Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Customizing the HM-10 BLE Module Firmware

There were a lot of complaints regarding the power consumption of HM-10 ble module during sleep mode. My formula for computing how long the battery will last when the HM-10 is configured as ibeacon is quite close to being accurate but surprisingly in the real world, the module does not performed as described by the manufacturer. As proof I took a screenshot of the HM-10(IBEACON) and an AXAET Ibeacon(ZIRUZBEACONS). Both ibeacons having the identical configuration(TX Power= -23db and Advertising Frequency=1200ms) but the rssi and measured power had huge differences which indicates that the HM-10 is not performing as expected.

There are many work arounds to make the HM-10 consume less power and one of them would be to flash new firmware to the TI CC2541 chip using BlueBasic. Uploading a new firmware is quite risky and very challenging but if you succeed in this endeavor, it will be very rewarding because you can access all of the available resources on the TI CC2541 chip. You can even take the customization further to add buzzer, temperature sensors, heart rate monitors, monitor the current battery charge level and many more without the need of external microcontroller.

Here is how to connect the cc debugger to HM-10 BLE Module:

The downside of this is like saying good bye permanently to the original firmware that came with the ble module but in terms of benefits, it is well worth it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Pass2U Pass Issuance Service Integrated with Ibeacons

I was searching for existing ibeacon apps that offers a complete working system that should allow small shop owners jump start their mobile marketing strategies when I stumbled upon the app Pass2U created by a Taiwan Based Software Development Company MicroMacro Mobile. It fits my search criteria and almost(70%) meet the features I mentioned in my previous article(Ibeacon Apps Must Not Be Unique).

The android app is like an organizer that lets users keep all of their discount coupons, loyalty cards, event coupons, debit cards, boarding passes, movie tickets and other offerings in a single app. The good thing about this is when one of the passes stored was created by a merchant from the same website(pass2u.net) and has enabled the ibeacon feature, the user will receive a notification telling the user that he is near the merchant's shop.

For those who are not yet familiar about digital passes, here is some information about it:

What’s a Pass and How do I Use One?

A pass is a digitally signed document such as a ticket, membership card, or coupon that can be distributed by email or a web download. It can be opened with the Passbook app on iOS or with an app like PassWallet on Android. On iOS, a pass can also be linked to a companion app, for example the Eventbrite app which allows you to buy tickets and add them to your device’s Passbook, but that’s not mandatory.
Apple’s specs outline four main pass types:
  • Boarding passes
  • Event tickets
  • Retail coupons
  • Store cards
There’s also a Generic pass type that covers other purposes, and this the type of pass I’m using here.
Each pass contains various bits of data. Some, such as a member name and bar code are displayed visually on the “front side” of the pass. Other data is located on the “back” of the pass and triggered by the “i” icon. Passes can also contain some hidden information such as a time and location which can be used to display relevant notifications.
Source: sitepoint

I tried to explore the whole system and experimented with their store card to check if it's really working and how easy it is to navigate throughout their system, and I have confirmed that yes, it really works and very easy to use with their very good user interface design. Anybody who can read and write and knows how to click buttons can easily get used to the whole system.

Here is a sample loyalty card created from pass2u.net:

Here is the sample notification I received:

Up to 10 ibeacons can be added for a single pass:

What Pass2U missout is a small app that could be integrated with their android pass wallet app is an ibeacon pass issueing/dispensing app. What it basically do is to give away passes to people who downloaded the app each time they pass by the shop and when their smart phone has detected the ibeacon signal.