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Integrate Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity into your design

Posted: 16 Apr 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Cypress Semiconductor  Bluetooth Low Energy  module  design  IHS 

For a number of small to mid-size companies, adding Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity to a small, portable design can be a daunting task. In addition to acquiring the necessary RF design expertise and lab equipment to create the design, development teams need to certify their product's protocol operation through the Bluetooth SIG as well as obtain radio qualification and approval from the FCC and other regulatory agencies worldwide.

"BLE is fast becoming the dominant choice for short-range wireless connectivity," said Dave Solda, director of Cypress' modules business unit. Solda quoted an IHS report on the 2014 BLE market saying that The BLE market is expected to grow at a 64 per cent CAGR to 1.2 billion devices in 2018. He also noted that of the 185 million BLE-enabled devices sold in 2014, 61 per cent used BLE modules in their designs. "The reason developers choose to use modules is to shorten development time, especially if they're not RF experts," Solda added.

But even with modules, Solda noted, there can be headaches for developers, depending on the nature of the module and the specific needs of the design. A design using a module that needs an external antenna, for instance, will still need to go through regulatory certification and testing to ensure the final configuration meets standards. And if a product developer has issues with the silicon or protocol stack ends of the module, Solda added, they typically can't get quick answers. "Many BLE module providers are using someone else's silicon and software stack, and the BLE silicon providers aren't familiar with the module implementation."

To address these kinds of development issues, Cypress Semiconductor has introduced its EZ-BLE PRoC (programmable radio on chip) module. The module is fully qualified with the Bluetooth SIG (including the assignment of the QDID) and has passed regulatory certification for the U.S., Canada, Japan, Europe and Korea. It has crystals, all passive components and a chip antenna built-in along with a processor core and digital peripherals in a 10mm x 10mm x 1.8mm package. By being self-contained, the module allows drop-in development while its pre-certifications streamline a design's Bluetooth SIG registration and regulatory approvals. Solda also noted that the modules use Cypress silicon and software, providing developers with a single source for support.

EZ-BLE PRoC module

The processor aboard the EZ-BLE PRoC module not only runs the Bluetooth protocols and manages the wireless link, it also provides resources for applications programming. The 48MHz ARM Cortex M0 core has 128KB of Flash and 16KB of SRAM, two configurable serial IO blocks (UART, I2C or SPI), I2S for audio and 16 GPIOs. There are also a 12bit 1Msps SAR ADC, four counter/timer/PWMs and a CapSense touch controller built in.

Development support for the module includes the PSoC Creator IDE, a GUI-based Bluetooth stack and profile configuration tool for the IDE, and a $49 BLE Pioneer Development Kit. Solda indicated that a future version of the module will also incorporate programmable analogue peripherals. The current version is sampling and expected to be in full production in May.

- Rich Quinnell
  EE Times

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