-mounted home automation control panels running SmartTiles, LANnouncer, etc), even at that low price, it’s still cheaper to do what I’m suggesting here in this thread…that is, IF we can find a way to do it (that said, I still clicked the link, and will probably at least buy one just to see what it’s like).

There may be a way around it, but the last time I looked if a tablet was acting as a virtual Beacon it couldn’t do anything else at the same time. So it would no longer be available as your landroid announcer, for example. There might be a way to have Tasker switch between them but it could get tricky. Also you can run down the battery on your phone that you are caring with you pretty quickly if you have that many I Beacon regions. But there’s a lot of creative stuff out there, you may find something that works. Let us know if you do. :sunglasses:

By the way, what we do in our house is the reverse, mostly because of the battery life issue.

We do have multiple tablets around the house as home automation control stations. So we use those as Ibeacon receiving stations (not as virtual Ibeacons).

Then I have an ibeacon on my wheelchair and my housemate has one on a key fob and as we move around the house the different stations pick us up and can trigger various events.

Because the tablets are all plugged in, there’s no battery issue.

So this just becomes one more home automation activity that the tablet is responsible for. :sunglasses:

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Sorry for the extra post, but I just realized that my ‘farm’ of available Bluetooth devices is much wider than just the Androids that I have mounted on the walls. There are also our iOS devices (if any are or could be stationary), our Windows, Mac & Linux computers, etc.

Basically, I want to find out if there are ways of using ANY of these otherwise-stationary devices that have Bluetooth radios as Bluetooth Beacons.

So, I modified the title of this thread to reflect that widening of my scope on this.

See my post just above yours, but if you’re willing to add either a wearable beacon (see the rad link above) or key fob Beacon you only need to add one per person and you can use all your existing devices as receiving stations rather than as transmitters. This solves the same problem in a very easy way as long as you’re willing to carry the Beacon with you in some fashion.

[quote=“JDRoberts, post:6, topic:45225, full:true”]
There may be a way around it, but the last time I looked if a tablet was acting as a virtual Beacon it couldn’t do anything else at the same time. So it would no longer be available as your landroid announcer, for example. [/quote]

I know you may not know, but…why?
Sounds goofy that something that uses Bluetooth would somehow disable WiFi (which, as far as I am aware, is how SmartTiles and LANnouncer work). What’s up with that?

Hmmmm, this sounds very interesting.
One question I have is about the battery issue that you mentioned…
If all of the wall-mounted Androids are always plugged in to AC power, how are there any battery problems?

Does one way of doing this take more battery power on the mobile device? i.e. takes more for my mobile phone in my pocket to be a receiver station for all of the wall-mounted Androids’ beacons than it would for the pocket phone to be the one acting as the beacon?

I think I can see how it may indeed go that way. If so, then this is a very important piece to this puzzle.

regarding batteries, it can use up a lot of battery on the phone you are carrying with you whether it is a receiving station or a transmitting Beacon. With receiving station, the more regions there are, the more battery use it seems to take.

If you use an actual IBeacon as the transmitter then that is a very low powered device.

So in our house, I have one actual Ibeacon on my wheelchair with a battery that will last six months to a year. The receiving stations are all on the tablets that are plugged in. And my housemate has an ibeacon on a key fob.

We previously tried having five Ibeacons around the house, but his phone used too much battery when it was the receiving station. So this way the only devices using batteries are the actual physical I beacons, and those batteries last a long time.

This is becoming a more common idea. Radius even sells a wristband for their Beacons. :sunglasses:

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As far as a device not being able to multitask when it is acting as a virtual Beacon, it’s not that the Wi-Fi gets disabled. It’s that that app is running in the foreground and if focus changes, it stops running. But I don’t know the exact details of when and how and which versions of which operating systems.

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Great stuff.
I guess I probably just need to ditch the idea of having my pocket-droid be my micro-presence device (still having it working as my general presence/location device for outside the home, etc), and carry an iBeacon of some sort, eh?

Definitely seems like the better way to go to have a low-battery-use device in my pocket acting as a Beacon, and the always-on wall-mounted devices acting as ‘receiving stations’.

Thanks a lot! This is really, very, very helpful to be able to work through it like this. :slight_smile:

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The biggest issue for us is getting the range correct. Bluetooth can go through walls. So it doesn’t understand a “room” The way a PIR motion sensor (which doesn’t detect through walls) can.

I don’t know exactly how to do all of that in android. Some I beacons have adjustable signal strength, so that’s a good feature to look for for micro location uses.

In iOS, receiving station apps can also be sent to respond at different ranges, I just don’t know if that’s true for android as well.

Personally, I like both the IBeacon app that goes with SmartRules (so it has excellent smart things integration) and the one from beacon sandwich which can use the IFTTT maker channel so you can get integration that way. Both of those are ios only though. But there are other people in the forms who have used an HTTP post with smartthings, so you can do that from android as well. It’s just more coding. :sunglasses:

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“signal strength”

Ya, this came up in another, external discussion. It’s definitely an issue that must be dealt with in this context. If all of my ‘beacons’ are blaring all over the house, it won’t work at all lol

“more coding”

Indeed…that’s also something I currently have very little time for. So, hopefully I can come up with a solution that’s closer to being ‘ready-to-go’ for my current speed and time-resources.

One more thing that comes to mind in relation to whether to have the stationaries as beacons or as receiving stations is this…
If I go with using the stationary devices as receiving stations instead of beacons, and have the mobile/pocket device be the beacon, will I have enough receiving stations with the relatively small-ish number of wall-mounted (and other) bluetooth devices around the house?

I guess that will depend on many things…

  1. Is signal strength adjustable in the stationary devices?
  2. If not adjustable, is there a good triangulation algorythm that I don’t have to reinvent myself that just ‘works’ within whatever receiving station tech I end up using?
  3. Can I find ways of using other bluetooth devices (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc) as receiving stations?

Oh…yet one more question on all of this about micro-presence…
What’s the best strategy for distinguishing between floors in a house where rooms commonly and frequently used heavily by the same micro-presence user?

In my house, the two main rooms where I’ll spend most of my time, and where I’ll want the most of my micro-presence-related automations happening are directly above/below the other.

Is the only real way of dealing with this to make sure to have enough (whatever enough is judged to be) beacons or receiving stations (depending on which way we do it) all over the place and have them all set to very low signal strength to make sure they’re only ‘serving’ the room they are in, and then triangulating available hits? …or is there some other component or concept to add to the mix that helps with this aspect that I’m not thinking of?

Oh…I guess the combination of beacons and motion could help, but only if I’m the only one home at the time, I suppose…

Based on this thread I thought you might be interested in our approach to Beacons with Smartthings. We have developed a bluetooth/Wifi bridge that can be used with smartthings. Most of the current feature set is around beacon based devices as a start, with future enhancements later. We have even created a smart app and device types. If you think this might be something that interests you take a look:

Kickstarter Page:


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Thanks! Ya, that looks pretty cool.



  1. Direct, BK-Cloud-free SmartThings Integration?
    Does having Device Handler and SmartApps mean that we wouldn’t have to be stuck relying on your cloud infrastructure for SmartThings integration (i.e. one moure cloud in the mix), and the data/triggers/whatever would transfer directly from the physical device to SmartThings?

2. Multiple BK Devices in SmartThings?
With the way you have it configured now (well, when it’s actually released), will it be possible for us to have multiple BK devices all connected to our single SmartThings (v1) system? If so, will there be a limit to the number of BK devices we can have connected to that same ST system?

3. More Easily Placed Receiving Stations?
Since your help above, I’ve been predominantly considering the idea of using my stationary, wall-mounted Androids as receiving stations, and then using a ‘thing’ (other than my phone) in my pocket or whatever as the Beacon.

However, I’ve been sort of struggling with the fact that, with so few (relatively speaking) wall-mounted control panels, I may not have enough of a ‘Bluetooth Mesh’ (my term; not trying to be correct) to actually get a good enough micro-presence setup around the house.

With something like this though, I can see it becoming a handy device to fill in the gaps of my Bluetooth Mesh with added receiving stations wherever I need them; wherever there is an AC wall outlet (just plug these BK devices into a USB AC wall charger).

a. will this price-point ($40 IF we lock-in) make sense for this kind of use?
b. is there anything else like this out there that works reliably, and is significantly less expensive?

Not to dis the maker at all. It’s certainly a very fair price for just the ability to have a Bluetooth bridge integration with SmartThings (i.e. the Bluetooth radio in SmartTings v2 Hub is not operational, and I only have a v1 hub anyway). I’m just looking at possibly needing to add 2 or more of something like this to pretty much every room in my house, and I’m fairly certain that would never get past my finance officer.

Sorry, I’m not feeling well, and will come back to the details of your question later.

Meanwhile, please don’t use the term “Bluetooth mesh” unless it actually is a “Bluetooth mesh.” That protocol does exist (it was introduced last year and, among other things, there are some Samsung lightbulbs that will be using it) but most Bluetooth devices, including all Ibeacons, are regular Bluetooth, which is point-to-point instead of mesh. This makes a huge technical difference, and would change the answer to your question significantly.

Instead, use the term “Bluetooth install” or “my Bluetooth devices” or “Bluetooth network.” That way people won’t get confused and you will get the right answers. :sunglasses:

The short answer to your price question, by the way, is that if you have an android receiving station app that you like, you should be able to run it on a $20 no contract WiFi phone from Walmart or a similar source. That’s a good option for a number of home automation use cases.

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Yes. Thanks, JD. This is exactly what I needed at the moment.

Bluetooth Mesh = good to know. I just hadn’t looked into it much, and that’s sort of why I stated it like I did. I knew there may actually be a tech out there with that name, but was too lazy to go look. I’m glad you got my point, AND that you gave me some really good advice on that front.

Price-point questions = This makes total sense. I do indeed already have a few cheapo Androids that I’ve picked up when there’s a crazy sale on no-contract phones at BestBuy, etc. I guess I was mainly thinking of using them as wall-mounted control panels, but since they’re so cheap, I could easily spare them for this and use some of them as extra receiving stations. I just need to figure out how to place them. The only reason I was wondering about these other things (BK) was that it seemed like a very simple and easy way of placing/mounting extra receiving stations. At this price-point (almost free no-contract phones), I guess it makes the most sense to try to figure out a good way of deploying them here instead of something so expensive for the task (i.e. if I only needed a bridge for Bluetooth, I think the BK is a wonderful solution).

Thanks again, man. :slight_smile:


  1. The way it works is the BlueKangaroo receives a Bluetooth message and passes that info to the built in WiFi. The WiFi then passes the info to the Smartthings hub which in turn passes the info to your smart app. There is one smart app associated with the BlueKangaroo that manages the device types. There are a couple device type based on the type of Bluetooth device. You can also use the BlueKangaroo without Smartthings all together can directly receive alert notifications.

  2. There is no limit to the number of BK’s you connect to Smartthings. There is a limit to the number of devices the BK can track, which is 20. When you configure the first BK, the additional BK will automatically be updated with the same configuration as the previous one.

I hope that answers your questions.

Thanks! :slight_smile:

If I have 1 BK, I can have up to 20 BT devices connected to ST via BK.
If I have 100 BKs (not that I want to do that), I can still only have at most 20 BT devices connected to ST via BK.
Is that right?

You might want to rephrase that. SmartThings itself has a limit of 100 devices using the same capability. So you can only have 100 “switches” (which includes lightbulbs), or 100 sensors, etc. depending on the device “capability” being used, there will be a limit of no more than 100 Bluetooth devices connected to smartthings via BK.

For any given account, there may be less than 100 slots left in whatever device class BK’s going to use. (Just as an example, switches usually run out first.)

That’s correct. 20 Bluetooth devices. I did not know about the 100 device limit on ST. So then that would be the limit, 100 BlueKangaroos each with the same 20 Bluetooth devices. Depending on the need we could make each BlueKangaroo have a different list of Bluetooth devices but that’s not the current design.

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I thought I would share what I did myself. It may sound a bit like a house or cards, but it actually isn’t and functions pretty well at the moment!

So, what I’ve done is use a raspberry-pi zero (very cheap) as a BT detector. It runs Node-Red to scan for BT devices, and looks for specific IDs. It then uses MQTT to post events to smartthings using the MQTT bridge.

One could, very easily, expand this so that there are several PIs scanning from different locations of the house. If those results were all reporting to an MQTT topic, then you could easily have one flow on one PI aggregate all the scans.

Seriously wouldn’t be very hard, and would be pretty cheap.

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