Nordic Semiconductor has announces that Hong Kong-based Arduino specialist, RedBear Company Ltd, has developed a Nordic nRF8001 Connectivity IC-based single-board Bluetooth Smart Arduino solution called ‘Blend’ that supports over-the-air updates on-the-fly from Bluetooth Smart Ready smartphones and tablets (via a Bootloader that will be available at the end of June).

By eliminating the need for an extra, separate shielding board, RedBear says the Blend is both smaller and up to half the cost of previous two-board Arduino Bluetooth Smart solutions, while also being simpler and easier to use because it requires no additional wiring or soldering, or indeed potential troubleshooting if the shielding board doesn’t function as desired.

Blend boards are ArduinoAtHeart-certified and come in two form factors: the miniaturized ‘Blend Micro’ (43.4mm x 18.5mm x 4.5mm) and larger more functional ‘Blend’ (77.2mm x 58.4mm x 20mm). Both are designed to allow electronics makers (such as amateur hobbyists hobbyists and students) and professional developers (such as R&D engineers and product designers) to develop Bluetooth Smart products using the simplicity and flexibility of the Arduino open source platform.

The Blend and Blend Micro also natively support (with no extra wiring) all Nordic Semiconductor nRF8001 compatible reference designs (downloadable from the Nordic website and including the Smart Remote, and Smartphone Demo App) development tools and software development kits (including the nRFgo Starter Kit, nRF8001 Development Kit, nRF8001 Software Development Kit (SDK), and nRFgo Studio).

The nRF8001 SDK contains many different application examples including Human Interface Device (HID); UART over Bluetooth low energy; Heart Rate Monitor (HRM); Temperature; and Proximity.

Since Arduino’s inception in 2005, it has become an extremely popular, cost-effective platform for prototype development allowing users to get ideas up and running quickly. The technology, sometimes known as ‘Linux for embedded microcontrollers’, is a range of hardware and software tools enabling engineers and non-engineers alike to develop engineering solutions to a wide range of everyday needs without having to get involved with low level embedded (e.g. C) programming, says the company.

“The Arduino platform doesn’t have any wireless capabilities built-in,” says Chi-Hung Ma, CEO of RedBear. “So makers and developers have previously had to purchase an additional BLE [Bluetooth low energy] shield board if they want to add Bluetooth Smart functionality to their products. This means paying for the cost and extra size of two boards plus the added complexity of extra wiring, soldering, and potential troubleshooting. Our single board Bluetooth Smart solution is therefore a significant step forward for makers and developers, as well as the educational market.”

Geir Langeland, Nordic Semiconductor’s director of sales and marketing, added: “The popularity and ever-increasing sophistication of tablets and smartphones is driving their adoption in place of traditional desktop PCs and laptops among many consumers,” comments. “And with the advent of Bluetooth Smart Ready wireless technology in the majority of new devices and so the ability to support over-the-air updates on-the-fly, this trend could well start to extend into the electronics design community as well.”

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