Bluetooth LE solar development kit enables OEMs to power IoT electronics by harvesting indoor light energy


PowerFilm Solar’s Indoor Solar Development Kit with Nordic BLE employs Nordic’s nRF52832 SoC to provide wireless connectivity for IoT devices

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that PowerFilm, an Ames, IA-based company specializing in custom solar solutions, employs Nordic’s nRF52832 Bluetooth® Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) System-on-Chip (SoC) in its ‘Indoor Solar Development Kit with Nordic BLE’ for IoT developers, engineers, and hobbyists looking to power electronics by harvesting indoor light energy. Once harvested, the energy is stored in a rechargeable battery or capacitor bank.

The development kit simplifies the design process for OEMs incorporating indoor solar energy in Bluetooth LE devices, with applications including smart home, building automation, inventory and retail management, asset tracking, and industrial monitoring. In addition to the Nordic SoC, the plug and play kit incorporates an onboard energy harvester/power management IC and indoor solar panels. In operation, the nRF52832 SoC automatically connects to the power when energy is available—enabling Bluetooth LE operation of the solar-powered device—before disconnecting when the stored energy is depleted.

The high performance indoor solar panels are able to sustain Bluetooth LE operation even in dimly lit indoor environments such as those typically seen in warehouses and industrial plants, 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.
Nordic’s nRF52832 SoC provides a great balance of performance and features at a reasonable price
Sam Jones, PowerFilm Solar
The development kit’s onboard capacitor charger provides two key benefits: First, it enables applications that don’t need the extra storage capacity to operate without a battery; and second, it charges the capacitors directly from the solar panel, without any conversions, which boosts performance over a standard energy harvesting power management integrated circuit.

Nordic’s nRF52832 multiprotocol SoC combines an 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 SoC is supplied with Nordic’s S132 SoftDevice, a Bluetooth 5-certifed RF software protocol stack for building advanced Bluetooth LE applications. The S132 SoftDevice features Central, Peripheral, Broadcaster, and Observer Bluetooth LE roles, supports up to twenty connections, and enables concurrent role operation.

“Nordic’s nRF52832 SoC provides a great balance of performance and features at a reasonable price,” says Sam Jones, R&D Engineer at PowerFilm Solar. “We wanted to use a chip that catered to a wide range of potential applications but also works well when [the product enters] full scale production. The power consumption of the nRF52832 SoC and Nordic’s Bluetooth LE stack is one of the lowest in the industry, which is very important for an energy harvesting solution. 

“In addition, the software tools and examples provided by Nordic make development and testing simple. Nordic provides developers with a high level of control over the Bluetooth LE connection and power parameters,” says Jones.