Friday 24 February 2017

Hacking the BSIDE ADM20 Multimeter - Software

BSIDE ADM20 hack 1: Software

How I got into this

When I worked on a review of a battery charger, I came accross some potential issues that I had to investigate things more thoroughly. I needed a multimeter to record the charge curves.
So my contact at Gearbest sent me this BSide ADM20 Multimeter. This has a built-in USB interface to display and record mesaurements on the PC.
Values imported into LibreOffice Calc
It turned out I quite like the meter. See my review video here. (Hardware-hack will follow) The software however was rather basic and wouldn't allow to set a sample rate or measurement duration.

The meter is available under several names:

I already had a look inside the meter and see pretty cool options to turn this into an IoT device. But let's not jump to conclusions. Some more work needs to go into that and I have only focussed on the software side here.


Fortunately it is pretty obvious how the meter communicates with (or rather "to") the PC:
A new COM port appears, presented through the well known CH340 USB-to-SERIAL bridge driver.
And you thought COM-Ports were a thing of the past
If you then fire up the software (DMM Data logger) that came with the meter, you're good to go.

Original Software

Nooo! Boooooooring!!!!

A look at the protocol

Pretty obvious that I should see something when I start a a terminal program like TeraTerm od Putty.
In part 2 of this post, you'll see that this is strictly a one-way communication. So we can't talk back to the meter.

  • The port speed is 2400 baud.
  • There is no CR or LF at the end of each data set (see below)
  • The usual 8n1 seems to apply
  • Continuous stream of data: no xon/xoff
  • No return channel

With the width set properly, TeraTerm's hex mode shows a pattern:
The 5Fs are the Zeroes, the DF has the decimal point

Whatever I do, the transmission always starts with a series of HEX values: AA5552240110
followed by four bytes that change when stuff moves on the display. I could map the values to the following displayed digits: (excerpt from my visual basic prog)

        If SerVal = 95 Then measured = 0
        If SerVal = 6 Then measured = 1
        If SerVal = 107 Then measured = 2
        If SerVal = 47 Then measured = 3
        If SerVal = 54 Then measured = 4
        If SerVal = 61 Then measured = 5
        If SerVal = 125 Then measured = 6
        If SerVal = 7 Then measured = 7
        If SerVal = 127 Then measured = 8
        If SerVal = 63 Then measured = 9

It turns out that the most significant bit is the decimal point, the other bits map to the seven segments. It also sends the measured unit and the polarity further back in the data stream. Up to now I choose to ignore all of that.

The four bytes with the four digits are in reverse order, of course, for more programming fun.

So my VisualBasic program listens for the "AA555224110" sequence and then decodes the four following bytes.

I suspect that the data stream is derived from the communication with the display driver, as many bits in the data stream can directly be mapped to segments on the display.

More on those details in the second part where I will look at the hardware of both the meter and it's communication.

First try in VisualBasic

No decimal point yet.
That was once a 9v battery

If you want to have a go at the experimental code, here is where I left off for the moment:

 Imports System.Threading.Tasks  
 Imports System.Timers  
 Imports System.IO  
 Imports System.IO.Ports  
 Imports System.Threading  
 Public Class Form1  
   Dim datensatz As String  
   Dim rohwert As Integer  
   Dim werte(22) As Integer  
   Dim decodewerte(4) As Integer  
   Dim recorddata As Boolean = False  
   Dim i As Integer = 0  
   Delegate Sub DataDelegate(ByVal sdata As Integer)  
   REM Define the method (Function) that will be called by the Invoke method   
   Private Sub PrintData(ByVal sdata As Integer)  
     Dim startsequence As String = "AA555224110"  
     Dim tmpchar As String  
     Dim str As Integer  
     Dim measured As Integer  
     Dim x As Integer  
     If recorddata Then  
       werte(i) = sdata  
       Console.Write("I= ")  
       If i = 4 Then  
         recorddata = False  
         i = 0  
         tmpchar = Hex(werte(1))  
         REM Console.WriteLine(werte(1))  
         x = DecodeValue(werte(1))  
         decodewerte(1) = x  
         Label2.Text = x  
         tmpchar = Hex(werte(2))  
         REM Console.WriteLine(werte(2))  
         x = DecodeValue(werte(2))  
         decodewerte(2) = x  
         Label3.Text = x  
         tmpchar = Hex(werte(3))  
         REM Console.WriteLine(werte(3))  
         x = DecodeValue(werte(3))  
         decodewerte(3) = x  
         Label4.Text = x  
         tmpchar = Hex(werte(4))  
         REM Console.WriteLine(werte(4))  
         x = DecodeValue(werte(4))  
         decodewerte(4) = x  
         Label5.Text = x  
         TextBox1.Text = CStr(decodewerte(4)) & CStr(decodewerte(3)) & CStr(decodewerte(2)) & CStr(decodewerte(1))  
       End If  
       i = i + 1  
     End If  
     tmpchar = Hex(sdata)  
     Label1.Text = tmpchar  
     datensatz = datensatz + tmpchar  
     If (datensatz.Contains(startsequence)) Then  
       REM Console.WriteLine("Got Header")  
       datensatz = ""  
       recorddata = True  
     End If  
   End Sub  
   Public Sub New()  
     ' This call is required by the designer.  
     ' Add any initialization after the InitializeComponent() call.  
   End Sub  
   Dim WithEvents sp As New SerialPort  
   Private Sub GetSerialPortNames()  
     sp.BaudRate = 2400  
     sp.PortName = "COM3"  
     sp.DataBits = 8  
     sp.Parity = Parity.None  
     sp.StopBits = StopBits.One  
     sp.Handshake = Handshake.None  
     REM sp.Encoding = System.Text.Encoding.Default  
     sp.Encoding = System.Text.Encoding.Default  
   End Sub  
   Private Sub Form1_Load(ByVal sender As System.Object, ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles MyBase.Load  
   End Sub  
   Private Sub SerialPort_DataReceived(ByVal sender As Object, ByVal e As System.IO.Ports.SerialDataReceivedEventArgs) Handles sp.DataReceived  
     Dim str As Integer  
     REM Dim str2 As Char  
     str = sp.ReadChar()  
     REM Console.WriteLine(str)  
     REM str2 = Convert.ToChar(str)  
     Dim adre As New DataDelegate(AddressOf PrintData)  
     Me.Invoke(adre, str)  
   End Sub  
   Function DecodeValue(ByVal SerVal As Integer)  
     Dim decimalpoint As Boolean = 0  
     Dim measured As Integer  
     If SerVal > 128 Then  
       SerVal = SerVal - 128  
       decimalpoint = True  
     End If  
     measured = 99  
     If SerVal = 95 Then measured = 0  
     If SerVal = 6 Then measured = 1  
     If SerVal = 107 Then measured = 2  
     If SerVal = 47 Then measured = 3  
     If SerVal = 54 Then measured = 4  
     If SerVal = 61 Then measured = 5  
     If SerVal = 125 Then measured = 6  
     If SerVal = 7 Then measured = 7  
     If SerVal = 127 Then measured = 8  
     If SerVal = 63 Then measured = 9  
     If SerVal = 8097 Then measured = 7  
     If SerVal = 8096 Then measured = 1  
     If SerVal = 0 Then measured = 0  
     Console.Write("Decoder got a: ")  
     Console.Write(" decoded as: ")  
     Return measured  
   End Function  
 End Class  

If you have done work on hard- or software-hacking those meters please let me know.


  1. There is a more sophisticated software UltraDMM for data logging and the list of supported chips:
    Which chip is inside of BSIDE ADM20?

    1. I didn't know UltraDMM. Although it hasn't been updated for four years, it looks great.
      At the moment my lab is stowed away because of building renovations, so I can't test it now. But it is certainly worth trying if UltraDMM supports the ADM20.

    2. Hello. I experimented with the firmware from my adm20 and accidentally erased the original firmware. Could you post it?


  3. Hi andreas, i bought (after i saw your great videos which gave me confidence!) the perfect adm20 about a year and a half ago, and now i wanted to get another one.. But i can't find listing for that on ebay etc
    Do you know where i can get new one?
    If not, is the mustool and peakmeter are exactly the same just branded and coloured different? ( is it same mb, chips, performance, QUALITY! And probes?)
    I'M REALLY like this meter, just perfect!!!

  4. Hi
    Andreas, i bought the adm20 about a year and a half ago ( after I saw your videos which gave me confidence)
    And because it's so perfect, I'm want to buy another one.. But cant find it on ebay etc Do you know where i can get an new one?
    If not, is the mustool and peakmeter are exactly the same just branded and coloured different? ( is they same QUALITY, PROBES, mb, hardware,function and accurate..?

  5. @Litec Systems
    search for Bolyfa BF117 multimeter on

    1. Thanks but ive got already the pm8236
      Compared to my bside ;
      Pros- softer buttons, maybe even too much
      Cons the probes extremely less comfort than the adm20

  6. Andreas,
    In case you're still looking for software for the multimeter

  7. does anyone know where to get the software for the mustool mt826..I dont have the disc to run this on the pc..Im lost thanks