Exploring The Physical Web with Kitra and ARTIK

Editor’s note: In Wei Xiao’s latest tutorial, she puts the new Kitra520 Product Accelerator board, along with its included Samsung ARTIK 520 Smart IoT Module, to work in a practical example of using local beacons to broadcast useful information to nearby visitors.

Google has an interesting initiative called the Physical Web. It is an approach to quickly enable local, web-based interaction with physical objects. For example, a vending machine may broadcast a URL that redirects you to a payment system, or a burger shop might send out a link to customers in line for online ordering. By using Kitra’s Product Accelerator board with an ARTIK 520 IoT module, Node-RED, and our Node.js skills, we can make a demonstrator project to show you some of the possibilities of this technology.

The Physical Web lets Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE) devices broadcast beacons, typically a short web address, so that people within range of the device’s radio can pick up the beacons with their phones. BLE beacons broadcast using the Eddystone protocol, specifically Eddystone-URL for URL broadcasting.

In this tutorial, we will use the Kitra520 to set up a physical web beacon. You can follow Kitra’s getting started guide on Github to set up your Kitra board.

A simple Physical Web beacon

We will start with a very basic example, using our Kitra520 to broadcast a product URL. This is so simple that you can do it by running the 3 commands below. Thanks to the information in this blog, you can easily turn a URL into a BLE beacon format!

[root@localhost ~]# hciconfig hci0 up
[root@localhost ~]# hciconfig hci0 leadv 3
[root@localhost ~]# hcitool -i hci0 cmd 0x08 0x0008 16 02 01 06 03 03 aa fe 0e 16 aa fe 10 00 00 61 72 74 69 6b 2e 69 6f 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
< HCI Command: ogf 0x08, ocf 0x0008, plen 32
16 02 01 06 03 03 AA FE 0E 16 AA FE 10 00 00 61 72 74 69 6B
2E 69 6F 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00
> HCI Event: 0x0e plen 4
01 08 20 00
  • The first command enables the Kitra520 as a Bluetooth device.
  • The second command activates “advertising” on the device; however, it doesn’t allow connections to the advertised service.
  • The third command configures the advertising data to be sent. In our case, it is a URL: www.artik.io.

Detect beacons with your phones

Android/iOS phone users with latest firmware images can install Chrome, which automatically posts a notification whenever a Physical Web beacon is in range. Please follow the instructions here to configure Chrome on your Android device.

If yo have older phone firmware, you can install Physical Web Application on your Android and iOS.

Note: Chrome’s Physical Web implementation only supports HTTPS addresses. HTTP URLs will not be displayed.

Here is the notification I received on my phone. Click on it will launch ARTIK website.

the physical web screenshot

Real-time sensor monitoring

To make our Physical Web more meaningful, we are going to collect the sensor data from a Kitra520 and advertise a web page with the aggregate information. In a real-life scenario, you can mount your Kitra to a machine, an appliance or any equipment for proximity-based real-time sensor monitoring.

Create sensor dashboard

Kitra’s Getting Started guide explains in detail how to use Node-RED to capture built-in sensor data. I am extending it by displaying the sensor data onto a dashboard. Install node-red-dashboard package in order to build a dashboard.

[root@localhost ~]# npm install –g node-red-dashboard

And here is my Node-RED flow to read temperature, humidity sensor data every 15 seconds, and the captures tap notifications at the same time.

Node-RED screenshot

You can find the exported Node-RED flow here. (Use right-click and “Save as…” to download.)

Launch your browser, and go to http:<your_ARTIK_target_ip_address>:1880/ui, you can see the dashboard.

dashboard screenshot

Create HTTP tunnel

Node-RED is a local instance running on my Kitra520. To make its URL available externally, we will use ngrok to create an http tunnel for our local Node-RED instance. Ngrok exposes your localhost to the web.

[root@localhost ~]# dnf install npm bluez-lib-devel  
[root@localhost ~]# npm install uri-beacon ngrok 

Create phyweb.js as below. In this script, we use ngrok to expose http://localhost:1880/ui.

Launch phyweb.js from Kitra command line.

[root@localhost ~]# node phyweb.js 
var url = require('url');
var beacon = require('uri-beacon');
var ngrok = require('ngrok');

ngrok.connect(1880, function(err, url) {

From your phone, you should receive a notification like below:

notification screen shot

Clicking on the link from PhyWeb app, it will launch the sensor Dashboard page.

dashboard on mobile

I’m sure you can see the possibilities here! What will you create?