Bluetooth Low Energy gaming accessory provides "world first" wireless charging solution for Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers


Powercast’s Wireless Charging Grips employ Nordic’s nRF52832 SoC to connect to proprietary wireless transmitter via Bluetooth LE for contactless recharging

Oslo, Norway – April 25, 2019 – Nordic Semiconductor today announces that Powercast, a Pittsburgh, PA-based RF energy harvesting and wireless power technology company, has selected Nordic’s nRF52832 Bluetooth® Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) System-on-Chip (SoC) to provide the core processing power and wireless connectivity for its ‘Wireless Charging Grips’. The accessory lets Nintendo Switch gamers snap their Joy-Con controllers into it for easy handling, and the embedded wireless charging capability eliminates the need to dock or plug-in their Joy-Con controllers for charging.

According to Powercast, the Wireless Charging Grips are the world’s first genuinely wireless rechargeable consumer gaming product. The grips employ Powercast’s Powerharvester® receiver to harness power sent over the air by Powercast’s PowerSpot® radio frequency (RF) wireless power transmitter. When placed into the Wireless Charging Grips, the Joy-Con controllers connect to the battery embedded in the grips and automatically recharge their internal battery as required. When the user has finished gaming, they simply set the grips down in front of the PowerSpot transmitter to automatically recharge the battery within.

The Wireless Charging Grips contain Nordic’s nRF52832 SoC, which connects and communicates wirelessly via Bluetooth LE with the on-board Nordic nRF51422 SoC in the PowerSpot transmitter. If the battery in the Wireless Charging Grips begins to run low and the grips are within range (up to 60 cm) of the wireless transmitter, the nRF52832 SoC wirelessly connects with the nRF51422 SoC to request power from the transmitter. Once verified, the PowerSpot transmitter turns on and delivers the contactless wireless power to the grips. The nRF51422 SoC also wirelessly monitors the battery status of connected devices and enables the user to employ a Bluetooth 4.0 (and later) smartphone or tablet to remotely monitor device charge levels and set timers for the transmitter to charge devices via Powercast’s iOS or Android companion app.

The Wireless Charging Grips employ an embedded 320mAh Li-ion battery, which in turn charges the batteries in the Joy-Con controllers. The grips also act as a backup battery pack, keeping the Joy-Con batteries topped off when out of the transmitter’s range for about 38 hours of gameplay on one charge, thanks in part to the ultra low power characteristics of the Nordic SoC. The nRF52832 has been engineered to minimize power consumption with features such as the 2.4GHz radio’s 5.5mA peak RX/TX currents and a fully-automatic power management system that reduces power consumption by up to 80 percent compared with Nordic’s nRF51 Series SoCs.

The nRF52832 SoC offered excellent options to reduce power consumption via sleep modes and the enabling and disabling of included peripherals as necessary.
Eric Biel, Powercast
Nordic’s nRF52832 multiprotocol SoC combines a 64MHz, 32-bit Arm® Cortex® M4F processor with a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5, ANT™, and proprietary 2.4GHz RF protocol software) featuring -96-dB RX sensitivity, with 512kB Flash memory and 64kB RAM. The nRF52832 is supplied with Nordic’s S132 SoftDevice, a Bluetooth 5-certifed RF software protocol stack for building advanced Bluetooth LE applications. Nordic’s unique software architecture provides a clear separation between the RF protocol software and Powercast’s application code, simplifying the development and testing process and ensuring the SoftDevice doesn’t become corrupted when developing, compiling, testing, and verifying application code. The S132 SoftDevice features Central, Peripheral, Broadcaster and Observer Bluetooth LE roles, supports up to twenty connections, and enables concurrent role operation.

“We were concerned with power consumption and we wanted to maximize battery life for the gamer,” says Eric Biel, Principal Engineer at Powercast. “The nRF52832 SoC offered excellent options to reduce power consumption via sleep modes and the enabling and disabling of included peripherals as necessary. 

“However, we knew we would need a Bluetooth LE radio as well, which led us to the Nordic SoC as a ‘no-brainer’. We could use the nRF52832 SoC as a single-chip solution for all of the basic processing as well as the Bluetooth LE tasks, while still hitting our power consumption targets.

“In addition, Powercast historically has a strong working relationship with Nordic and we appreciate the excellent support provided by Nordic’s DevZone, the great documentation on all of the company’s products, and the overall quality of its Bluetooth LE solutions.”