Crowdfunded beacon uses Nordic Bluetooth chip

Crowdfunded beacon uses Nordic Bluetooth chip

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By Jean-Pierre Joosting

The open-source Bluetooth low energy Puck.js beacon is so simple to program and debug, its designers claim, that almost anyone can do it wirelessly from a website with JavaScript. The Bluetooth low energy beacon is predestined as a development kit and finished product all in one small package that needs no wires or software.

On Kickstarter, the Nordic Semiconductor nRF52832 SoC-based Bluetooth low energy (formerly Bluetooth Smart) beacon is said to be so simple to program almost anyone can do it wirelessly from a website using a graphical editor or easy-to-learn JavaScript instead of C or C++ traditionally used by Bluetooth low energy beacon developers.

“Most manufacturers conveniently gloss over the difficulties of programming their hardware, and other beacons are provided without software or left crippled by their boring factory-installed firmware,” says UK-based Puck.js creator, Gordon Williams. “Puck.js is different. It comes with our Open Source JavaScript interpreter ‘Espruino’ pre-installed, which makes it incredibly easy-to-use and means you can get started in just seconds, without any prior programming experience.”

The intentionally hacker-friendly Puck.js is open source, supports both the iBeacon and Eddystone beacon formats, and will be supplied with firmware updates for the forthcoming Bluetooth v5.0 specification that will quadruple the range and double the speed of Bluetooth v4.2. Puck.js has a circular 35-mm diameter form-factor that is 10 mm thick, with a silicone rubber cover and plastic base. It is powered from a CR2032 coin cell battery and includes a magnetometer (digital compass), user-assignable tactile button, and four (Red, Green, Blue, and Infrared) LEDs.

It hosts a Nordic Semiconductor nRF52832 SoC, ARM Cortex-M4F processor, 64 MHz clock speed, 64 kB of RAM and 512 kB of Flash, built-in Near-Field Comms (NFC), Over-the-Air firmware updates, 12-bit ADC, timers, SPI, I²C, and serial interfaces that can be used on any available pins, plus a temperature sensor.

Williams says that in summary this means the Puck.js can measure rotation (e.g., using the Puck as a control knob), light, temperature, magnetic fields (e.g., magnets used on doors to detect opening and closing or water level via a magnet on a float), can control Infrared devices, and produce any colour light.

“JavaScript is probably the most popular programming language at the moment and the majority of web developers, makers, and students at school wouldn’t usually have used C or C++,” Williams continues. “So what I aimed to do with Puck.js was lower the barrier-to-entry and make development easier and more fun – allowing a whole bunch of people to use Bluetooth low energy beacon and IoT technologies that may otherwise be restricted to professional embedded developers.”

Williams says Puck.js is like a development kit that’s also a finished product. “You insert a battery, put the case on, and it’s a ready-to-go Bluetooth low energy beacon straight-out-the-box with no wires or software required,” he adds. “At the same time it’s very easy to add new functions and features for home automation projects, IoT prototyping, or education purposes.”

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