The PiBeacon consists of a Raspberry Pi computer, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) USB adapter, and an SD card preloaded with BLE beacon utility software. It requires a standard 5V power supply with a micro USB connector. There is no power switch for the PiBeacon. As soon as it is plugged in, it will boot up and begin transmitting automatically after about a minute.
Note: The Raspberry Pi can be sensitive to poorly performing chargers. If your PiBeacon doesn’t boot properly (you should see a red LED illuminated and a green LED that flashes intermittently) try a different charger.
To verify the PiBeacon is transmitting, use a beacon test tool like Radius Networks’ “Locate Beacon” (iOS). Click here to check out more proximity beacon tools from Radius Networks.
The PiBeacon is the ultimate BLE beacon tool. It is designed to work with multiple Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) proximity beacon specifications, including iBeacon™ technology and AltBeacon technology. It can transmit as a beacon with fully customizable identifiers and transmit frequency. In addition, it can scan for other nearby beacons using both technologies. For more information on AltBeacon (the open and interoperable proximity beacon specification) visit AltBeacon.org.
The PiBeacon will begin transmitting at boot with the default identifiers. These initial parameters can be easily configured by editing the
/boot/beacon.conf file on the PiBeacon. This can be done by removing the SD card and placing it in your computer’s card reader slot. Alternatively, you can edit the file directly on the Pi with either a keyboard and monitor or via SSH (see section below). When you open this file, you should see two blocks like the one below, these give the parameters and identifiers for each transmitter (Note: changing the second set of identifiers does nothing unless you have the dual model).
Once you enter your beacon type, identifiers, and frequency be sure to properly save the file and eject it from your computer. Note: if you change to a custom UUID you will need to add this UUID to your ‘Locate Beacon’ iOS app for it to be visible (iOS devices can only detect beacons with known UUIDs).
The PiBeacon’s beacon capabilities are powered by the beacon command line utility, which can be used to transmit beacon signals and scan for other nearby beacons. To use this tool, you need access to a terminal in the Raspberry Pi. You can do this by attaching a monitor and keyboard to the Raspberry Pi (before you power it on) or by connecting the Pi to your local network and accessing it from another computer via SSH (see the section on connecting via SSH for more info). Log in to the Raspberry Pi with the default credentials: username: pi, password: raspberry. Now you can use the
beacon command to control your PiBeacon. Run the command with the help option to see the proper usage:
The utility is broken up into different commands that control the different functions of the PiBeacon. The following sections describe the details of these commands.
Use this command to transmit as a BLE beacon. You are required to specify a beacon type (AltBeacon or iBeacon). Optionally, you can include other parameters and identifiers to be transmitted. For example, the following command will transmit with the AltBeacon standard at 5 Hz with null identifiers:
pi@pibeacon ~ $ sudo beacon transmit -A -f 5 -1 00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000 -2 0 -3 0 -r 0
Transmitting with AltBeacon standard at 5.00 Hz
ID1: 00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000, ID2: 0, ID3: 0, Power: -59, Mfg Reserved: 0
To transmit with different parameters, simply rerun the transmit command with your desired settings.
This command will simply stop the PiBeacon from transmitting as a BLE beacon. Until it receives a stop command or it loses power, the PiBeacon will transmit indefinitely once activated.
Using the scan command, the PiBeacon will scan for other nearby BLE beacons and list the information of every transmission it receives. You can select which type of beacon to scan for (it will scan for beacons using AltBeacon or iBeacon technology by default) as well as set the duration of the scan (if desired). In addition, you can specify an output format to easily export scan data for use in any application.
beacon command uses BlueZ, the official Linux Bluetooth protocol stack, to communicate with the Bluetooth adapter. There are a couple of BlueZ commands that are useful when diagnosing problems with the PiBeacon. First, the
hciconfig command will list the information and status of any attached Bluetooth devices. A device must be in the “up” state to execute any Bluetooth commands. To bring a device up use the following command (device “hci0” in this case):
sudo hciconfig hci0 up
To reset a Bluetooth device, which can fix any unexpected behaviors, use the following command:
sudo hciconfig hci0 reset
If you have the dual model of the PiBeacon, you can specify beacon commands on each device independently with the
-i option. For example, the following commands will transmit with one device and scan with another:
pi@pibeacon ~ $ sudo beacon -i hci0 transmit -A
Transmitting with AltBeacon standard at 10.00 Hz
ID1: 2F234454-CF6D-4A0F-ADF2-F4911BA9FFA6, ID2: 1, ID3: 1, Power: -59, Mfg Reserved: 0
pi@pibeacon ~ $ sudo beacon -i hci1 scan -A
ID1: 2F234454-CF6D-4A0F-ADF2-F4911BA9FFA6 ID2: 1 ID3: 1 POWER: -59 RSSI: -82 RESERVED: 0
To connect to the PiBeacon using SSH, you will need basic Linux command line skills, an ethernet cable, and access to a router.
Step 1. Plug one end of the ethernet cable into the ethernet port on the Raspberry Pi computer and the other end into your router.
Step 2. Power on the PiBeacon.
Step 3. Using a computer, go to your router’s administration page and determine the IP address of the PiBeacon. It should show up on your router’s attached devices list as “pibeacon”.
Step 4. On your computer connected to the same router, open up a ssh client and connect to the PiBeacon, logging in with username: pi, password: raspberry. For example, on a Linux or OS X machine use the ssh command (substitute your PiBeacon’s IP address):
Now you can have the tools to start developing a proximity aware mobile app or use the power of the Raspberry Pi for proximity-aware automation. Visit our website for more tools and beacon products and check out our developer blog for more tutorials with the Raspberry Pi.
If you have problems configuring or operating the PiBeacon, email us at email@example.com