Coin Introduces Arduino-BLE Developer Kit


 

Developers, makers, hackers: It’s now easier than ever to bring your hardware idea to life.

 

A year ago, we were software developers venturing into the world of hardware. Not surprisingly, we encountered difficulty as we integrated Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) into our product.  At that time, existing BLE modules were confusing to integrate and didn’t meet our requirements. So we decided to build our own.

Because our philosophy is to simplify and improve people's lives, we feel that now we can amplify our impact by also sharing what we've learned. That’s why we put together this Developer Kit to solve the BLE integration problem, making it easier and faster for others to focus on their innovative use cases.

At Coin, we’ve been actively working on a product that utilizes BLE to communicate with mobile apps. More on this in the coming months.

 

Why BLE?

In the boom of the Internet of Things, BLE empowers innovation in building connected, smart devices. Here's how:

It's extremely efficient.

BLE consumes much less energy than its predecessors. Not only does it significantly extend the battery life of traditional Bluetooth devices, but it also enables wireless communication for a class of low-power devices that run on as little as coin-cell batteries. Needless to say, lower energy consumption leads to a more durable, efficient product.

 

 

It's nearly ubiquitous.

Because BLE is super energy-efficient, manufacturers have been aggressively building BLE capability into modern devices such as phones, tablets, PCs, and TVs. In particular, Apple products have had this capability since iOS 5. This past July, Google finally caught up in this regard with its JellyBean 4.3 release. It’s only a matter of time before all Android phones and tablets become “Bluetooth Smart Ready".

On the supply chain side, major manufacturers like Texas Instruments make BLE modules and chips widely available and in large quantities. If you decide to develop an application for BLE-enabled mobile devices, rest assured that the hardware is readily available, and mobile user adoption continues to grow.

It offers broad applications.

 

A wide and growing range of applications that communicate with BLE-supported devices are now available in both business and consumer markets. Here are a few examples:

"Hey! You forgot..." scenario in our demo video is a perfect example of Lost & Found.

"Hey! You forgot..." scenario in our demo video is a perfect example of Lost & Found.

Lost and found: People can now easily connect and keep track of almost everything in their life and within their immediate surroundings. Imagine you are a dog lover and losing him (or her) is the last situation you want to be in; attaching a small BLE device to your dog’s collar will keep you alerted whenever he (or she) runs off. You can do the same thing with your wallet, suitcase, key chain, kids and anything else you want to keep by your side. Gone are the days of losing or misplacing your things.

Health, fitness, and sports:  Sensor-type BLE devices can measure blood pressure, pulse rates, running speed, heart rate and more. Data is sent or synced with smartphones or PCs, helping nurses monitor patient health and athletes, or fitness fanatics benchmark their performance. Although these products have existed since the traditional Bluetooth days, BLE elevates them to a whole new level of connectivity for users. 

Automation:  What about creating an app that detects human presence by measuring the rise and drop in room temperature based on proximity? You can automate almost anyplace and anything such as your car, home and office. Think about BLE chips attached to home appliances like washing machines, AC/heating systems and sprinklers. Turn them on and off with just a few taps on your phone.

Security:  Automation is great and gives rise to virtual home and office security. That means you can instantly turn your phones, tablets, and electronics that you already carry with you into remote controls, and define your own security settings for your bike, door, house, and many other items.

We simulate a Retail Advertising use case in our 1st demo scenario  "Welcome guests".

We simulate a Retail Advertising use case in our 1st demo scenario  "Welcome guests".

Retail advertising: We see and anticipate a wave of new products that provide customized micro-location information, changing the landscape of retail advertising and shopping. With a BLE-enabled smartphone and a proximity sensor, in-store shoppers can receive highly personalized messages, recommendations and coupons based on past shopping history with a retailer. Enabled by BLE, your smartphone turns into an instant in-store GPS as well as a virtual shopping specialist who can know your preferences and budgets better than you do.

 

Again, the sky’s the limit for what you can develop with BLE. So let’s put your idea hat on and start creating!

 

Challenges and how we can help

 

As exciting as all of that sounds, we have found that it is not trivial to create a new BLE device and get it to communicate with an iOS app. If you want to do that today, you are likely to face the same challenges we did:

  • Schematics - How to wire things together

  • Layout - How to organize parts on a board

  • Manufacturing - How to get boards assembled in bulk

  • Code - How to establish communication from the BLE chip to the Arduino chip and to the iOS app

Figuring all of this out adds a lot of time, effort and frustration! But, don’t fret; we have you covered. The Coin Arduino-BLE Developer Kit for iOS includes:

  1. [Software] Demo iOS app

  2. [Software] Arduino Library

  3. [Hardware] Arduino-BLE board plus six-pin header

You can pre-order the Arduino-BLE boards here. We’ll start shipping the boards in December 2013. Our open-source software will also be available in GitHub around that time. Stay tuned!

Coin Arduino-BLE hardware

Our goal is to make it easy to develop Arduino-based hardware that can talk with an iOS device. So, we took Sparkfun’s popular Arduino Mini Pro and added a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) bridge. The board is small, only 0.7 x 2 inches in size.

Coin Arduino-BLE board, proudly designed and manufactured in the USA.

Arduino and System Specifications

 

  • MCU: Atmel ATMEGA328AU (32K flash, 2K RAM) with Arduino Pro Mini bootloader preloaded
  • 3-18V supply range, regulated to 3V 
  • Clock: 8 MHz

BLE Specifications

 

  • BLE Chip: Texas Instruments CC2540 F128 (128K flash, 8K RAM)
  • Clocks: 32.768 crystal and 32 MHz oscillator
  • Antenna: Johanson 2450AT18A100E
  • Balun: Johanson 2450BM15A0002E impedance match from CC2540 to 50 ohm

Coin Arduino-BLE Board (middle) 

 Our BLE-Arduino boards also include 6-pin FTDI header pins, but require you to assemble them on the board (assembly is very simple) yourself.

 

You'll also get the mechanical drawing, schematic, pinout, and layout designs of our Arduino-BLE board below. Click and hover to see the image title.

 

 

     For a detailed list of parts, download the BOM file.  

    Our boards do not include:

    • FTDI Cable
    • 12 pin breakout headers
    • TI CC2540 breakout header, required only if you want to change code on the TI
    • TI CC Debugger required only if you want to change the code on the TI
    • Solder and soldering iron

    Well that’s a wrap, folks. We've covered the basic grounds of our Arduino-BLE Dev Kit and that’s it. If you have any questions, suggestions or simply want to say hello, feel free to email us at help@onlycoin.com. We can’t wait to hear about your projects!