Beacons and fitness trackers or smartwatches?

Hey all!

Just what the topic title says… I’m looking at integrating beacons throughput the home and having fitness trackers like fitbit or smartwatches like the pebble be the presence sensors…

I’ve seen the beaconthings app but it’s an ios only… I’m am android guy…

Plus I still don’t want to give a phone to my 8 year old…


I gave a first answer, but it turned out to be wrong so I deleted it.

The answer to this is really complicated.

You can detect some I beacons with some android watches. But none of them work perfectly and a lot of them require that you be really close to the Beacon, within about a meter.

Pebble tried to do this back in 2014, but it just turned out to be too hard on the battery life and they dropped the Detection feature for the pebble time.

There is also an ongoing problem that if you kill the app on the watch you may have problems restarting it again. Different watches handle this differently so you may just have to experiment.

And the biggest problem of all is that using an IBeacon Detection app can kill the watch battery really quickly.

There are IBeacons which can be worn and work very well, but then you need to have a phone or tablet plugged in in the stationary location to act as the detection station. This is what we do at my house. I have a Beacon on my wheelchair and we have a tablet on each side of the house which acts as a home automation dashboard and also has the Beecon + app (iOS only).

So there are two separate problems that you’ll run into. The first is the distance at which the Beacon can be detected. Many people who have tried using a watch as the receiving station have found that it only works reliably when the distance is within One or 2 m. That’s OK for touchless switches, but not for micro location.

The second issue is battery life for the receiving station device. If this is a watch, you can kill the battery life very quickly. So it’s not something that you would use all day long.

The following is a detailed project report of somebody who tried to write a detection app on a smart watch and details the problems they ran into, in particular distance:

Estimote, One of the biggest IBeacon manufacturers (very Nice products, these are the beacons that I use), says that their android SDK will work on an android wear watch, but that still doesn’t address the distance or power usage issues.

So you can do this as far as detecting one beacon one time at a short distance. But whether it would meet your practical requirements just depends on the details of what you’re trying to accomplish.

At my house, I use the Beecon plus App on my watch, but the detection is being done by an iOS phone or tablet and the watch is just getting the information from that. And the beacon is what’s moving around. As I mentioned, I have a beacon on my wheelchair and my housemate has one in his backpack. Mine is used for zone detection inside the house, his is just used for “home” and “away.”

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Awesome answer! Just what I might need… thanks!

I was actually thinking of something along the lines of having a Raspberry Pi or tablet or something as the beacon server, or servers… if I get one per room… and the trackers as moving beacons… using ble… kind of what you have on your wheelchair… which by the way I might copy in to my own wheelchair!

On a side note, I had thought of installing a solar panel with a battery and a USB connector so as to keep my phone juiced up 24/7…

Do you see any possible problems in that?

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As far as having a pi or anything else as the receiving station, sure, I think you can use anything. In the US you can get $20 no contract wifi phones that people use without ever activating the actual phone service. That can also be an inexpensive choice which would mean you could just use a regular phone app.

Sticking a beacon on a wheelchair is very easy. The beacons themselves have very long battery life. We did it so that I could set up a detection zone which is just the length of the wheelchair ramp at my front door. All the other detection methods were detecting me as “home” while I was still on the bus waiting to be unloaded. :sunglasses:

as far as a solar charger for your phone, did you mean while it is mounted on your wheelchair? I would think you might have a hard time finding a good angle for it that didn’t stick out too much. Although I’m sure somebody’s done it. :sun_with_face:

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The solar power problem:

Would you feel safe sitting in this? And look at how much bigger it makes the chair. You’d never fit on a bus with it.

Could be good for camping, though. :sunglasses:

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Yup, I was exactly referring to that! Mounting the panel in the back of the chair… Lol! That pic made me laugh! Thanks!

As for the tablet/rpi beacon server… Any idea where to start reading?

Edit: oh and, me too get detected on the mobile presence while I’m still some 6 floors down… things of living in a flat! Lol! So that’s one of the reasons why I’m looking for alternate ways of presence detection. I tried the IF/virtual ST button route but it’s very unstable! Now it works, now it doesn’t kind of unstable!

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I think the term “server” is going to confuse things here.

You need a transmitter, which can either be a physical device or a phone/tablet acting as a virtual Beacon.

And you need a receiving station, which is a device with “Bluetooth smart” capability running an app that can detect transmitters.

I’m not sure from your description whether you want the raspberry pi to act as the transmitter or as the receiving station.

There are a lot of examples on the Internet of people using a raspberry pi as a transmitter so that it can be detected as a beacon.

Using it as a receiving station (which some people call it a “beacon reader”) is more complex. Here’s one example:

In both cases, you need a Bluetooth dongle for the pi

Also remember that there are different kinds of Bluetooth. Here’s a project example where the author could only get his project to work with one brand of dongle and not another.