Part 3: Bluetooth communications with 2 Arduino devices, using App Inventor

Please start with “Part 1: Basic Bluetooth communications using App Inventor” to learn how to configure, set up and program an App Inventor app that communicates over Bluetooth between two Android devices. Then, read “How to connect App Inventor apps to Arduino using Bluetooth” before going through this tutorial!

Then continue with this tutorial.

This tutorial shows how an App Inventor app can communicate with 2 (or more) Arduino boards and Bluetooth devices simultaneously. These instructions assume you are familiar with the code and hardware presented in Part 1 and Part 2 and How to connect App Inventor apps to Arduino using Bluetooth“. This tutorial uses the same Arduino source code as in that tutorial.

A follow up tutorial will show how to simplify some of this code for supporting multiple Bluetooth devices.

Brief Reminder

Bluetooth is a short range, low power, limited speed wireless communications technology. The original Bluetooth technology provided a serial communications link between two paired devices (as compared to an individual data packet sent between up to n devices using the much newer Bluetooth LE – see here and here for information on Bluetooth LE).

Arduino is a microcontroller board for building hardware projects. You can write software for Arduino using a programming language similar to the C++ programming language.

The code used in these examples has been tested with some specific Bluetooth modules connected to Arduino. These include the JY-MCU (Amazon (Prime), Amazon (non-Prime) and also some HC-05 and HC-06 based Bluetooth modules.

Getting Started

  • Read the prior tutorials (Part 1 and Part 2 and How to connect App Inventor apps to Arduino using Bluetooth“)
  • Build two Arduino boards each with an appropriate Bluetooth module as described in the prior tutorial.
  • Compile and load the Arduino software in to each of the Arduino boards.
  • Test and confirm that your basic LED lights flash for the original, single Bluetooth connection case.
  • Then, with two working boards, continue to this tutorial.

User Interface View

The original app supported just one device, so there was just a single “Connect” and “Disconnect” button. This version demonstrates how to connect more than one Bluetooth device so we need separate buttons for each device. Similarly, we must add a second status and data sending item to the screen:

 

Before running this app, be sure to use Android | Settings | Bluetooth to “pair” your Bluetooth devices with Android.

Then, run the app and select Connect to Device 1. This displays a list of available Bluetooth devices in the vicinity. Select your specific Bluetooth device for the connection. Do this for both Bluetooth devices.

Once connected, you can send some simple commands to the Arduino board. Commands are very simple – a single number – to tell the Arduino to do something (this confirms that the Bluetooth link is working). If we enter a single digit 1 and then press Send Numeric 1, the Arduino board will send back 2 bytes of data which will then be displayed on the app screen. If we enter a single digit 4 and then press Send Numeric 1, a value of 4 is transmitted over Bluetooth to the Arduino board, which responds by flashing the externally connected LED.

Because the text box for data entry has its property set to NumbersOnly, a pop up numeric keypad displays when entering data, rather than the usual Android text keyboard.

Video Demonstration this App

I created a short video showing this app in operation. There are two versions of the video – one is standard 2D format and the other is in VR 3D format for viewing on Google Cardboard-like viewers used with smart phones to watch VR videos.

2D (normal) version: https://youtu.be/BU2gIAxbY_o

VR 3D SBS version: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJIggzZgld4

That version is in 3D, for viewing with VR 3D viewers or 3D TVs or monitors.

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Free-Download App Inventor Bluetooth Communications Cheat Sheet

Download here: App Inventor Bluetooth Cheat Sheet (PDF)

Covers basic Bluetooth text communications with links to tutorials on sending numeric and binary data, and connecting to Arduino over App Inventor Bluetooth.

App Inventor sample source code available here.

High res, suitable for printing. Feel free to share with others.

Here is a GIF image of the first page but use the PDF for printing (higher resolution) and it includes both pages:

Voila_Capture 2015-10-28_08-35-41_PM

Post comments here or on our Facebook group page. Thank you!

E-Books and Printed Books

If you find these tutorials helpful (I hope you do!) please take a look at my books on App Inventor. To learn more about the books and where to get them (they are inexpensive) please see my App Inventor Books page.

  • App Inventor 2 Introduction (Volume 1 e-book)
    Step-by-step guide to easy Android programming
  • App Inventor 2 Advanced Concepts (Volume 2 e-book)
    Step-by-step guide to Advanced features including TinyDB
  • App Inventor 2 Databases and Files (Volume 3 e-book)
    Step-by-step TinyDB, TinyWebDB, Fusion Tables and Files
  • App Inventor 2 Graphics, Animation and Charts (Volume 4 e-book and printed book)
    Step-by-step guide to graphics, animation and charts

Thank you for visiting! — Ed

“Visual Development” system for Arduino

As you know, MIT App Inventor is a graphical-based programming system, or a “visual development” system where programs are constructed by dragging and dropping “blocks” onto a Blocks editor.

Arduino, which we mentioned in conjunction with our Bluetooth interface code, is a microcontroller system that is normally programmed in a language similar to the C++ programming language – which is text-based.

Mitov Softwware has introduced a new visual programming system for Arduino. I have not yet had a chance to try this out – the software is in “Beta” test phase and is not yet generally available.

The simplicity of an App Inventor type programming environment might then be available for Arduino applications. This is very exciting. It may be helpful for enabling more kinds of people, with different types of backgrounds than software developers(!) to write code for Arduino boards.

Program Arduino boards visually, fast and easy with Visuino #Visuino #Arduino

Source: Visuino – Visual Development for Arduino by Mitov Software

I have used this screen shot from their web site to illustrate the general idea – really looking forward to trying this out!

screenshot-03

How to connect App Inventor apps to Arduino using Bluetooth wireless

How to Connect App Inventor apps to Arduino Using Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a low power, short range wireless technology built in to many phones, tablets and other devices.

MIT App Inventor 2 supports a set of Bluetooth communication functions that may be used to send data between smart phones and tablets (see previous tutorials: Part 1, Part 2)

This capability may be extended so that App Inventor apps can communicate with Arduino-based devices and other embedded systems.

This tutorial describes how to interface App Inventor apps running on Android to Arduino devices, via the Bluetooth wireless link.

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is an industry standard for low power, short range wireless communications between devices such as personal computers, printers, smart phones, tablets, wireless headphones, wireless stereo speakers, sensor systems (like in security alarms) and other applications.

To learn more about Bluetooth technology (and why it has a funny name!), please read our first tutorial on Bluetooth.

What is Arduino?

Arduino is an open hardware, open software platform for building small electronic devices. The Arduino board is a “microcontroller” – that is, a complete – albeit small, inexpensive and with limited function – computer. Arduino is a popular choice for do-it-yourself projects and is well established in the “Maker” community of DIY project builders. (Side note: I will be at the San Francisco Maker Faire on Saturday, May 16th, 2015).

This is not a tutorial about Arduino boards, software or electronics and presumes the reader is familiar with Arduino development. To learn more about Arduino (and you should learn more about it!) start at the Arduino web site.

This tutorial assumes you have the Arduino software development environment installed on your computer and are familiar with Arduino development.

HARDWARE: Setting Up Arduino for Bluetooth Wireless Communications

There are several versions of the Arduino board; I used the Uno version but others should work just fine.

The Arduino board does not contain Bluetooth hardware – to implement Bluetooth requires using a third-party Bluetooth module. I use the JY-MCU Bluetooth module . IMPORTANT – not all Bluetooth modules will work with App Inventor!  While new versions of Android support all versions of Bluetooth, App Inventor (at the time of this writing) supports “classic” Bluetooth only. In particular, App Inventor does not support the newer Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) version, at least it does not support the Bluetooth LE module that I have.

I can confirm that the JY-MCU Bluetooth module works but the Bluetooth LE modules I have do not work with App Inventor.  My phone can see the Bluetooth LE device but the App Inventor source code cannot communicate with the LE devices.

Where to buy the JY-MCU Module online: Amazon (Prime), Amazon (non-Prime)

The module is also available from other vendors.

Photo shows my Arduino UNO board, at left, a prototyping breadboard with a status LED set up, and the JY-MCU Bluetooth module, just above the breadboard.

DSC_1266Click through to  see how the Arduino and Bluetooth module are setup, and get the Arduino source code and the App Inventor source code!

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Coming soon: Bluetooth to connect Android App Inventor code to Arduino

I  have an App Inventor app running on my Nexus 5 and talking to an Arduino board via Bluetooth. I finally had a chance to work on this!

UPDATE: Here is the link to the final code and tutorial information!

What I have  now is some experimental code not suitable for posting online. I will be revising this code to turn it into a simple example that will provide basic functionality, and then present a tutorial on putting it to use in your own applications.

Update Tuesday Cinco de Mayo (in the U.S.): I have the demo code up and running. Next up is to test and write up the tutorial! It’s coming! The first tutorial will be simple – intended to get you up and running.  I will eventually create some more advanced features.

Longer term, I may create a more general solution for passing data packets back and forth between an Android App Inventor app and an Arduino board, so that many types of applications may be supported using my basic code library.

Arduino is a small microcontroller board used by hobbyists and others to add computing to small devices, art projects, robots, Internet connected devices and much more. Arduino is not part of App Inventor. Arduino is, for an “embedded system” easy to use in terms of building electronics hardware and writing control software. By writing App Inventor code to talk to an Arduino board, we open an entire world of new possibilities using simplified development (App Inventor on Android, and Arduino on the hardware side).

  • Use your phone or tablet to remote control an Arduino device over a Bluetooth link
  • Use an Arduino device to monitor remote sensors, and then link sensor inputs to an Android phone over Bluetooth
  • Conceptually, an Arduino device could monitor local sensors (temperature, humidity, security alarms), and transmit sensor data to an Android phone, which, in turn, could forward the data onto an Internet location.

Part 1: Basic Bluetooth communications using App Inventor

This tutorial covers basic App Inventor Bluetooth communications code.   Subsequent tutorials will add additional features. To implement and test this sample code, you need access to two Android devices – one to act as a Bluetooth “server” and the other to act as a “Bluetooth” client.

I tested this code using an old LG smart phone running Android 2.2 and a new Nexus 5 running Android 5.0.1.  I also tested this code using the Nexus 5 paired with a Nexus 7 tablet.

This tutorial is lengthy – it introduces Bluetooth communications, then presents the user interface and blocks code for both the server and client programs, and then discusses how to set up the Bluetooth Communications link using “pairing”.

Downloadable App Inventor source code for the client and server is at the end of this post.

This is the first of several posts on Bluetooth. This first post covers basic connections and the sending and receiving of text between two Bluetooth devices. The two halves of the link – client and server – are kept in separate apps to keep this simple, however, it is possible for a single app to act as both a client and a server. A subsequent post will show how to send other types of data, such as numbers, and introduce additional features for using Bluetooth communications.

Related:

Introduction to Bluetooth

Bluetooth is the communications technology with a funny name.[1] Bluetooth is actually named for a long ago Danish king who worked to unite groups of people, which is similar to Bluetooth’s goal of interconnecting different devices.  The King’s real name was “Harald” but he had a nickname that translates as “Bluetooth” – no one knows for sure why he had this nickname but one thought is he had one dark tooth that may have appeared black or blue. And that is certainly an obscure way to choose a name for new technologies!

Bluetooth establishes a very low power, short range (up to 10 meters) communications link between two devices. Bluetooth uses the same frequency band (2.4 Ghz) as Wi-Fi, but uses different technology. Both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi use forms of spread spectrum radio links that result in signals moving around within a wide band in ways that enable sharing of the spectrum by multiple devices. But the two technologies serve different purposes, are not identical, and cannot communicate with one another.

Bluetooth applications include common wireless headsets for wired and cellular phones, and in-ear cordless adapters for phones. Bluetooth is also used by cordless headphones and to exchange address cards between devices, and for industrial applications where sensors collect and send data into a network.

There are two forms of Bluetooth – classic Bluetooth, which we use in the sample applications, and a newer version known as Bluetooth low energy, Bluetooth BLE, Bluetooth LE or Bluetooth Smart – all referring to the same new technology.  The newest Android devices running Android 4.3 or newer, usually support the newest Bluetooth Smart technology. Regardless, we use classic Bluetooth which is backwards compatible to older phones, and is the technology supported by App Inventor.

Setting up a Bluetooth devices involves “pairing” the two devices and establishing a connection. This will be covered later in this tutorial.

Footnote:

[1] Actually there is another communications technology with a funny name called TWAIN, which is an acronym for “Technology without and interesting name” (really!)

The Designer View

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