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linux-ibeacon

This is a Python script that creates an Apple® iBeacon®-compatible Bluetooth LE beacon using a computer running Linux and a Bluetooth LE adapter.

What You Need

You need a computer capable of running Linux. It can be a desktop or notebook PC, or any of the various single-board computers that are popular nowadays such as the Raspberry Pi or Arduino YUN. It must have Python 2.6 or 2.7 installed. This script does not need any special Python libraries or modules, just the ones that come standard with Python.

Your version of Linux must be compatible with the new Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (LE) standard. Currently this requires version 3.5 or greater of the Linux kernel. You will also need version 5.0 or greater of BlueZ, the Linux Bluetooth stack and associated tools.

On most Linux distributions, BlueZ can be easily installed from your distribution's package manager. E.g., for Debian and Debian derivatives (Ubuntu, etc.):

sudo apt-get install bluetooth bluez-utils blueman

Your computer must also have a Bluetooth adapter (either built-in or USB) that is compatible with the Bluetooth 4.0 LE standard. To test whether your adapter is LE-compatible, issue the following command:

sudo hcitool lescan

If you see either nothing, or a list of MAC addresses (aa:bb:cc:dd:ee:ff) then your adapter supports Bluetooth LE. If, on the other hand, you see any error messages in the output, then your adapter does not support LE. (This command will continuously scan for devices, so to exit it press `Control-C.)

If you don't have a LE-capable adapter, the Plugable USB Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy Micro Adapter is an inexpensive, low-profile USB Bluetooth adapter that is known to work well with Linux.

How to use it

Usage: sudo ibeacon [-u|--uuid=UUID or `random' (default=Beacon Toolkit app)]
                    [-M|--major=major (0-65535, default=0)]
                    [-m|--minor=minor (0-65535, default=0)]
                    [-p|--power=power (0-255, default=200)]
                    [-d|--device=BLE device to use (default=hci0)]
                    [-z|--down]
                    [-v|--verbose]
                    [-n|--simulate (implies -v)]
                    [-h|--help]

This script must be run with root privileges in order to configure Bluetooth adapters. It is most convenient to run it using sudo.

By default, the script creates an iBeacon whose UUID matches that which is used by the Beacon Toolkit iOS app, with major and minor both set to 0. These can be changed using the -u, -M and -m flags respectively. When specifying the UUID, you can specify an explicit UUID, or by specifying random the script will randomly generate a UUID.

UUID, major and minor may also be specified by setting the IBEACON_UUID, IBEACON_MAJOR and IBEACON_MINOR environment variables, respectively. If a value(s) is specified both in the environment as well as a command line option, the command line option takes precedence.

To test, you will need a device compatible with Bluetooth LE. In the Apple universe, that means the iPhone 4S or later, iPad 3rd gen or later (including Mini and Air), and the iPod touch. For Android, you'll have to check the list (most phones made within the last 2 years or so should be BLE-compatible.) Then download either Beacon Toolkit (for iOS) or iBeacon Scanner (for Android.) Fire up the app and begin scanning. Your newly-created iBeacon should appear in the list. If not, check to make sure that you specified the correct UUID, major and minor numbers. (For iOS devices, if you used a non-default UUID, you will have to enter it in the Beacon Toolkit app's settings screen.)

License

This script is licensed under the MIT license.

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Python script that creates an iBeacon-compatible Bluetooth LE beacon using Linux and a Bluetooth LE adapter

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