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Getting started with Bluetooth low energy

Nordic’s µBlue prototype development kit simplifies the design and test of wireless connectivity based on the company’s µBlue Bluetooth low energy Peripheral solution. This white paper describes the development kit

 

Bluetooth low energy technology has been designed for applications where Classic Bluetooth technology is not viable because of severe power restraints. All Bluetooth low energy applications will have one thing in common: they incorporate sensors or user interfaces (typically powered by coin cell batteries) sending small amounts of data infrequently.

 

The likely early applications include Personal User Interface Devices (PUID) (such as watches), Proximity, Battery Status, Temperature, and Heart Rate. Other health and fitness monitoring profiles such as blood-glucose and -pressure, cycle cadence, and cycle crank power will follow. And because this is the first time a ULP wireless technology with guaranteed interoperability has been available to electronics designers, Bluetooth low energy promises to extend wireless connectivity to hundreds of new products.

 

Despite its promise, implementing Bluetooth low energy technology will not be trivial. But with a little help from the chip suppliers, a competent engineer should be able to meet the challenge of implementing a Bluetooth low energy-powered wireless connection into their next portable product.

 

Built on proven technology

 

Nordic Semiconductor, a company with over a decade of experience in 2.4GHz ultra low power (ULP) wireless design, and a member of the Bluetooth SIG, has played a significant role in drawing up the specification for Bluetooth low energy wireless technology, which has now been adopted as a hallmark feature of the Bluetooth Core Specification Version 4.0.

 

As befits its reputation as a leading RF chip supplier, Nordic has developed a family of Bluetooth low energy silicon solutions called µBlue. The first device (the nRF8001) has already been released in sample quantities to developers, ahead of full qualification, once the complete specification is released. (See figure 1.)

 

Nordic’s µBlue nRF8001, single mode Bluetooth low energy peripheral chip

Figure 1: Nordic’s µBlue nRF8001, single mode Bluetooth low energy peripheral chip

 

The nRF8001 is a Peripheral (Slave) chip in a 32-pin 5 by 5mm QFN package incorporating a fully embedded radio, link controller, and host subsystem - suitable for watches, sensors, and remote controls among other applications. To accompany the chip, and to ease the challenge of electronics engineers designing nRF8001-based wireless connectivity, Nordic has also released the µBlue prototype kit and µBlue Software Development Kit (SDK).

 

This SDK is built around Nordic’s existing nRFgo development platform that has been available for several years to customers working with the company’s proprietary nRF24xxx 2.4GHz ULP transceivers. nRFgo integrates hardware and software tools to provide easy control of the application processor hardware and software through a graphical user interface in the nRFgo studio. Such tools include handling of the data in non-volatile memory, test modes, power control, internal software configuration and more.

 

The µBlue prototype kit comprises a Peripheral device based around the µBlue chipset and a proprietary Master emulator that allows the user to develop and test their own Bluetooth low energy Slave device applications.

 

The hardware platform of the peripheral device is the nRFgo motherboard (nRF6310) that can be used for any product in the company’s transceiver families (either proprietary or Bluetooth low energy). Consequently, existing customers will find working with µBlue chips easier as the development environment is familiar, while new customers will benefit from a market-proven development environment.

 

The nRFgo motherboard offers external access to the connected device pins as well as simple interfaces such as buttons, LEDs, a UART or even an additional display allowing designers to implement their targeted end-product user interfaces.

 

The nRF2735 daughterboard (plugged on top of the nRF6310) offers an application processor, Nordic’s nRF8200, which executes the Peripheral device customer application (the nRF8001 µBlue chip doesn’t include an onboard microprocessor, reducing size, cost and power consumption, and allowing the developer to select their own choice of microprocessor). While the nRF8200 is based on a cost-effective 8051 microprocessor, manufacturers can use their own choice of microprocessor if preferred.

 

A µBlue module (nRF2731) is then plugged on top of the nRF2735 and incorporates the nRF8001 µBlue chip. The device is connected to the application processor through an SPI interface (widely available on most microprocessors on the market and offering fast data transfer capabilities). (See figure 2.)

 

Figure 2: The µBlue prototype development kit comprises an nRFgo motherboard, daughterboard, and µBlue module

Figure 2: The µBlue prototype development kit comprises an nRFgo motherboard, daughterboard, and µBlue module

 

...to continue reading this white paper, please download the PDF.

 

The complete document is 1,850 words and includes sections on: Built on proven technology; Determining optimum settings; A familiar environment, and Supplied with Profiles.