RUTRONIK EMBEDDED: Reference Design for Bluetooth Smart Beacons from Nordic Semiconductor

Distributor Rutronik offers the nRF51822 Bluetooth Smart Beacon Kit from Nordic Semiconductor. The reference design is based on Nordic’s class-leading nRF51822 multiprotocol Bluetooth Smart and proprietary 2.4GHz-SoC. It allows demonstration and development of iBeacon and proprietary beacon hardware for iOS and Android smartphones to be developed quickly and easily.

Bluetooth Smart beacons are low-cost, low-power Bluetooth low energy wireless transmitters that can advertise their location to Bluetooth Smart Ready smartphones in close proximity. The nRF51822 Beacon Kit features an ultra small form factor of 20mm diameter and is powered by a CR1632 coin cell battery. It allows developers and engineers to evolve their own beacon applications using Apple’s iBeacon™ standards, or create their own beacons based on their own specifications using Bluetooth Smart.

The kit works straight out of the box with companion smartphone apps for iOS and Android (4.1/4.3) smartphones. The firmware is available as source code from Nordic and allows example beacon scenarios to be set up quickly and easily to test out product ideas. It leverages the ability of the nRF51822 SoC to support full Over-The-Air-Device Firmware Upgrade (OTA-DFU) enabling all beacon firmware to be updated in-situ in a transparent manner. As each brand and model of smartphones exhibits different RSSI levels, the nRF51822 Beacon Kit has a tuning function that permits consistent performance regardless of phone model.

With these features, the kit enables OEMs and ODMs to begin development of beacon hardware to be used together with associated back-end services that will be typically offered as complete beacon solutions. The major use case of the nRF51822 currently is for “contextual awareness” providing users with information relating their proximity to a Point of Interest (POI). Other application fields could include special deals at retail stores, products available in stock, exhibits in public galleries and museums, train and bus terminals and shopping list reminders.

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