Wednesday, 16 November 2016

micro:bit support

The 'micro:bit foundation' has arrived and is charged with looking after the future of the micro:bit. It's also a great place to go for technical support. We've lacked a central place to find answers to questions or to get assistance until now, so this is a big step forwards.

Here are some handy support resources for you:

1. If you need help with a Bitty Software application or tutorial

Send a message to @bittysoftware on Twitter. If you can, post more extensive details on a blog or similar and include a link to these details in your tweet.

2. Anything else micro:bit related

Email help@microbit.org or go to http://support.microbit.org and open a support ticket.

That's it!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

micro:bit Blue - open source at last!

Most of the micro:bit demos involving a smartphone shown on my micro:bit page involve an Android application I wrote and which I eventually decided to call "micro:bit Blue". It was initially put together to help me to test the Bluetooth profile I'd designed for the micro:bit. Then, as I started to have ideas, it transformed into a series of demos.

But I always had the aim that it be released as open source, so I also did my best to provide educational documentation in the helps screens so that people who are new to Bluetooth could get the hang of the primary concepts.

A few months ago I loaded the application into Google Play so that other people could find and install it easily.

 It's right here:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bluetooth.mwoolley.microbitbledemo&hl=en_GB

Meanwhile, releasing the source code was delayed by a variety of rather uninteresting issues. And then some more. To cut a long story short and at the same time apologise for having taken so long over this, today I'm delighted to say that the source code is now available!

The new microbit foundation have kindly offered a home for the code and their home being more palatial than my own github home, I gratefully accepted their offer.

I hope those people who have been waiting for this are pleased and that everyone and anyone with an interest in writing smartphone apps for the micro:bit finds this useful.

Here it is:

https://github.com/microbit-foundation/microbit-blue

 Enjoy :-)

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Bitty Data Logger V1.2.0

Yesterday, Bitty Software released a new version of the Bitty Data Logger application. If you're unfamiliar with the app, check it out at the Bitty Software web site.

The new release makes the following improvements:

  1. A new "Results" screen lists up to 30 data files.
  2. Data can now be uploaded at any time.
  3. New "Extra Data" screen provides the opportunity to add a time and distance value after a test run has completed. A speed value is automatically calculated.
  4. The Activate / Deactivate button is now named Start / Stop and is coloured green and red.
  5. The Settings screen now allows a Project Name and a Team Name to be entered.
Bitty Data Logger is currently being evaluated for use in the Bloodhound model rocket car competition for schools, Race for the Line. This is of course, *very* exciting!
Bitty Data Logger is free and available for both iOS and Android. The code needed for the micro:bit is available as a hex file from the Bitty Software web site or you can create it yourself, with guidance available in the form of a couple of coding tutorials, one for C/C++ and one for the PXT tool.

The application is great for school or personal projects:
Spice up your science lessons with the @bittysoftware #microbit data logging app for Android & iOS: #edchathttps://t.co/zBFzku9G95 pic.twitter.com/w7Kgg5VHTE

Here are some screenshots of the new release. 

Ready to start data logging!

And we're off....

After capturing data we can record extra, optional data

Up to 30 data files are kept. NEW files have not yet been uploaded
After uploading, you can download to your computer from the URL provided

Data file details include the URL which was allocated when uploading

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

micro:bit proximity beacons

One the big growth areas for Bluetooth is in "beacons". Bluetooth beacons broadcast data which can be used by another device to deduce roughly where it is. This can be in terms of a particular location or perhaps in terms of proximity to an object of interest.

ABI predict that by 2020, there will be 400 million Bluetooth beacons shipping each year.

Beacons work by using Bluetooth "advertising" to broadcast a small amount of data, which can be received and acted upon by anyone in range with a suitable device and software, typically a smartphone and application.

There are various beacon message formats, which define the way Bluetooth advertising packets are used as containers for beacon data. iBeacon is Apple's beacon message format. Eddystone comes from Google.

Google have a very interesting project called the Physical Web and it in large part, is all about how Bluetooth beacon technology, coupled with software on smartphones and tablets, coupled with the web, can enable people to more easily discover and interact with physical things in the environment.

Believe me. This is going to be BIG.

I just helped add Eddystone beacon capabilities to the BBC micro:bit. Kudos to Thomas Beverly for having kicked things off by implementing support for Eddystone URL messages in the micro:bit's "runtime". I tagged along for the ride and added support for UID messages over the weekend and it's now pretty easy to use a micro:bit for a wide range of beacon scenarios.

I have a couple of videos on my Bitty Software web site. The first shows the UID Eddystone message type in use and the second uses the URL message type. Take a look at them now to get the idea, especially if you're not already familiar with beacons.

Don't forget, you don't need to make a Bluetooth connection to a beacon to use it... you just have to be near enough to it to receive its broadcast data and as I've noted elsewhere in this blog, micro:bits can have a range of hundreds of metres when using Bluetooth at full power. 

So you could place micro:bit beacons all over (say) your school, and with a suitable application on phones and tablets, provide information pertinent to each location or some other response, automatically on someone simply coming into range of the micro:bit's beacon broadcasts.

Right now, turning your micro:bit into a beacon requires you to do some C/C++ programming. I'm hoping though that Microsoft's awesome PXT tool will end up with a "Bluetooth Beacon Block" in the future so that making micro:bit beacons is as easy as can be.

The microbit-samples repo will soon have Eddystone beacon code examples in it and I've also submitted updates to the Lancaster University micro:bit documentation on the subject.

Meanwhile, to whet your appetite, here's some code:

#include "MicroBit.h"

MicroBit uBit;

char URL[] = "https://goo.gl/TlUTF7";
const int8_t CALIBRATED_POWERS[] = {-49, -37, -33, -28, -25, -20, -15, -10};

uint8_t advertising = 0;
uint8_t tx_power_level = 6;

void startAdvertising() {
    uBit.bleManager.advertiseEddystoneUrl(URL, CALIBRATED_POWERS[tx_power_level-1], false);
    uBit.bleManager.setTransmitPower(tx_power_level);
    uBit.display.scroll("ADV");
    advertising = 1;
}