Adding Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity to a small, portable design can be an overwhelming hurdle for small to mid-size companies. 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. Cypress Semiconductor promises to eliminate all that effort with its new EZ-BLE PRoC module.
“BLE is fast becoming the dominant choice for short-range wireless connectivity,” Dave Solda, director of Cypress' modules business unit told EE Times. Solda quoted an IHS report on the 2014 BLE market saying that The BLE market is expected to grow at a 64% CAGR to 1.2 billion devices in2018. He also noted that of the 185 million BLE-enabled devices sold in 2014, 61% 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 has now 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 US, 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 precertifications 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.
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 48 MHz ARM Cortex M0 core has 128 kbytes of Flash and 16 kbytes of SRAM, two configurable serial IO blocks (UART, I2C, or SPI), I2S for audio, and 16 GPIOs. There are also a 12-bit 1 Msps SAR ADC, four counter/timer/PWMs, and a CapSense touch controller built in.
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