Wednesday, February 02, 2011

first Bluetooth Low Energy packets

A package arrived today containing my first Bluetooth Low Energy equipment. Bluetooth Low Energy is a new wireless technology within the Bluetooth specification suite. It provides capabilities similar to Basic Rate Bluetooth, which has been around for ten years, but consumes less power while doing so. Consumer Bluetooth Low Energy products likely won't hit the market for a few months, but engineering development tools have recently become available.

This kit from Texas instruments contains a two small CC2540 development boards, one in the form of a keyfob and the other in a USB dongle form factor. For now I'm not interested in developing firmware for the CC2540. Frankly I'm annoyed that TI has chosen not to document the internal radio properly. Despite its limitations, however, this kit provides a quick and easy way to generate Bluetooth Low Energy wireless packets over the air, and I'm using it (so far just the keyfob) to help me develop Low Energy sniffing capability on the Ubertooth platform.

It only took a few minutes to tweak the Ubertooth code such that it would demodulate Bluetooth Low Energy packets properly, but I don't have much in the way of automated packet detection or decoding. Using a fairly crude method, I've searched through the demodulated bits to find the advertising packets transmitted by the keyfob. These are packets transmitted on one of only three advertising channels in an effort to locate another device to communicate with.

One of the key differences between Basic Rate and Low Energy is that Low Energy devices are able to locate each other and initiate communications using this advertising method much faster than Basic Rate devices ever could. Basic Rate devices waste a lot of power keeping connections alive; Low Energy devices will just tear down connections entirely and go to sleep knowing that they can wake up and find each other again very quickly. One of the reasons the method is fast is that advertising is only done on three channels, and that makes it easier for a passive observer to capture the process.

I've also captured the packets using a USRP. Glancing at the waveform and spectrogram, it is difficult to distinguish this packet from Basic Rate Bluetooth. I haven't written any GNU Radio code to demodulate the raw waveform, but I am replaying the recorded file through the USRP as a simple way to produce a repeatable test vector.


Hugh said...

Look forward to seeing what you come up with! The TI packet sniffer software isn't very flexible, though the ability to see the RSSI on each received packet would be an excellent feature for landscape profiling.

Joshua Wright said...

And the hip-hop-hacker feud is ended. Congratulations to Mike Ossmann!

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