Transmitting Images via Bluetooth LE?

Is it possible to transmit images via Bluetooth LE? Not in the misleading way that some platform providers say beacons transmit text and data when an app is actually converting a transmitted a unique id to data from elsewhere. We mean really have beacons transmit images in the very limited-size advertising data.

Chong Shao, Shahriar Nirjon, Jan-Michael Frahm or the Department of Computer Science, University of North Carolina have a recent paper on “Years-Long Binary Image Broadcast using Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons” (pdf). Again, don’t be misled, they don’t mean it takes years to send an image but instead that a beacon might transmit for a long time (which most do).

The researchers have found that with suitable compression schemes, a set of 2–3 beacons is capable of broadcasting high-quality images (75%–90% structurally similar to original images). The image quality improves when more beacons are used.

beaconimageprocessingpipeline

How might you get the data into a beacon? Well, some beacons such as the iB001M and iB003N allow arbitrary data to be set in the advertising data.

The images are necessarily very simple but nevertheless this provides a great example of what can be achieved when you attempt the seemingly impossible.

Inside the iB001M

Here’s a look inside our smallest beacon, the iB001M. The circuit board measures only 2cm across and the height of the beacon is is only 2.6mm.

ib001m_inside_smaller

The waterproof iB001M can transmit iBeacon and Eddystone at the same time. There’s also a press switch to turn on/off and a buzzer that’s found in the top side of the beacon (not shown) together with the waterproof ring. This beacon can be set up to only transmit advertising data when motion is detected.

It weighs only 4g so is great for wearable and pet-related applications.