Blog  /  BLE Modules: A Guide on BLE Chips and Modules

BLE Modules: A Guide on BLE Chips and Modules

Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) technology is among the most recent developments in smart devices. BLE is also useful in a variety of applications for complex IoT applications. Our article will exhaustively explain the BLE modules and the application of its modules as a development kit. 

 

What is Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE), and Why is It So Popular?

 

A Bluetooth Icon 

A Bluetooth Icon 

 

It is a wireless network that uses low power and is effective in the 2.4 GHz ISM band. Also, It is essential to enable the connection of devices within a relatively small radius. 

Furthermore, you can add the Bluetooth BLE module to a new device using a module or a System-on-Chip (SoC) approach. It is best to settle for a device with a built-in antenna for this exercise. 

 

Mesh Networking with BLE

 

 

A guy listening to music using Bluetooth Wireless Earbuds

A guy listening to music using Bluetooth Wireless Earbuds

 

In most cases, BLE lacks the mesh networking feature, unlike similar wireless protocols like ZigBee. Nonetheless, there are still exceptional BLE solutions with this feature. 

Typically, BLE will allow two active devices in a 10-meter operating range. However, the mesh networking property improves that functionality by enabling control of unlimited devices from one device. 

Furthermore, Bluetooth mesh networking is imperative for expanding the network coverage area. Thus, devices do not necessarily require a direct connection to communicate in mesh networking. Rather, the system avails a decentralized network enabling a more expansive reach. 

The key hack to this feature is that any device in mesh networking is capable of relaying a message. Thus, instead of the conventional direct communication in the typical system, mesh networking avails the option of involving intermediary devices. 

The main upside of this provision is that it increases the coverage range. Further, Bluetooth mesh is handy in lowering current consumption while enabling simultaneous control of numerous devices.  

 

Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Solutions

 

Wireless black headphones

Wireless black headphones

 

Chip Solution

 

  1. Nordic nRF51822 / nRF52832

Nordic ranks among the top manufacturers of Bluetooth SoC solutions with popular chips such as nRF52832 and nRF51822. The two primarily differ regarding the core microcontroller. nRF51822 is synonymous with a 16MHz, 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0 microcontroller. 

Conversely, the nRF52832  features a faster microcontroller with a floating-point unit (FPU). These key features make the nRF52832  arguably the fastest chip, with the only exception being the Espressif ESP32. However, in power management, the nRF52832 consumes 16 times less than the ESP32.

Additionally, nRF52832 is Bluetooth 5.0 compatible and more efficient in power management than nRF51822. Besides, it has a larger memory than the nRF51822. Nonetheless, nRF51822 is relatively cheaper. 

 

  1. Cypress PSoC 4 BLE

 

A young woman with Bluetooth Earpods

A young woman with Bluetooth Earpods

 

The chip operates on a 48 MHz  ARM Cortex-M0 microcontroller. Among its key features include the following: 

  • The electronic product has a 256 KB flash memory and 32KB RAM
  • Secondly, it is a high power consumption chip 
  • Besides, the chip amalgamates all the standard microcontrollers features such as timers, I2C, UART, and SPI. 
  • Further, it offers 36 programmable GPIO pins. 
  • Lastly, it has four operational amplifiers as an advanced feature to enable analog functions.  

 

  1. TI CC2650

 

In addition to enabling BLE functionality, this chip also operates with other wireless protocols like 6LoWPAN and ZigBee. Also, while most chips run on the Cortex-M0 architecture, this one operates on a  Cortex-M3. And this makes it faster than typically the other Bluetooth modules. 

 

  1. DA1458x

 

It is similar to nRF51822 in terms of the microcontroller type and speed. There are two types of DA1458x based on memory type. First is the pricier DA14583, which features 128KB flash memory. Also, there is the cheaper DA14580 with a 32 KB OTP memory. 

The DA14583 is the best for development purposes primarily because of the rewritable flash memory. But for production, you can settle for the DA14580 due to the One-Time-Programmable memory feature. 

Lastly, the Dialog BLE chips are relatively more efficient than the aforementioned Nordic chip Bluetooth modules in power consumption. However, the ultra-low-power consumption Atmel chip is arguably the best power efficiency. 

 

  1. CSR101x

 

The chip is lowly priced and runs on a 16MHz frequency. Also, it has a flash drive memory of 128KB and a RAM of 64 KB. It ranks among the high power consuming chips which disadvantages it over the rest. However, it was the first Bluetooth module with mesh networking, thus its popularity despite its power inefficiencies. 

Thus, it is still handy where mesh networking is necessary. 

 

  1. Atmel BTLC1000

 

Wireless Bluetooth devices

Wireless Bluetooth devices

 

It is arguably the most power-efficient Bluetooth module chip on this list. It will use approximately 3.0mA in transmission and 4.0 mA in receiving a signal. Also, like the others, it operates on an ARM Cortex-M0 microcontroller at a speed of 26 MHz. 

However, unlike most on this list, it lacks a flash memory incorporation feature. Hence, you require a separate memory to incorporate it with an SPI interface. 

 

  1. ESP32

 

In addition to being a Bluetooth module chip, it also incorporates other features like WiFi radios and a classic Bluetooth property. In addition, it has a relatively fast microcontroller, and despite having more additional features than most chips, it is still lowly priced. 

Other remarkable features of the chip include: 

  • It operates on a dual-core Tensilica LX6 microcontroller, faster than the microcontrollers above. 
  • Also, you can modify the clock frequency from  80 MHz to 240 MHz, making it possible to control power consumption. 
  • Thirdly, it has a 16MB flash memory and a RAM of 520KB. 
  • In addition to the conventional ports such as the UART, SPI, and I2C, it also features others. An example is the serial audio port. Overall, it consumes relatively higher power than the other chips discussed. 

 

Module  Solutions

 

Bluetooth headphones icon

Bluetooth headphones icon

 

  • Rigado BMD-200/300/350

 

It is a BLE module that relies on the Nordic chip. Primarily there are three main Rigado modules that include Rigado BMD-200, Rigado BMD-300 and Rigado BMD-350. 

 

  • EZ-BLE module

 

It is a low-cost module by Cypress. There are ultra-small size modules that measure 11 mm x 11 mm x 1.8mm. 

 

  • CC2650MODA

 

Texas's BLE SoC solution module measures 16.9mm by 1mm. It is also relatively cheap, costing approximately $6.09. 

 

  • Panasonic PAN1740

 

Although Dialog does not produce Bluetooth Modules, the brand's BLE chips are useful in manufacturing Panasonic PAN1740. It is relatively pricey than others in the market, given that it goes for approximately  $9.57. Nonetheless, it is small in size. 

 

  • Microchip RN4020

 

The RN4020 is a module by Microchip Semiconductor which runs on the Qualcomm CSR101x SoC. It is relatively cheap. 

 

  • Atmel ATBTLC1000

 

This module relies on the BTLC1000 BLE SoC chip measuring 12.7mm by 20 mm. It retails at $9.75, making it quite pricey compared to the rest. 

 

  • ESP-WROOM-32

 

It's a module that operates on the  ESP32 SoC chip, and it is relatively cheap despite having quite superior features. It measures 25.5 by18 mm, and its performance is also top-notch. However, like its BLE chip, this module consumes relatively higher power than the others. 

 

How to Choose a BLE Module?

 

Bluetooth wireless headphones

Bluetooth wireless headphones

 

You should make the following considerations when choosing a Bluetooth module. 

  1. Transmission rate

First, you need to have a clearly defined purpose for the module. It will assist you in choosing the right transmission rate. 

  1. The module’s transmission distance

The best modules are those that can transmit over a long distance. Again, you should make the distance consideration regarding the application of the module. 

  1. Power consumption 

This factor is reliant on the transmission distance and rate. Often, Bluetooth devices derive power from batteries. Hence, checking 5the power consumption of the device under different states will be handy in knowing its endurance. 

  1. Bluetooth smart module chip

The computing capacity of the module is reliant on the type of chip. Thus, you need to settle for a module that features a powerful core. 

  1. Working mode

You also need to choose a working model that is effective for your intended use. Among the available modules include master, slave, and master-slave coexistence. 

  1. The module interface

It's an optional feature that is yet quite important. Check out for the presence of ports such as the analog I / O port, serial audio port, and USB. 

 

Summary

 

Bluetooth Smart is one of the most important modern technologies. To understand a module, you need to know the features of the underlying chip. We've elucidated both elements at length above. If you want further clarification on this topic, reach out to us