Hacking iBeacons For Automating Routines

Every self-respecting hacker has an automation hack somewhere in his/her bag of tricks. There are a lot of modern-day technologies that facilitate the functionality like GPS, scripting apps, and even IFTTT. In an interesting hack, [Nick Lee] has combined iBeacons and a reverse engineered Starbucks API to create an automated morning routine.

By creating a mobile app that scans for iBeacons, [Nick Lee] was able to reduce the effort made every morning while heading to his office. When the app encounters a relevant beacon, a NodeJS app sitting in the cloud is triggered. This consequently leads to desired actions like ordering an Uber ride and placing an order for an iced latte.

[Nick Lee] shares the code for the Starbucks application on GitHub for anyone who wants to order their favorite cup of joe automatically. This project can be easily expanded to work with GPS or even RFID tags and if you feel like adding IoT to a coffee machine, you could automate all of your beverage requirements in one go.

Boombox Doorjam Plays Your Theme Song When You Step in the Ring

Although many of us may have had childhood aspirations to be a famous wrestler in the WWE, not very many of us will ever realize those dreams. You can get close, though, if you have your own epic intro music theme that plays anytime you walk into a room. Although it’s not quite the same as entering a wrestling ring, [Matt]’s latest project will have you feeling just as good whenever you enter a room to your own theme song.

The core of the build consists of a boom box with an auxiliary input. The boom box is fed sound via a Raspberry Pi which also serves as the control center for the rest of the project. It runs Node.js and receives commands via websockets from a publicly accessible control server. The Pi is also running Spotify which allows a user to select a theme song, and whenever that user’s iBeacon is within range, the Pi will play that theme song over the stereo.

The project looks like it would be easy to adapt to any other stereo if you’re looking to build your own. Most of the instructions and code you’ll need are available on the project’s website, too. And, if you’re a fan of music playing whenever you open a door of some sort, this unique project is clearly the gold standard. It might even make Stone Cold Steve Austin jealous.

Broadcasting Bluetooth Beacons With Bubbles

Bluetooth beacons have only been around for a few years, but the draw is incredible. With Bluetooth beacons, your phone is location aware, even with location services are turned off. They’re seen in fast food joints, big box retailers, and anywhere else there’s a dollar to be made. [Nemik] has been working on a home automation project, and came up with a use for Bluetooth beacons that might actually be useful. It’s a WiFi-based Bluetooth beacon notifier that scans the area for beacons and forwards them to an MQTT server.

[Nemik]’s ‘Presence Detector’ for Bluetooth advertisements is actually a surprisingly simple build, leveraging the unbelievably cheap wireless modules available to us today. The WiFi side of the equation is a NodeMCU v2 ESP8266 dev board that provides all the smarts for the device via Lua scripting. The Bluetooth side of the board is a PTR5518 module that has a nRF51822 tucked inside. With the right configuration, this small board will listen for BLE advertisements and forward them to an MQTT server where they can be seen by anyone on the network.

[Nemik] is selling these beacon to WiFi bridges, but in the spirit of Open Hardware, he’s also giving away the designs and firmware so you can make your own. If you ever have an abundance of Bluetooth beacons sitting around and want to make a beacons of Things thing, this is the build for it.

Turn Your RPi 3 Into a BLE Beacon

With the launch of the Raspberry Pi 3, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is now at our disposal. With BLE, there are a few technologies for implementing one-way beacons that broadcast data. Apple has been pushing iBeacon since 2013, and Google just launched their Eddystone solution last year.

If you’re looking to target Google’s Eddystone on your RPi 3, [Yamir] has you covered. He’s put together a guide on setting up an Eddystone-URL beacon within Raspbian. This type of beacon just broadcasts a URL. Users within range will get a notification that the URL is available, and can navigate through to it. Eddystone-URL works on both iOS and Android.

The process for setting this up is pretty simple. The hciconfig and hcitool commands do all the work. [Yamir] was even nice enough to make a calculator tool that generates the hcitool command for your own URL. While is hack is a simple one, it’s a nice five-minute project. It’s also handy for broadcasting the URL of your Raspberry Pi if it’s running a web server as part of a more intricate hack.

Nerf Turret controlled by Slack

What happens when you give a former Navy weapons engineer some development boards and ask him to build “something cool”? What happens when you give a kid finger paints? [Seb] obviously built an IoT Nerf Turret Gun controlled via a team communication app.

The weapon was a Nerf Stampede which was hacked so it could be fired electronically. The safety switch was bypassed and a relay provided the firing signal. The electronics stack consists of an Intel Galileo, a motor shield and a relay shield. The turret assembly was built using off the shelf structural parts from Actobotics. Stepper motors provide motion to the turret. The fun begins with how the software is implemented. An iBeacon network detects where people sit at in the office. So when you type in the name of your target in a messaging app, it knows where they’re sitting, aims at them, and pops a nerf dart at them.

The lessons learned are what makes such projects worth their while. For example, USB is a standard. And the standard says that USB cables be not more than 1.8 m long. [Seb] was reminded of this when his electronics worked on his workbench, but refused to work when placed in-situ and connected via a 3m long cable – the serial link just wouldn’t work.

Mounting the gun such that it was nicely balanced was another challenge. Eventually, he had to use a couple of AA cells taped to the front of the gun to get it right. This could be useful though, since he plans to replace the dead weights with a sighting camera. One last hack was to zip tie heat sinks to the motor drivers, and he had a good reason to do that. Read more about it in his blog. And check out the video as someone takes aim and shoots a target via SLACK, the team messaging application.

Continue reading “Nerf Turret controlled by Slack”

Immersive Theatre via iBeacons with Dustin Freeman

Combining backgrounds in math and theater, [Dustin Freeman] works on immersive, interactive theatrical experiences. During the day [Dustin] is a Spatial Interaction Engineer at Occipital, who makes the Structure Sensor. In his spare time [Dustin] works on digital theatre projects that bring the theatre goer far past the traditional row of seats.

The concept of immersive theatre is similar to ‘escape the room’ challenges and choose your own adventure experiences, in that the participants control the outcome of the experience by making decisions from the information supplied to them. [Dustin] explains in his talk that the feeling of trying to beat the clock that exists in escape the room challenges is not helpful in Floodlight’s The Painting. Floodlight is a theatre production company and The Painting is the immersive theatre experience put together by [Joshua Marx], professor of acting at San Jose State and [Dustin Freeman] who presented this 2015 Hackaday SuperConference talk.

Continue reading “Immersive Theatre via iBeacons with Dustin Freeman”

Turning A Pi Into An iBeacon


Nowadays, if you want to ‘check in with Foursquare’ at your local laundromat, deli, or gas station, you need to take out your phone and manually ‘check in with Foursquare’. It’s like we’re living in the stone age. iBeacon, Apple’s NFC competitor that operates over Bluetooth 4.0 changes all that. iBeacon can automatically notify both iOS and Android users of where they are. [Kevin Townsend] over at Adafruit came up with a tutorial that turns a Raspberry Pi into an iBeacon, perfect for telling you that you’re somewhere in the proximity of a Raspberry Pi, and some other cool stuff too.

The iBeacon protocol is actually very simple. Basically, the only thing the iBeacon transmits is a 128-bit company/entity value, and an optional major and minor values (to differentiate between locations and nodes within locations, respectively). After plugging in a Bluetooth 4.0 USB dongle into the Pi, it’s a simple matter of installing BlueZ and entering the iBeacon data.

iBeacon by itself doesn’t really do anything – the heavy lifting of figuring out exactly which Panera Bread or Starbucks you’re in is left to the apps on your phone. If you’re a mobile developer, though, this is a great way to set up a very useful testing rig.