Tuesday, January 11, 2011

BluePiano: A New Android Bluetooth Input Method

BluePiano Bluetooth Input Method for Android
The input method BluePiano extends Android with Bluetooth data acquisition.

This new input method provides a Bluetooth-enabled soft-keyboard. This soft-keyboard captures Bluetooth data and forwards the received data to input fields of arbitrary apps. The data appears as entered by the user (watch the video on YouTube).

BluePiano is typically used for barcode scanning with external Bluetooth barcode-scanners or for generic data acquisition tasks (e.g. to capture raw external GPS or medical device data). English, German, French, Russian and Swedish keyboard layouts are available.

BluePiano is easy to use and provides you with connectivity feedback in the notification bar. For backup purposes BluePiano is also able to scan barcodes using camera barcode scanners (using the built-in or an external camera scanner app).

BluePiano works with all Bluetooth SPP devices (Bluetooth devices supporting the Serial Port Profile, RFCOMM). Special Android-enabled bar code scanners are NOT required. HID devices are not supported.

Video Tutorial


Download and install BluePiano from Android Market (see market://search?q=pname:com.tecit.android.bluepiano.demo). After installation a wizard guides you through the following steps:
BluePiano Logo
  1. Activate Bluetooth
    See also: Android Settings – Wireless & networks.
  2. Discover your Bluetooth device
    Please note that the Bluetooth device must be “discoverable”. See also: Android Settings – Wireless & networks – Bluetooth settings.
  3. Pair your handset with your Bluetooth device.
    You need to enter the pairing PIN on your handset. See also: Android Settings – Wireless & networks – Bluetooth settings.
  4. Adjust the Bluetooth device as input device for BluePiano.
    All data received from this input device will be transformed and treated like any other manual input. You may also long tap the ?123 key on the BluePiano keyboard and then invoke Bluetooth Device Manager.
  5. Enable the input method BluePiano
    In order to use the new soft-keyboard you need to enable it in Android Settings. Confirm the security question. See also Android Settings -- Language & keyboard.
  6. Activate the input method
    Do this by long-tapping on any text field of any app. In the upcoming menu select Input Method and check the BluePiano input method. Use the same method to activate your default keyboard again.
  7. Finished!
    Now read a barcode with the external Bluetooth device (e.g. barcode scanner). As soon as the data is received by BluePiano it is entered into the current edit field. As an alternative you may press the barcode key on the BluePiano keyboard: The built-in camera scanner is invoked, the barcode is decoded and the data is entered automatically into the active edit field.

BluePiano Settings - Manual

Configure BluePiano using the installed wizard or navigate to Android Settings -- Language & keyboard and then select BluePiano.

As an alternative you may long-press on the ?123 key of the BluePiano keyboard. In the upcoming option menu select the required function.

Keyboard Options 

BluePiano Settings
  • Data Prefix
    Use the placeholders ${ENTER},${TAB}, ${BACKSPACE}, ${DOWN},${UP}, ${LEFT} and ${RIGHT} to control the cursor or input focus before the captured data is inserted into the input field of the current app. The placeholders specified above can be abbreviated with${E}, ${T}, ${B}, ${D}, ${U}, ${L} and ${R}. A multiplier specified immediately after the placeholder (e.g. ${E5}) instructs BluePiano to simulate the specified key n times (5 times the Enter key in this example).
  • Data Suffix
    Use the same placeholders as above to control the cursor or input focus after captured data was inserted into the input field of the current app.
  • Camera Scanner
    The default setting “Internal Scanner” reads bar-codes using the camera bar-code scanner integrated into BluePiano. If you prefer to select the camera scanner to be used each time, select Always ask. If a specific app is selected, the software always uses exactly this camera scanner app without asking.
  • Search Key Function
    This entry specifies the action when the hardware search key is pressed (this key is usually marked with a magnifier symbol, it is also available on the hardware keyboard): Invoke Camera Scanner opens the camera scanner when this key is pressed (you do not need to activate the soft-keyboard beforehand). In this case the search key acts as hot-key for barcode scanning.
    Choose Do nothing if you do not want to change the default behavior of the standard search key.

Bluetooth Options

BluePiano Settings Part 2
  • Manage Device
    Use this function to adjusted the Bluetooth input device. Keep in mind that the device must be paired before it can be used. See also: Android Settings – Wireless & networks – Bluetooth settings. This function is only enabled if the Bluetooth connection is not suspended.
  • Suspend Connection
    Temporarily disable BluePiano Bluetooth connectivity.
  • Suspend Timeout
    If a Bluetooth device is unavailable for more than the specified number of seconds (e.g. out of range or switched off) it will be suspended. If a device is suspended you can’t capture Bluetooth data with BluePiano. A notification is displayed and you need to re-activate the device manually. The default timeout is 120 seconds (2 minutes).
  • Vibrate on Error
    If activated, your handset vibrates in case of Bluetooth or connection errors.
  • Disaster Recovery
    Some handset models are using buggy Bluetooth stacks (firmware with Bluetooth SPP errors). This SPP bug makes it impossible to connect to a Bluetooth SPP device. If you experience this problem we recommend rebooting your phone, to restart Bluetooth manually or to instruct BluePiano to restart the Bluetooth service automatically. Please note that until now no reliable solution to this problem is available.

General Options

  • User Manual
    Link to this blog-post.
  • YouTube videos
    Link to TEC-IT’s YouTube channel.
  • License Check
    Checks and displays your current license for BluePiano.
  • About
    Displays copyright and credits for 3rd party software.

Feedback Please!

Feedback and feature requests are highly welcome. Just contact TEC-IT.