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Bluetooth Low Energy: Big Progress for Small Consumption!

Joshua Marinacci (PubNub)
Open Hardware
Average rating: ***..
(3.75, 8 ratings)

In 2013 Bluetooth Low Energy, BLE, was difficult to work with. APIs were rare and buggy. Hackable shields were hard to find. Smartphones didn’t support it if they weren’t made by Apple, and even then it was limited. What a difference a year makes. Now in 2014 you can easily add BLE support to any Arduino, Raspberry PI, or other embedded system. Every major smartphone OS supports BLE and the APIs are finally stable. There are even special versions of Arduino built entirely around wiring sensors together with BLE. This session will introduce Bluetooth Low Energy, explain where it fits in the spectrum of wireless technologies, then dive into the many options today’s hackers have to add BLE to their own projects. Finally, we will assemble a simple smart watch on stage with open source components.

Programming skills are not required, but will be helpful.



  • A 60 second history of wireless technologies
  • The need for BLE
  • Bluetooth Classic vs Bluetooth Low Energy

A year ago

  • devices: iPhone4S + iOS 6, Motorola, WinPhone hacks
  • accessories: two shields, SDK kits, compilers


  • devices: iOS7, Android 4.4, WinPhone 8.1
  • widely available hardware: shields, dongles,


  • built into everything


  • 6+ Arduino shields
  • dedicated Arduino BLE devices
  • USB adapters

BLE + Arduino basics

  • concepts
  • arduino coding
  • smartphone coding (iOS example)
  • an RFDuino smart watch prototype

Raspberry Pi as a BLE hub

  • NodeJS bindings
  • The Thing System

Custom profiles

  • iBeacon
  • Apple Notification Center Services
  • other profiles
  • Cortado iBeacon prototype

Next steps

Photo of Joshua Marinacci

Joshua Marinacci


Ask me about HTML Canvas, mobile apps, and visual design. Or 3D printing and wearable computing. Or just ask me to rant about Java.

Josh Marinacci is a blogger and co-author of “Swing Hacks” and “Building Mobile Apps with Java” for O’Reilly. He is currently a researcher for Nokia.

He previously worked on webOS at Palm and JavaFX, Swing, NetBeans, and the Java Store at Sun Microsystems.

Josh lives in Eugene, Oregon and is passionate about open source technology & great user experiences.