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Thread: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) - Laird BL600 module (Nordic Semi nRF51822 Cortex M0)

  1. #1

    Question Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) - Laird BL600 module (Nordic Semi nRF51822 Cortex M0)

    Has anyone played with this particular BLE module yet? I see all kinds of potential for the nRF51822 in the context of a Teensy 3.x(RF/++)/spi BLE module, as well as a stand-alone low power wireless sensor platform. It seems like it could take the place of the MINI54 and add some extra functionality beyond BLE and bootloader (ie. low power RTC, RF wake up/power on for the K20, other super low power wakeup/trigger events for the K20 etc. etc.)

    It can't be much different than the RFduino module (cursory reads of the specs seem like it actually exposes more of the io). Anyway, beyond the bundled smartBasic platform, has anyone tried porting the Arduino environment to it (from my reads of the RFduino forums, it's not all happiness and joy over there right now - mostly because they aren't releasing the source for the bootloader and the shim between Arduino and Nordic's BLE softdevice blob.

    Anyway, it seems like there is some good support/development going on in the sub-GHz band with the RF22B and in the 2.4GHz 802.11 space with the adafruit cc3300 breakout/module. I was wondering if this was a good candidate for BLE on Teensy 3.x platforms. It costs about $13 in single unit quantities, and the Laird dev kit for it is around $150 (a bit cheaper way to start playing around with the nRF51822 than Nordic semi's $400+ dev kit).

    Alistair

  2. #2
    Hi Alistair,

    Yeah, I've spent a significant amount of time with the nRF51822 chips, albeit first with their dev kit and then with a custom board (which also includes EPaper display hardware). The chip is easily the best documented part I've ever worked with and quite capable.

    You don't need the $400 NrfGO kit from Nordic, just the $99 dev kit. it comes with a USB dongle that's quite convenient, a Segger programmer, and 5 sample chips. The included boards can also be externally powered with a bit of soldering. I think it's a pretty good deal.

    Does the Laird module come with access to the Nordic dev tools and soft device binary? They're absolutely required for doing anything significant with BLE. The RFduino software, for example, only exposes a tiny fraction of the capability of the device.

    I've written a C++ library that makes working with their BLE stack easier. Their code is good, but there's a lot of it and it takes some time to sort through.

    I also have an effort to program the chip using the McHck instead of the Segger. This gives flash and debug with GDB for ~$5. The Teensy and the McHck are using essentially the same chip (in different packages -- ie different pins), so it should be possible to use that SWD code with a few pin number changes. In theory it should be possible to use the McHck SWD code on any Arduino (it's just bit-banging), but I don't think that's really happened yet.

    Let me know if you have any more questions. This is a project I've spent a bunch of time on and haven't yet really managed to get all the kinks worked out and make it useful to others yet. I'd really like to see an open source following behin the NRF chip.

    Best,

    -c

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    I like the BLEBee bij Michael Kroll, they should soon also appear at Seeedstudio.com. It is an XBee form BLE module.

  4. #4
    Thanks for the detailed response. I've taken a quick look through your links - nice work.

    I think I'll pick up the Nordic Dev kit, and maybe the Laird one as well, just to feel it out (I like the format and availability of their modules). Laird includes the S110 softdevice + license, but says if you overwrite their smartBasic firmware, you're on your own, which is fair (the softdevice license stays with the module though). They also have promised to enable the S120 softdevice as well, if you need a master node. Have you played with that yet?

    I agree, the nRF51822 looks like a fantastic piece of silicon. I'm not kidding when I say Paul should consider it as a MINI54 replacement (ok, I realize the BLE BOM is going to be 10x the MINI54 BOM, but way more capable, you get BLE or ANT + Gazelle or the like in RF, and a really capable little ultra low power co-processor that can be Arduino-fied).

    It's funny you mentioned e-paper . . . I have a Sharp 12uW e-ink display in my basket along with low power T/RH sensors, low power PIR sensors, and some 2450/77 coin cells to play around with.

    Once I've got my hands on the kit, I'm sure I'll have questions. I totally agree that the chip deserves a healthy open source following, as well as arduino support.

    Alistair
    Last edited by adeptrc; 02-05-2014 at 05:55 PM. Reason: typo

  5. #5

  6. #6
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    No, but it sure is very interesting!

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by adeptrc View Post
    Did anyone catch this announcement: https://www.nordicsemi.com/News/News...and-simplicity
    Note that this appears to be for the nRF8001 chips in particular a specific BLE shield. It's cool that they're officially supporting the Arduino community. However, it seems like there are already existing open source libraries for this external SPI-protocol BLE chip.

    This is not, however, for the nRF51822, which integrates the BLE protocol stack/radio and an ARM Cortex M0 in one package.

    Best,

    -c

  8. #8
    I caught that - was thinking it might pair well with the Teensy, but then again, I need to look at the full Bluetooth spec - I think it's a 'peripheral' only device, which I think means it can't play master. There are some nice little modules out there (from Insight Sip for example) but the BL600 nRF51822 still looks better overall. I have my dev kits, so I'm going to start playing . . .

    Regardless, the more support there is library-wise for the nRF line, the better . . .

  9. #9
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    I made a bunch of breakout boards for the BL600 a while ago if anyone is interested. I have not had a chance to pursue the project but have the blank boards.
    See video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHy64cnp_ns
    The board has facility for 5v Regulator if required. You can actually solder the BL600 by hand using solder paste.
    PM me if you want some boards @ $5

  10. #10
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    BL600 Hardware Sensor ready.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Quote Originally Posted by adeptrc View Post
    Has anyone played with this particular BLE module yet?
    Alistair
    I have very well functioning sensor hardware with BL600. Looking for Software developer to partnership for product release. Please Email me if interested about the project. The system is verified with RS232 link and what is missing is mainly solid Virtual Serial Port over BLE with sufficient bandwidth. Thinking about pushing a simplified concept in the Educational Market and full version as designed. See the image.

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