Like a Beacon in the Dark

This might be old news to my readers, but…I recently had to test beacon support for an iOS application.

I learned that you can do so without actually buying separate beacon hardware, by taking an iPhone and making it broadcast like a beacon.

I did this by installing a freeware application called GemTot SDK. It’s from a company called PassKit which sells GemTot Beacons.

You can also follow their blog post’s instructions for building their Xcode project yourself and running it on your phone.

But I figured, absent taking the time to inspect the code thoroughly myself, it was safer to use the version that had already been through App Store review.

Here are the steps:

  1. Search for “GemTot SDK” on the iOS App Store, download it, install, run. (There are separate iPad and iPhone versions.)
  2. In the iPhone version, tap the “Beacon” tab all the way to the right.
  3. Set the “Broadcast Signal” switch to On.

That’s it! You have a functioning beacon.

In the tests I did, I believe I needed to set either the Major Value or the Minor Value to something other than zero. So if things aren’t working, you could try that, though that doesn’t appear to be necessary in general.

If you need the UUID of the beacon, you can tap on the tiny beacon text near the bottom of the screen, and an alert will pop up to tell you it’s been copied to the clipboard.

If you want a quick and dirty way to tell that the beacon is broadcasting, take a look at https://github.com/mlwelles/BeaconScanner, which has a pre-built binary in addition to buildable source code (and a nicely informative README with a bunch of links).

(Build and) run that Mac app, and check the window to see if your beacon’s there.

If you want to test your iOS app, though, you’ll need a second phone (or other iOS device).