back to article Build your OWN Apple iBeacon with a Raspberry Pi

US department store Macy’s recently said it is implementing iPhone-based tracking tech the better to encourage browsing punters to buy. Of course, Macy has chosen to pitch this as an Apple technology - figuring, presumably, iPhone owners are more receptive to inducements delivered through technology and have more cash to splash …


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    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Excellent Article

      Why just Apple, as pointed out, works on Andriod just as well...

      1. jai

        Re: Excellent Article

        but they'd need to install your app onto their phones - and presumably, if they do they a) they won't be annoyed or b) they know exactly who you are and can find more painful ways of annoying you back

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Tom 35

          Re: Excellent Article

          "but they'd need to install your app"

          It should not be hard to read someones ID code, say an over priced coffee shop.

          Then setup your own beacon outside with "get a free drink, just show this code..."

          Then you can annoy the phone user and the coffee shop. Kind of like the people who posted fake McDonald's coupons online a few years back.

          1. Steve Todd

            Re: Excellent Article

            In case you didn't read the article, beacons only transmit an ID. The ID contains a 128 bit GUID and a location code. The GUID launches any app that is installed and has registered that ID. You CAN'T use it to distribute fake vouchers as the voucher is created by the owning store's app, that the iPhone owner has to install.

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Excellent Article

              "the voucher is created by the owning store's app"

              That description makes it all sound a bit pointless to me. How many people are going to install potentially 100's of beacon apps just so they might get a special offer next time they wander around the local shopping centre.

              1. Steve Todd

                Re: Excellent Article

                You honestly want ads from every store in the mall? You get to choose which companies you are interested in. Companies can group together under a single common app, but you get to choose if you are interested or not. Thats why it's not the big deal that the haters seem to be trying to make out.

                1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
                  Thumb Down

                  Re: Excellent Article

                  "You get to choose which companies you are interested in. Companies can group together under a single common app, but you get to choose if you are interested or not."

                  Yes, in an ideal world there will be a single standard and you'll have one app which will pick up the local business or access a directory where the user can tick or untick whether they want more info from that shop when the walk past.

                  The reality is that every business group will have a separate app. Those which group together will be an all or nothing choice. Interesting in the Toy'R'Us beacon? Get spammed everytime you walk past McDonalds, Starbuck and Mothercare as well.

                  All you have to do is put yourself into the mind of a marketdroid and you too can see the world as a dysfunctional free for all where the customer is just a "revenue generation agent" and not someone who you genuinely want to inspire loyalty in. . (I need some mind bleach now. I feel so dirty!)

                2. Synonymous Howard

                  Re: Excellent Article

                  Yup .. like an upgraded Quidco Mobile App .. saves having to remember to "sign in" when near a shop.

            2. hplasm

              Re: You CAN'T use it to distribute fake vouchers

              Of course you can- it's not like fake money, where it HAS to be accepted, if the idea is to annoy the shop and/or the customer.

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Excellent Article

      I'd rather see an iBeacon app or gizmo that I can take into the store and flood their system with misleading data.

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge


    One would think that all Linux distros for the Pi need to use 'apt' to load packages.

    The Pi that I use to control my model railway runs Fedora quite happily but it isn't really trendy like Ubuntu.

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Re: Sigh

      He's using Debian from which, I assume you're aware, Ubuntu is derived and from which it inherits apt. The mere fact that apt is used does not signify that he's using ubuntu - which is not even supported on the pi, nor is any build available from canonical.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sigh

      Hipster twat.

  3. Colin Miller

    One could have a lot of fun by putting a PiBeacon in a backpack and have it broadcast random IDs, related to where you are in.

    In Macys'? Broadcast Bloomingdale...

    1. frank ly

      Maybe broadcast special offers of 50% off . Many possibilities for 'practical jokes'.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
        Thumb Up


        Send a bunch of people into store with systems in their shopping bags broadcasting 'Free beer next door' and other stuff like '50% sale in Harrods' to shoppers in Selfridges. Or worse, 50% off sale in Jewlery.

        A really good way to mess this up so badly to make it totally unusable. Yay, bring it on

  4. Andy Nugent


    I presume this setup also works with Passbook (

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Passbook

      Interesting idea, Andy. I'll have to investigate that for a follow-up article.

  5. Arachnoid

    Spam bot

    So basically we are making a Spam Bot which can bluetooth a message to any open system?

    1. Fuzzysteve

      Re: Spam bot


      Just a device that yells 'I'm here!'

      What your device does with it, is down to what you have installed on it.

      So you could, for example, write an app that turns on your wifi when you get home, using a beacon to identify it. As long as you have enough beacons to cover your home.

  6. starkthewolf

    Too much fun!

    Personally I'd prefer aggravating only the Apple cultists, especially the ones with the latest kit. Maybe the next time Apple offers something new and the fanbois lineup like dutiful weasals, walk around with the bluetooth beacon bot in the bag near the lineups and see what happens. A reverse-wardrive perhaps.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Too much fun!

      Android users don't need to worry. Your devices will soon be as annoying at iDevices with all this suff being broadcast at them.

      You gotta feel sorry for the few Windows users though. Missing out on all this lovely advertising stuff.

  7. AlexS


    Living next the busiest railway track in Europe, and building a directional blue tooth aerial. What could possibly go wrong? ;)

  8. Herby

    So, how do I annoy all the iPhone users at work?

    I've got a nice laptop that does bluetooth quite nicely (it talks to a headset I use). Now I can just beacon some bluetooth stuff and various close by iPhones (I see a bunch of them at work) will beep and squak.

    I could be nominated for local BOFH in no time flat.

    Maybe my work (it is a big company that sells lots of PC tuff) has their own app that will sound off. This could be an "opportunity" too good to pass up!!

    1. Steve Todd

      Re: So, how do I annoy all the iPhone users at work?

      Sorry, from that level of understanding you don't even rate as a Script Kiddie, never mind a BOFH.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm, Default On?

    Got to wonder if this will be default on for Apple store broadcasts into the OS?

    If so, then it won't be long until people beam Apple's ID through with less pleasant messages - unless they use some form of other authentication...

  10. carvell

    Step missing

    Nice article - I'm following it this morning.

    There is a step missing though. Before the 'sudo hcitool' command is run, you need to run 'sudo hciconfig hci0 up' to bring the interface up.

    In case anyone is interested, this dongle from PC World works a treat (£7.99 today only):

  11. hugo tyson

    02 15

    I dunno what the 02 is either, but IMHO the 15 is the length of the following data within the manufacturer data field. Presumably 02 is Apple's code for "ibeacon id".

    The C5 tx power is a signed 8-bit number, being -59 (decimal) dBm@1m.

  12. Mark 'Brain Fart' Berry

    It can't be that simple, surely....

    It looks like the apps that look for beacons control where the data is pulled from, so you can spoof a McNasties beacon all you want, the app that listens for it will only pull data to display to the user from the McNasties server,

    So it's a little smarter than the previous, and annoying, bluetooth adverts you used to get spammed with when they could simple send you a message via bluetooth.

  13. Richard Neill

    Not all BT 4.0 LE dongles work for this.

    The "Plugable" branded ones (Broadcom chips) do work, while the Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) ones seem to fail.

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