BLESSED for Android - BLE made easy

BLESSED is a very compact Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) library for Android 5 and higher, that makes working with BLE on Android very easy. It takes care of many aspects of working with BLE you would normally have to take care of yourself like:

The library consists of 3 core classes and 2 callback abstract classes:

  1. BluetoothCentral, and it companion abstract class BluetoothCentralCallback
  2. BluetoothPeripheral, and it's companion abstract class BluetoothPeripheralCallback
  3. BluetoothBytesParser

The BluetoothCentral class is used to scan for devices and manage connections. The BluetoothPeripheral class is a replacement for the standard Android BluetoothDevice and BluetoothGatt classes. It wraps all GATT related peripheral functionality. The BluetoothBytesParser class is a utility class that makes parsing byte arrays easy.

The BLESSED library was inspired by CoreBluetooth on iOS and provides the same level of abstraction, but at the same time it also stays true to Android by keeping most methods the same and allowing you to work with the standard classes for Services, Characteristics and Descriptors. If you already have developed using CoreBluetooth you can very easily port your code to Android using this library.

This library is also available for Linux, see blessed-bluez

Scanning

There are 4 different scanning methods:

public void scanForPeripherals()
public void scanForPeripheralsWithServices(UUID[] serviceUUIDs)
public void scanForPeripheralsWithNames(String[] peripheralNames)
public void scanForPeripheralsWithAddresses(String[] peripheralAddresses)

They all work in the same way and take an array of either service UUIDs, peripheral names or mac addresses. So in order to setup a scan for a device with the Bloodpressure service and connect to it, you do:

private final BluetoothCentralCallback bluetoothCentralCallback = new BluetoothCentralCallback() {
        @Override
        public void onDiscoveredPeripheral(BluetoothPeripheral peripheral, ScanResult scanResult) {
            central.stopScan();
            central.connectPeripheral(peripheral, peripheralCallback);
        }
};

// Create BluetoothCentral and receive callbacks on the main thread
BluetoothCentral central = BluetoothCentral(getApplicationContext(), bluetoothCentralCallback, new Handler(Looper.getMainLooper()));

// Define blood pressure service UUID
UUID BLOODPRESSURE_SERVICE_UUID = UUID.fromString("00001810-0000-1000-8000-00805f9b34fb");

// Scan for peripherals with a certain service UUID
central.scanForPeripheralsWithServices(new UUID[]{BLOODPRESSURE_SERVICE_UUID});

Note Only 1 of these 4 types of scans can be active at one time! So call stopScan() before calling another scan.

Connecting to devices

There are 3 ways to connect to a device:

public void connectPeripheral(BluetoothPeripheral peripheral, BluetoothPeripheralCallback peripheralCallback)
public void autoConnectPeripheral(BluetoothPeripheral peripheral, BluetoothPeripheralCallback peripheralCallback)
public void autoConnectPeripheralsBatch(Map<BluetoothPeripheral, BluetoothPeripheralCallback> batch) 

The method connectPeripheral will try to immediately connect to a device that has already been found using a scan. This method will time out after 30 seconds or less depending on the device manufacturer. Note that there can be only 1 outstanding connectPeripheral. So if it is called multiple times only 1 will succeed.

The method autoConnectPeripheral is for re-connecting to known devices for which you already know the device's mac address. The BLE stack will automatically connect to the device when it sees it in its internal scan. Therefore, it may take longer to connect to a device but this call will never time out! So you can issue the autoConnect command and the device will be connected whenever it is found. This call will also work when the device is not cached by the Android stack, as BLESSED takes care of it! In contrary to connectPeripheral, there can be multiple outstanding autoConnectPeripheral requests.

The method autoConnectPeripheralsBatch is for re-connecting to a multiple peripherals in one go. Since the normal autoConnectPeripheral may involve scanning if peripherals are uncached, it is not suitable for calling very fast after each other since it may trigger scanner limitations of Android. So use autoConnectPeripheralsBatch if the want to re-connect to many know peripherals.

If you know the mac address of your peripheral you can obtain a BluetoothPeripheral object using:

BluetoothPeripheral peripheral = central.getPeripheral("CF:A9:BA:D9:62:9E");

After issuing a connect call, you will receive one of the following callbacks:

public void onConnectedPeripheral(BluetoothPeripheral peripheral)
public void onConnectionFailed(BluetoothPeripheral peripheral, int status)
public void onDisconnectedPeripheral(BluetoothPeripheral peripheral, int status)

Service discovery

The BLESSED library will automatically do the service discovery for you and once it is completed you will receive the following callback:

public void onServicesDiscovered(BluetoothPeripheral peripheral)

In order to get the services you can use methods like getServices() or getService(UUID). In order to get hold of characteristics you can call getCharacteristic(UUID) on the BluetoothGattService object or call getCharacteristic() on the BluetoothPeripheral object.

This callback is the proper place to start enabling notifications or read/write characteristics.

Reading and writing

Reading and writing to characteristics is done using the following methods:

public boolean readCharacteristic(BluetoothGattCharacteristic characteristic)
public boolean writeCharacteristic(BluetoothGattCharacteristic characteristic, byte[] value, int writeType)

Both methods are asynchronous and will be queued up. So you can just issue as many read/write operations as you like without waiting for each of them to complete. You will receive a callback once the result of the operation is available. For read operations you will get a callback on:

public void onCharacteristicUpdate(BluetoothPeripheral peripheral, byte[] value, BluetoothGattCharacteristic characteristic)

If you want to write to a characteristic, you need to provide a value and a writeType. The writeType is usually WRITE_TYPE_DEFAULT or WRITE_TYPE_NO_RESPONSE. If the write type you specify is not supported by the characteristic you will see an error in your log. For write operations you will get a callback on:

public void onCharacteristicWrite(BluetoothPeripheral peripheral, byte[] value, BluetoothGattCharacteristic characteristic, final int status)

In these callbacks, the value parameter is the threadsafe byte array that was received. Use this value instead of the value that is part of the BluetoothGattCharacteristic object, since that one may have changed in the mean time because of incoming notifications or write operations.

Turning notifications on/off

BLESSED provides a convenience method setNotify to turn notifications/indications on or off. It will perform all the necessary operations like writing to the Client Characteristic Configuration descriptor for you. So all you need to do is:

// See if this peripheral has the Current Time service
if(peripheral.getService(CTS_SERVICE_UUID) != null) {
     BluetoothGattCharacteristic currentTimeCharacteristic = peripheral.getCharacteristic(CTS_SERVICE_UUID, CURRENT_TIME_CHARACTERISTIC_UUID);
     peripheral.setNotify(currentTimeCharacteristic, true);
}

Since this is an asynchronous operation you will receive a callback that indicates success or failure. You can use the method isNotifying to check if the characteristic is currently notifying or not:

@Override
public void onNotificationStateUpdate(BluetoothPeripheral peripheral, BluetoothGattCharacteristic characteristic, int status) {
     if( status == GATT_SUCCESS) {
          if(peripheral.isNotifying(characteristic)) {
               Log.i(TAG, String.format("SUCCESS: Notify set to 'on' for %s", characteristic.getUuid()));
          } else {
               Log.i(TAG, String.format("SUCCESS: Notify set to 'off' for %s", characteristic.getUuid()));
          }
     } else {
          Log.e(TAG, String.format("ERROR: Changing notification state failed for %s", characteristic.getUuid()));
     }
}

When notifications arrive you will receive a callback on:

public void onCharacteristicUpdate(BluetoothPeripheral peripheral, byte[] value, BluetoothGattCharacteristic characteristic)

Bonding

BLESSED handles bonding for you and will make sure all bonding variants work smoothly. During the process of bonding, you will be informed of the process via a number of callbacks:

    public void onBondingStarted(final BluetoothPeripheral peripheral)
    public void onBondingSucceeded(final BluetoothPeripheral peripheral)
    public void onBondingFailed(final BluetoothPeripheral peripheral) 
    public void onBondLost(final BluetoothPeripheral peripheral) 

In most cases, the peripheral will initiate bonding either at the time of connection, or when trying to read/write protected characteristics. However, if you want you can also initiate bonding yourself by calling createBond on a peripheral. There are two ways to do this:

It is also possible to remove a bond by calling removeBond. Note that this method uses a hidden Android API and may stop working in the future. When calling the removeBond method, the peripheral will also disappear from the settings menu on the phone.

Lastly, it is also possible to automatically issue a PIN code when pairing. Use the method setPinForPeripheral to register a 6 digit PIN code. Once bonding starts, BLESSED will automatically issue the PIN code and the UI dialog to enter the PIN code will not appear anymore.

Example application

An example application is provided in the repo. It shows how to connect to Blood Pressure meters, Heart Rate monitors and Thermometers, read the data and show it on screen.

Acknowledgements

BLESSED is the result of learning from many others about how to do BLE. Here are some references to material that helped me develop BLESSED: