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nRF52832: What is and What Does it Do?

Modern microcontrollers and single-board computers have surpassed the processing power and speed of full desktop computers from 30 years ago. You can credit this to System-on-Chip (SoC) packages such as the BCM2835 and nRF52832.

While the former is famous for making the Raspberry Pi 1 possible, the latter has been more flexible in its uses and possibilities. The following guide will examine the nRF52832 SoC and why it is essential.  

What is the nRF52832?

 

The nRF52832 is a relatively popular multi-purpose System-on-package. It was announced on the 12th of December 2016 by Nordic Semiconductors.

At the time of the nR52832’s release, Bluetooth 5 was a fairly new technology capable of achieving longer ranges and faster data transfers than previous standards.

The NRF has the capabilities of Nordic’s nRF52805 and nRF52810. However, it also features Bluetooth Mesh. This feature enables the nRF52832 to create complex Bluetooth networks capable of many-to-many connections and interactions. Additionally, the nRF52832 features near-field communication (NFC) and ANT.

Nevertheless, the nRF52832 also features a 2.4 GHz transceiver and uses Nordic’s proprietary low-power protocol to facilitate its implementation of Bluetooth 5.3. Moreover, it is compatible with the Arduino Uno (Rev3).

The nRF52832 NFC feature allows you to build devices that interact with NFC tags. You can potentially use this feature to build rudimentary security systems.  

nRF52832 Features and Specs

  Close up of chip on Motherboard

Close up of chip on Motherboard

This section will explore the nRF52832 SoC’s specifications and key features.

 

nRF52832 Programming

 

System on Chip connected to PCB

System on Chip connected to PCB

 

Nordic also released a suite of Bluetooth 5-ready software development kits (SDKs) for their nRF52 SoCs. These SDKs were to help customers develop applications for their new hardware.

For instance, the nRF Connect SDK allows you to develop applications for all SoCs in the nRF52 series. You can use it to build Zigbee, Thread, and BLE applications.  

nRF52832 Applications

 

Internet of Things Image

Internet of Things Image

 

What can you use the nRF52832 SoC and boards based on it for? You can use it to construct:

  • Wearables (such as smartwatches)
  • IoT Smart home devices
  • Sensor devices and networks (such as alarm systems)
  • Building automation systems (such as controlling light systems)
  • Medical devices (such as continuous glucose monitor/CGM for diabetes)
  • Toys and gaming
  • Remote controls and receivers
  • Beacons
  • Computer peripherals (mice, keyboards, etc.)
  • Automotive applications (connecting cars to the internet)
  • Logistics and transportation
  • Retail and payment
  • LED lighting
  • Industrial automation
  • Education

 

nRF52832 Pin Configuration

 

Chip vector image illustrating connections

Chip vector image illustrating connections

 

The nRF52832 SoC uses a quad-flat no-leads configuration (QFN) with 48 Pins. This section of the guide will examine each pin. As with any other chip package, the nRF52832 has four sides. Each side has 12 pins. We will divide this section into four sections to make it easier for you to understand the nRF52832’s layout and pin configuration.  

Left Side of The Package:

 

 

Bottom Side of The Package:

 

 

Right Side of The Package: 

 

 

Top Side of The Package:

 

 

The back of the chip package uses a Die pad (VSS). It must connect to the ground (VSS) for the device to operate correctly.

You can find an image of the schematic diagram here. It will help you better understand the pin layout.  

nRF52832 Breakout Boards

 

RedBearLab BLE Nano Kit v2

RedBearLab BLE Nano Kit v2 Source: Flickr

There are a variety of ways you can implement the nRF52832. However, one of the most popular is through a breakout board. For instance, SparkFun’s implementation features the nRF2832 with an Arduino bootloader.

You can connect this breakout board to a breadboard, microcontroller, or PCB and use it to develop smart applications with remote access.  

nRF52832 Smart Watches

 

RedBearLab BLE Nano Kit v2

Smartwatch with computer

 

The nRF52832 is ideal for wearables such as smartwatches because it has a lower demand. One such example is the LEMFO ELF1 Smartwatch. It features a 1.3” full-color display, g-sensor, heart rate, blood oxygen, and blood pressure monitor.

Furthermore, it has Bluetooth, which allows it to connect to the latest Android and iOS devices. However, it does not feature Wi-Fi. This is a limitation of the nRF52832.

It may be better to implement the nRF52832 as a breakout board or microcontroller that can interface with a Wi-Fi module Wi-Fi integrated circuit. It would not be ideal to add a Wi-Fi IC to the watch since it would add to the total power demand. Furthermore, it would make it larger and bulkier. The only other option is to use a different SoC altogether.  

nRF52832 vs nRF52840

 

SparkFun MicroMod nRF52840 Processor

SparkFun MicroMod nRF52840 Processor

 

We can see that both SoCs use the same ARM chip (32-bit M4 Cortex) from studying the above table. However, the nRF52840 has 256KB of RAM, while the nRF2832 has a maximum of 64KB. Furthermore, the nRF52840 has greater flash memory.

Nevertheless, the nRF52832 does come in a smaller package. This is because the nRF52840 has more features. Which SoC you select will depend on your project’s requirements.  

FAQs

 

System on Chip

System on Chip Source: PXHere

What is NRF SoftDevice?

Nordic provides engineers and developers with wireless protocols to accompany nRF5 SoCs (such as the nRF52832). Nordic refers to these wireless protocol stacks as SoftDevice. They function similarly to drivers. Nordic package them as precompiled binary files.

What is nRF52 DK?

nRF52 DK is Nordic’s hardware development kit for nRF52 SoC-based devices. It features an NFC antenna, an onboard SEGGER J-link debugger, and a CR2032 battery holder.

What is PCA10040?

Like the nRF52, the PCA10040 is a single board-development kit provided by Nordic Semiconductor. They designed it for wireless applications explicitly based on the nRF52832.

Conclusion

You can use the nR52832 for innocuous DIY projects for educational purposes or use them for devices to mass produce or sell. While it is an older SoC, it is not obsolete. It features Bluetooth 5.3 and NFC connectivity. Unfortunately, it uses a 32-bit ARM processor. Thus, it cannot cater to 64-bit applications. Nevertheless, it is still a versatile and powerful chip package that you can add to your PCB kit. Furthermore, Nordic provides enough support and resources to help developers create rich and robust home projects.