Over the last several years I've been dealing with various stages of disability thanks to ALS. My goal is to share solutions and review various products/tools/devices that I have found particularly helpful.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Hacking the Griffin Beacon

I've talked about the Griffin Beacon in a previous post and how the use of batteries really limited its function.So with these limitations in mind, and my desire to use the thing… Because it is far easier for me than a regular remote control… I contacted the tech department of my rehabilitation facility with the request to convert it to run off main power.

Now, this conversation has been going on for several months, and understandably the department is really quite busy. So I have no problems with the delay in terms of getting answers in part because my needs would quite as immediate. But finally I got an answer about two weeks ago explaining what could be done, here is some of what they suggested in the mail:

  • I would have to send in the Griffin Beacon for modification
  • this modification would void the warranty
  • the modifications would cost around $90
  • they recommended as an alternative to use rechargeable batteries or Ni-MH rechargeables 

Now after a couple months of playing e-mail ping-pong, this frustrated me a little bit so I decided to look into it myself.

First of all, looking at the bottom of the Griffin it runs on four AA batteries, which from my high school physics class tells me a maximum of 6 V when mounted in series. So it should be a very trivial thing to bypass the battery box and hook it up to in AC adapter.

My first idea was to find an adapter of matching power, spliced the lines and attach it to the relevant ports in the battery compartment. Oh right! My hands don't work… Dammit! Can't do it myself. So for some ideas I applied some Google-fu and very quickly found the following… How to modify your Griffin Beacon to use an optional AC adapter

Well I'll be a monkey's uncle, this is almost exactly what I was thinking of. So I contacted my brother back in Vancouver as I know he has access to some of the resources. We talked about it briefly and he had pretty much the same idea as shown in the Griffin hack.

He went to work on it, finished it inside of 20 min. and put it in the mail. Two days later I had it here in Montréal, plugged in and working reporting a constant 60% power (we used a 5 V adapter instead of the 6 V) it's been plugged in and running for four days now…

The other reason I looked into this is because I really had some issues with the proposed solutions from the "experts"…

  • estimated cost of $90
    • the Griffin Beacon itself only costs about $70, I find it hard to justify an adaptation that exceeds the cost of the unit.
    • My cost so far is about $15 for shipping, and $10 for the adapter. If you have someone can do it for you but you probably do it for a $1.50 as shown in the link…
  • voiding the warranty
    • the Griffin Beacon hack does not void the warranty as no internal components are modified
    • there is no risk of fire or other hazard as we are using exactly the same power as provided by the batteries.
  • use of rechargeable batteries
    • yes there is a cost issue with changing the batteries, but in my case this was not so much the concern. Our batteries are purchased from Costco in bulk and therefore the individual unit is quite cheap. The greater issue for me, and while wanted this adaptation was so that we would not have to change batteries. I am unable to do so did my dexterity limitations.
      The Griffin Beacon hack completely removes the requirements for changing batteries.
    • Ni-MH rechargeables suffer from the same replacement issues we are trying to resolve
we taped the Dowells as we cut them a touch short…
So once again being proactive pays off. I'm very much learning that you can go see the experts for advice, but it is not always in your best interest to treat their solutions as the only one. With a little bit of ingenuity and time, very often you will come up with solutions that are best for you. After all you are the one living the situation, they are not and at times they may not see the simplest of solutions for whatever reason… These can often be the best and most effective.

that's right! This guy! Thanks!
I would also just like to take a second to give a shout out to Huy Le for his generous contribution to this blog! Thank you so much, it is greatly appreciated.

Pop me a note if there's something you'd like me to review specifically :-)


  1. I received an interesting question from a guy named Tony about further modifications. Thought we'd share the conversation here as others might be asking the same. also, if anyone comes across a solution to this please let us know ;-)

    Just saw your post and I'm looking to do same thing to my Griffin Beacon. Even after you replace batteries with AC adapter, how do you prevent the Beacon from entering sleep mode and disconnecting from Bluetooth? Is there a hack to tell the Beacon to never sleep?

    Thanks very much for your reply. However I've not looked into hacking the Beacon in that way, only to provide it constant power. a hack of this nature would be a firmware hack and you might be able to find something like that online. I did very quick Google search and didn't turn anything up. that said, as long as your Bluetooth device is in the range of the Beacon it should never enter sleep mode… Emphasis on "should". I've had mine on for days on end with the Bluetooth in range and is never disconnected for me.also you might've noticed in the manual, that the Beacon will not go to sleep mode for one hour after it loses connection with the Bluetooth device.

  2. I too swapped my batteries for a permanent power source, and this should be a standard option from Griffin - $$ oh well.

    What I'd really like to see is what Tony is looking for. Bluetooth not going to sleep. I leave the house often and having to push the top of the Griffin to wake it up is a real PITA.

    If I ever come across a fix, I'll post back to you both.


  3. Here is my solution to the annoying Griffin Beacon sleep mode ..
    I used a 555 timer integrated circuit (chip) in its astable mode.
    Now the magic : Every 4.5 minutes the unit will reset itself for 2 sec! that way every time you're close to it it will automatically connects its self to your mobile.
    Simple and works gr8!
    If you have any question contact me here eliforgames@gmail.com
    here is a link to my work -->

    1. That is awesome information! Thank you! Your solution solves a great many of headaches that happen with the device. I will have to look into someone Find someone to help me set it up