Inside a Physical Web BLE Beacon


As regular readers know, I've turned a BLE Beacon into a wireless business card. Physical Web used the Bluetooth beacon standard to continually broadcast not an ID number, but a URL. If you're in my proximity, you can grab my contact details.

The one problem with the beacon I have is that it has an exposed button. Every time it got bumped in my pocket, the token would emit a couple of shrill beeps and set itself into config mode. After a couple of months, the CR2032 battery died.

Replacing the battery is easy - but let's crack the casing open to see what powers this wee beastie!

Physical Web Token-

There's no obvious way in - but several months of being in my pocket has shifted the top sticker. Apply a little heat and it peals right off.

Physical Web No Sticker-

Hurrah! Standard screws! No pentalobes or other weird things. What's that in the top right? An LED window! Covered up by the sticker and, it seems, disabled in the firmware.

The casing lifts off and the circuit board pops out easily.

Physical Web Circuit Board-

Two things become apparent - the left third of the board is completely unpopulated, and there's a massive KLJ-1230 buzzer on the bottom. With those two removed, the circuit would be around the same size as the coin cell powering it.

Time to dive underneath that sticker and see its brains.

Physical Web Circuit Board Close Up-

It's the CSR 1010 BLE chip.

Finally, flip it over and see what mysteries the back holds.
Physical Web Circuit Reverse Debug Pins-

As well as the battery connector, we have an SPI Bus - presumably for flashing the ROM and/or debugging.

And that's all there is to it.

Personally, I'd have jettisoned the speaker and used the LED to indicate if the beacon was ready to be overwritten.

After replacing the battery, I snipped off the plastic button, and reassembled the unit. I covered up the hole with a little tape. Now the beacon can't be put into pairing mode accidentally and, as a consequence, the battery life should be much improved.

Now all I need to find is someone with the Physical Web app so I can share my business card 😉

What do you reckon?

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