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Bluetooth Connections with the BarcodeGuy SP2100 line of barcode scanners

Methods of Bluetooth Communications Methods Used with UnionNet SP2100Barcode Scanner

BarcodeGuy SP2100 Bluetooth Barcode Scanners use a variety of Bluetooth Connection Types, but they generally fall into the 2 major types: HID (bluetooth Keyboard, and Serial Port Protocol over bluetooth. In detail though, it appears that there are 4 methods of connection:

  • Non Apple HID
  • Apple iOS Specific HID - (iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone only)
  • Serial Port Protocol (SPP)
  • Apple Specific MFi - used with Apps from the AppStore

Just remember that HID is HID whether you have MFi enabled or not - it's clearly explained below. That being said, Here is a description of the different bluetooth barcode scanner communication modes:

Bluetooth Screen

Bluetooth Connection Modes

First, a word about MUX mode:

Mux Mode Info Bar for SP2100

Shown as the default Bluetooth radio mode when there are no active connections. MUX stands for Multiplexer. Common in digital and analog electrical engineering, the Multiplexer (let's call it MUX) can switch quickly between communication modes.

The MUX radio firmware monitors Bluetooth radio signals looking for a host. When the host is found and initiates pairing, MUX can identify what type of host is making the connection and switch its communications mode to the Host's requirements. In our case MUX will identify which of the 4 connections list above are being requested and direct the bluetooth radio and barcode scanner firmware to act according to the appropriate rules. This Bluetooth communication mode is unique to the BarcodeGuy SP2100 series bluetooth barcode scanner. For example, the SP2100 MUX might sense a host device trying to pair via an SPP connection. MUX automatically changes the communications mode to allow the pairing.


HID Standard - Human Interface Device ()(Bluetooth Keyboard):
Works with ANY HID compliant host!

In the System Menu, Bluetooth, you would set MFi Mode to "disabled" an "Connect First" to HID. HID stands for Human Interface Device. This input method does not require any keyboard wedge software or middle ware to operate. When the Bluetooth connection is made, the host device recognizes the connecting slave as keyboard and automatically chooses the keyboard profile in completing the connection process. The BarcodeGuy line of SP2100 barcode scanners doesn't require a PIN or any other authentication.

When connected in HID mode - and Apple devices can connect using this mode as well, pressing the bottom side button brings up the soft keypad on the host phone or tablet.... allowing the user to display and hide the soft keypad, and use both at the same time. Because Apple phones and tablets address the keypad differently than Android or Blackberry devices, the MFi mode allows more efficient soft keyboard toggling.

You can tell that you're connected in HID standard mode when the info bar shows HID and the antenna on the left of the info bar has a triangle at the top of it.

HID Bluetooth Barcode Scanner - MFi Disabled for HID Standard
Info Bar SP2100

HID MFi - HID, but ready to work MFi depending on the App you're running:
Apple iOS specific HID for iPads, Ipods and iPhones.

If you're connecting to an iPad, iPhone or iPod 2nd gen, using MFi mode for the radio makes a lot of sense. The bottom side button will toggle the soft keypad quicker than it will if set to MFi disabled with a standard HID connection. When you have MFi enabled, the SP2100 is ready to work with any App that has been designed to control it. (more on that below).

All our scanners are shipped with MFi mode enabled and the "connect first" option set to HID. Because there is no disadvantage to using MFi HID with non iOS devices (remember that HID is HID), these defaults allow you to take the full advantage of the bluetooth barcode scanner right out of the box regardless of operating system. You can tell the scanner is set to MFi HID when the info bar displays HID and the antenna has a dot at the top of the leftmost bar.

Bluetooth Connection Screen
MFi HID - Bluetooth barcode scanner connection to iPhone or iPad
iOS button

Serial Port Protocol -
SPP a.k.a. Serial Port Emulation over bluetooth

In SPP mode, a serial connection is made between the scanner and host. You might remember external printers or modems with serial interface cables. When activated, a specific baud rate and other variables defined the conversation, and the device was given an COM port. The same thing happens between the SP2100 barcode scanner and the host - generally an Android phone or tablet.

You can set the "connect first" option to SPP and make sure that MFi mode is disabled for this connection option to work properly with your Android app. Although we haven't tried it, we suspect that any Android app out there that acts like Hyperterminal in Windows would be able to establish an SPP connection to the SP2100. The SDK does this for you automatically, so why bother?

SP2100 Info Bar SPP communications mode

Andoid Button

Apple's MFi -
Really just SPP through the iphone security layer

The history of Apples MFi program is pretty interesting. MFi stands for "made for iPxxx", you can fill in the blank with your iOS device of choice. MFi came about because Apple wanted to control the peripheral devices that were connected to the OS. If you wrote an App that required a serial connection to a credit card reader, the reader must be certified as MFi certified.

From the connection standpoint, MFi is SPP but with a security check. In the security check, the iOS verifies the connecting device is MFi approved. Then, iOS queries the connecting device for a bundle and protocol ID which determines which AppStore app the device is going to use. When it finds it, iOS relates the device to that particular App while that connection is stored in the bluetooth registry.

The Unilinker program we provide as a demo is available in the AppStore. When you get a SP2100, you can set the System Menu MFi mode to enable, scan the bundle and protocol ID's for Unilinker, set connect first to "IAP" and when you connect our iOS device will walk you through Unilinker's installation. Take a look at our Partner's page, and the developer's section for videos of MFi mode and Unilinker at work.

iOS button

NOTE: Coming soon to our channel... a demo of MUX mode in each of the 4 communications modes.

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