The future of tiny electronics is wearables, it seems, with companies coming out with tiny devices that are able to check your pulse, blood pressure, and temperature while relaying this data back to your phone over a Bluetooth connection. Intel has the Curie module, a small System on Chip (SoC) meant for wearables, and the STM32 inside the Fitbit is one of the smallest ARM microcontrollers you’ll ever find. Now there’s a new part available that’s smaller than anything else and has an integrated Bluetooth radio; just what you need when you need an Internet of Motes of Dust.
The Atmel BTLC1000 is a tiny SoC designed for wearables. The internals aren’t exceptional in and of themselves – it’s an ARM Cortex M0 running at 26 MHz. There’s a Bluetooth 4.1 radio inside this chip, and enough I/O, RAM, and ROM to connect to a few sensors and do a few interesting things. What makes this chip so exceptional is its size – a mere 2.262mm by 2.142mm. It’s a chip that can fit along the thickness of some PCBs.
To provide some perspective: the smallest ATtiny, the ‘tiny4/5/9/10 in an SOT23-6 package, is 2.90mm long. The smallest PICs are similarly sized, and both have a tiny amount of RAM and Flash space. The BTLC1000 is surprisingly capable, with 128kB each of RAM and ROM.
The future of wearable devices is smaller, faster and more capable devices, and with a tiny chip that can fit on the head of a pin, this is certainly an interesting chip for applications where performance can be traded for package size. If you’re ready to dive in with this chip the preliminary datasheets are now available.
PunchThrough, creators of the LightBlue Bean, have just launch a Kickstarter for a new version called LightBlue Bean+. The tagline for the hardware is “A Bluetooth Arduino for the Mobile Age” which confirms that the hardware is targeted at a no-hassle, get it connected right now sort of application.
For those unfamiliar, the original LightBlue Bean is a single board offering meant to marry Bluetooth connectivity (think Cellphones with BTLE) to the capabilities of a microcontroller-based hardware interface. The Bean+ augments this hardware with a 300m+ range increase, an integrated LiPo (600mAh or more), and headers/connectors where there were only solder pads before.
On the software side of things the Bean+ has four firmware options that make it speak MIDI, ANCS, HID, or Peer-to-Peer, only not all at the same time. The good news is that these are ecosystem upgrades and will work for existing Bean hardware too. The entire thing comes with online-platform integration and easy to use Smartphone tools to guide you through connecting and making something useful.
The board includes a battery tending circuit that allows it to be charged via the USB port but can run over a year between recharges if you use it judiciously. There is a slider switch near the pin sockets marked “A3, A4, A5” which toggles between 3.3v and 5v so that no level shifters are needed for sensors and other hardware you might use with it. The white connectors seen near the bottom of this image are Grove connectors. These provide I2C and Analog support to that ecosystem of add-on boards.
All in all this is a pretty sweet upgrade. The MSRP will be $45 but early backers can get in around 10-25% less than that. The price doesn’t mean it’s a no-brainer to pick one up, but the header options make this much more versatile and reusable than the original Bean and we like the idea of a rechargeable battery of the coin cells used by Bean+’s predecessor. It is an each choice for drop-in no hassle connectivity when bottom line isn’t your top concern.
Original LightBlue Bean is available in the Hackaday Store.
This week we’re awarding a LightBlue Bean board to 50 projects entered in The Hackaday Prize.
We love this little board so much we put it in our store. It brings a microcontroller that has plenty of room and peripherals (and is quite well-known… the ATmega328) with the connectivity of Bluetooth Low Energy. If you’re planning on building something that needs processing power and connectivity with smartphones this is a good place to start. And this week you might just score one as part of the 2015 Hackaday Prize.
We’ll be looking for entries that are getting ready for the physical build and need connectivity. The best way to let us know your project should be one of the fifty winners is to post a new project log with your construction plans and how the Bean (or BTLE) would fit into that plan. Submit your build by next Wednesday (5/6) and you’re in the running!
We’re giving away $50,000 in prizes, 1/10 of the total Hackaday Prize pool during the build phase going on right now.
Last Week’s 30 Winners
Last week we were looking for great entries in need of circuit boards and boy, did we find a lot of them. Judging is super hard. We looked at all the entries and ended up with these 30 winners. Each will receive $50 to use for custom PCB manufacturing from OSH Park. We expect to see a lot more purple boards popping up on entry pages in the coming weeks! Congratulations to all winners. Each project creator will find prize info as a message on Hackaday.io.
Since just about everyone who would be interested in electronics has a decent cellphone now, there’s an idea that we don’t need USB or weird serial adapters anymore. Bluetooth LE is good enough for short-range communication, and there are a ton of boards and Kickstarter projects out there that are ready to fill the need.
[Michah] has built what is probably the lowest-spec and cheapest BTLE board we’ve ever seen. It’s really just an ATTiny85 – a favorite of the crowd that’s just slightly above Arduino level – and an HM-10 Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy module.
This board was developed as a means to connect sensors for a vintage motorcycle to an iOS device for display and data logging. A small, cheap board was needed that could be powered by a LiPo battery, and [Micah] created a board that fit his needs perfectly.
Four of the six IO pins on the ‘Tiny85 are broken out on a pin header; two are used to communicate with the BTLE module. It’s simple, fairly cheap, and can be powered by a battery. Exactly what you need if you want a wireless sensor board. All the files can be found in the Git repo and everything is open source. Not bad.
No, not real birds! [Kyle] works in operations at a web company and needed a way to send alerts to his fellow coworkers, so he modified a flock of Audubon Society plush birds to respond to a Bluetooth beacon.
Using NRF24L01+ Bluetooth Low Energy modules, [Kyle] installed one each in these battery-powered singing birds. The devices are presumably powered off of the battery that comes with the birds, but the use of the BTLE module means the batteries won’t discharge as rapidly.
[Kyle] also built an API that works over HTTP or IRC, which means that the employees in the office can activate everyone else’s birds over a simple and intuitive interface. The birds can be activated one at a time, or all together in “panic” mode as one giant flock (in case of an emergency in the office). They can also be activated one at a time on a specific hour to simulate the Audubon Society’s bird call clock.
He calls the device equail and it’s a very unique notification system with a lot of applications. All of [Kyle]’s code and documentation of his project are available on his github site. He also used this primer on BTLE to get started, and this guide on sending data over BTLE to help get the project in the air.