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Zonar app increases bus rider safety with real-time data ••• Chicagoland car wash issues seven millionth FastPass tag from DRB Systems ••• Checkpoint Systems offers RF label protection for eyewear, other hard-to-tag merchandise ••• iDTRONIC intros new RFID-enabled door locks ••• Elatec expands development board for RFID modules ••• Smartrac launches RFID-enabled cable ties ••• BLE chip from STMicroelectronics accelerates spread of connected smart things.
By Rich Handley

BLE Chip from STMicroelectronics Accelerates Spread of Connected Smart Things

STMicroelectronics has announced a new Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) system-on-chip (SoC). According to the company, the new SoC can help to accelerate the spread of connected smart objects throughout homes, shopping areas, industry, toys and gaming, personal health care and infrastructure.

Built into all new mobile phones, tablets and computers, BLE wireless technology enables consumers to interact with any BLE-enabled object from their own devices. Similarly, service providers can connect assets to the cloud for service delivery and data collection.

ST's BlueNRG-2 chip offers a power-efficient programmable processor and low-power features, including an ultra-frugal standby mode. The high RF signal strength saves system power by ensuring reliable wireless communication, while on-chip memory for BLE software and application code simplifies system design by saving external memory components. BlueNRG-2 is Bluetooth 5.0-certified, providing interoperability with the latest generation of smartphones.

"The BlueNRG-2 ushers in an era of connected smart things all around us, enabling secure, reliable and energy-efficient interaction with any object, like a toothbrush or lighting switch, from our mobile devices," said ST's Benedetto Vigna in a prepared statement. "Moreover, the objects can benefit from simple construction, fully sealed if necessary, and yet fully interoperable through natural voice control or the feature-rich and stylish user interface of an Android or iOS smart application."

A software development kit (SDK) is available, featuring the BlueNRG Navigator Graphical User Interface (GUI), which helps designers and innovators to create connected devices with the BlueNRG-2 chip. BlueNRG-2 is available now in a 32-pin QFN. Further options will be introduced later in the year, offering more GPIO in a 48-pin QFN. Pricing for the BlueNRG-232 (QFN package) is $1.95 apiece for orders of 1,000 pieces. The SDK can be downloaded for free at ST's website.

ST has chosen ARM's Cortex-M0 core to provide 32-bit processing performance for BlueNRG-2. Other integrated features include cryptographic processing, power management, clock management and up to 256 kilobytes of Flash memory, providing extra flexibility to handle code and data storage. Multiple power-saving modes, including standby mode drawing 0.5µA, help to meet functional requirements with a minimal power budget.

An integrated BLE radio with +8dBm RF output power maximizes communication range and saves overall energy consumption by avoiding data errors and retries. The device is specified for operation up to 105 degrees Celsius, allowing use in a wide range of scenarios, including automotive environments.

ST has developed a dedicated ultra-miniature balun (BALF-NRG-02D3) for its BlueNRG devices. Integrating a matching network and harmonics filter, the enhanced balun simplifies RF complexity and provides optimized link budget with a footprint of less than 1.2 square millimeters. Designed on a non-conductive glass substrate, it offers low dispersion over temperature.

The BlueNRG Navigator GUI simplifies and streamlines device configuration, setup and testing, enabling makers or developers to quickly get started and implement new ideas for smart devices without requiring any specific RF or BLE skills. An intuitive graphical interface enables users to become productive in just a few hours. Application examples, code snippets and tool support allow coding to begin quickly using the BlueNRG-2 Evaluation Kit.

The BlueNRG-2 Evaluation Kit (STEVAL-IDB008V1) contains MEMS sensors, LEDs, push-buttons and programming interfacing to run the provided demonstration software out-of-the-box. An Arduino-compatible connector is featured on-board, allowing the development of more complex applications by adding extra expansion boards.

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