Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Going Bluetooth with an Android Tablet

After experimenting with Wi-Fi, I have now added a Bluetooth link between my system and an Android tablet. This has proved to be very reliable, and simpler to implement when compared to Wi-Fi.

As the Bluetooth modem operates from a 5 V supply, no level shifting is required on the data line.

However, there is one constraint that has to be considered. When the tablet tries to connect to the system, the connection will fail if there is data already flowing on the serial output.

There are 2 ways to deal with this:
               - add a switch to manually cut the serial input during the connection step;
               - connect during an initial delay at the system start-up (this is how I proceed, as there is a 10 seconds delay without transmission when my system is switched on).

In my Bluetooth app, the first screen shows a ‘Connect’ button and a disabled ‘Start’ button. The 'Connect' button is pressed when there is no data coming in. Once the connection is established, the ‘Start’ button is enabled and can be pressed to initiate a new thread that decodes the modem output, and pass the information to the main instrument view that is now switched on, refreshed 10 times per second.

The Bluetooth thread also saves all data in a large memory buffer (16 MB) that can store up to 4.5 hours of data per session. When the app is closing, these data are written to a file on the tablet’s internal memory card, that can later be transferred to a PC for analysis.