July 20–24, 2015
Portland, OR

Creating Bluetooth LE devices with Arduino

Alasdair Allan (Babilim Light Industries)
5:00pm–5:40pm Wednesday, 07/22/2015
Mobility E147/148
Average rating: ****.
(4.60, 5 ratings)

Prerequisite Knowledge

Some knowledge of the Arduino would be helpful.


Bluetooth LE is very different from classic Bluetooth, in fact pretty much the only thing that is the same is the name. You’re probably used to thinking about radios as sort of like a serial connection working similarly to a phone call between two phones—once you establish a connection, each person talks as the other listens and vice versa. Effectively this is how classic Bluetooth works.

Pretty much all of the Bluetooth LE radio breakout boards available to makers right now pretend to look like serial devices for simplicity’s sake, and present a UART service to the user. But that’s not how Bluetooth LE is supposed to work, and while it simplifies using them you’re discarding the “low energy” part of Bluetooth LE. The radios will be constantly on all the time, and if your project is battery-based, that’s a big problem.

Using Bluetooth LE radios properly involves creating custom services and characteristics. However, until recently, this was actually really hard to do without making use of expensive proprietary software tools. I present an open source peripheral library for Arduino for the Nordic radios, which will allow you to create custom services and characteristics with both a poll or callback style API without using proprietary tools. This library is designed to form the basis of a generic library for Bluetooth LE on Arduino.

Photo of Alasdair Allan

Alasdair Allan

Babilim Light Industries

Alasdair Allan is a scientist, author, hacker, tinkerer, and journalist who has been thinking about the Internet of Things, which he thinks is broken. He is the author of a number of books, and from time to time he also stands in front of cameras. You can often find him at conferences talking about interesting things, or deploying sensors to measure them. He recently rolled out a mesh network of five hundred sensors motes covering the entire of Moscone West during Google I/O. He’s still recovering.

A few years before that Alasdair caused a privacy scandal by uncovering that your iPhone was recording your location all the time. This caused several class action lawsuits and a U.S. Senate hearing. Several years on, he still isn’t sure what to think about that.

He sporadically writes blog posts about things that interest him, or more frequently provides commentary in 140 characters or less. He is a contributing editor for MAKE magazine, and a contributor to the O’Reilly Radar.

Alasdair is a former academic. As part of his work he built a distributed peer-to-peer network of telescopes which, acting autonomously, reactively scheduled observations of time-critical events. Notable successes included contributing to the detection of what was—at the time—the most distant object yet discovered, a gamma-ray burster at a redshift of 8.2.