Thursday 20 November 2014

Londroid Meetup and the IoT

Last night I presented to the London Android Group at Skillsmatter in Barbican as part of their Internet of Things themed November meeting. "Londroid" is a large group with nearly 3,000 members. I'm told it's the largest Android related group in Europe.

The session was fully booked and on the night there were only a few "no shows". Interest in IoT is high in the Android developer community as it is elsewhere. My presentation covered some key facts about Bluetooth Smart technology and its astonishing rate of proliferation and then sequed into the main, technical section, where the goal was to equip the audience with an understanding of the key Bluetooth Smart concepts and architecture and the knowledge they need to make practical use of Bluetooth Smart from within Android applications.

I kicked off the technical section with a demo I'd not done before. This involved controlling a Bluetooth Smart equipped LED lighting strip. With a standard Android app, I was able to show the audience how I could determine the light's current state (on|off) and control it, switching it on or off, changing its colour and even kicking off a pre-programmed sequence of on, off and colour change events so that with the addition of some suitable music, the place would have been transformed into something resembling a 1970s discotecheque. Fortunately I didn't have any 1970s disco music with me so the audience were saved the trauma of watching me do the Bluetooth Smart Boogie. Yes, there are many things in this life to be thankful for :-)

Note the Bluetooth Smart lighting strip around the pillar!

After the demo, we ran through the typical application features; device discovery, device connection, state data exploration and exploitation. We learned about Bluetooth Smart architectural components GAP, GATT and the Attribute Protocol (ATT) and about the GATT data structures with which a GATT server exposes it's state, Services, Characteristics and Descriptors. And of course no developer presentation is complete without code and so Android code fragments for each use case were briefly reviewed as well.

After a quick summary of the new Bluetooth Smart APIs that Android L has introduced, we got to what had to be the highlight of the session for at least two people in the audience. Prizes! The audience were invited to answer a couple of technical questions, based on the content of my presentation. Two of the audience members that raised their hands quickly enough *and* gave good answer  (I was shockingly tough on this point!) were rewarded with a Bluetooth Smart development kit, one a Texas Instruments SensorTag and the other, a Broadcom WICED Sense.

I got lots of good questions in the Q&A section and afterwards in the pub. The questions often revealed a gratifying train of thought; "This is exciting....what can I now go and *do* with this?" People were clearly mulling over all sorts of ideas for this exciting technology, from ways to enhance multi-player gaming to ideas for helping the blind. I look forward to finding out what attendees get up to with Bluetooth Smart!

The event's second speaker was Gabor Paller. He treated the audience to his own personal take on Bluetooth Smart and some of the cool projects he's been working on, including a Bluetooth Smart, tablet controlled motor boat! Gabor wishes to stress though that no hamsters were harmed in the making of any of his projects. You had to be there for that one :-)

A PDF version of my presentation is available for download here
A video recording of the presentation is available here

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