ULP Wireless Update

App developers provided easy IoT access with Nordic prototyping tool

App developers provided easy IoT access with Nordic prototyping tool

Nordic Thingy:52 plays host to a wide array of built-in sensors

IoT hardware and firmware is tricky to develop and configure. Nordic Thingy:52 eliminates the challenge and allows smartphone app developers to focus on their strengths

Nordic has taken huge strides forward in simplifying Bluetooth Low Energy development with hardware reference designs to ensure good radio performance, innovative software architecture which separates the RF protocol stack from application code, and development kits which include software examples of the most common applications.


However, wireless product development is still far from trivial; that makes it expensive, time consuming, and more difficult for an engineer to justify building a proof-of-concept prototype to demonstrate his or her Internet of Things (IoT) idea. And even if suitable hardware is constructed and tested, some firmware expertise is needed to configure the prototype to complete even the simplest tasks.


Now, Nordic has released a prototyping tool that sweeps away all that complexity. The Nordic Thingy:52 is a self-contained platform housed in a 60 by 60-mm plastic and rubber case, with an nRF52832 System-on-Chip (SoC) at its heart, and sporting a Li-ion battery chargeable from a USB port. The nRF52832 SoC boasts a powerful ARM Cortex M4F microprocessor, lots of Flash and RAM, a suite of peripherals, and a sophisticated power management system. It runs Nordic’s S132 SoftDevice, a Bluetooth 4.2 qualified RF software protocol stack for advanced wireless applications.


Better yet, Nordic Thingy:52 is equipped with a family of the most popular wireless sensors, including a built-in digital microphone and speaker, nine-axis movement sensor, ultra low power wake up accelerometer, and pressure, temperature, humidity, air-quality, and color sensors. Many of the sensors are connected to switches allowing them to be turned off to save power. And if the developer is handy with a soldering iron, the Nordic Thingy:52’s capabilities can also be extended by adding connectors for daughter boards.


Quick configuration

But although what’s under the hood is important, a developer doesn’t need to be overly concerned with the hardware and firmware specs because Nordic Thingy:52 operates as an IoT “black box”, looking after all the Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity and application code supervision without direct user intervention.


A developer can get straight down to rapidly configuring Nordic Thingy:52 in order to demonstrate IoT applications to interested parties. Nordic Thingy:52 can even form the basis of a hardware prototype, eliminating the need to assemble and solder RF circuits and antennas.


The unit is supplied with iOS and Android Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity apps which allow the developer to configure everything on the Nordic Thingy:52 from a smartphone or PC – without ever having to go near the nRF52832 SoC’s firmware.


From the supplied and easy-to-use Bluetooth application programming interface (API), developers can quickly develop IoT devices for a range of applications using Nordic Thingy:52. Altering parameters such as the air-quality sensor’s sample rate, switching on the color sensor, or changing the operating parameters when Nordic Thingy:52 is employed as a beacon, for example, is simple to achieve via an over-the-air instruction from a smartphone or Internet app with no need to interact directly with Nordic Thingy:52’s firmware code.


More complex IoT applications are also simple to implement. For example, a developer could demonstrate a smart light applications by connecting Nordic Thingy:52 to a Bluetooth Low Energy hub controlling lights such as Philips’ Hue products. Alternatively, a Nordic Thingy:52 attached to a door could send a message to the hub to turn on room lights if it senses the door is opened and ambient light is low.


Nordic Thingy:52 can also be easily configured to connect to a Cloud server via the smartphone app. For example, the device could be configured to change its LED’s color in response to voice commands directed at a personal assistant such as Amazon’s Alexa. The voice command triggers Alexa to contact a Cloud platform which in turn instructs an inexpensive Internet-connected router to wirelessly forward the command to reconfigure Nordic Thingy:52.


Nordic Thingy:52 is the first prototyping device that allows developers to demonstrate Bluetooth Low Energy applications without interacting with hardware or firmware. This opens up the technology to a huge new group of developers keen to put their IoT ideas into action.