54 November 2016
THE DESIGN CYCLE n BY FRED EADY
This installment of Design Cycle will feature the new
Nordic Semiconductor SoC. The Nordic SoC includes
all of the analog features found in many of today’s
microcontrollers, plus a full functional BLE (Bluetooth Low
Required Development Tools
The newest Nordic BLE device is the nRF52832. You
can use the nRF52832 just like any other microcontroller as
its core is an ARM Cortex-M4F. The nRF52832 is equipped
with 512 kB of Flash program memory and 64 kB of RAM.
For BLE work, the nRF52832 calls upon the services of a
A SoftDevice is a precompiled block of code that
contains a full BLE stack, which can be accessed using a set
of API calls. The architecture of the nRF52832 is such that
the SoftDevice resides in a protected Flash memory area.
The remaining Flash can be used for the application code.
The nRF52832 is designed to be loaded with SoftDevice
132, which is available free of charge from Nordic
To load a SoftDevice, you will need nRFgo Studio. The
nRFgo GUI is captured in Screenshot 1. As you can see,
the nRFgo Studio allows you to load a SoftDevice as well
as an application and bootloader. In our case, SoftDevice
132 is loaded and our user Flash area begins at location
nRFgo Studio relies on a hardware device to program
the nRF52832 device. I prefer to use the “real thing”
which is a Segger J-Link Pro. My J-Link is shown in Photo
1. The J-Link Pro is top-of-the-line. You can also employ the
services of lesser equipped J-Link devices.
The beauty of using a J-Link programming/debugging
device is that the Keil MDK-Cortex-M C compiler integrates
seamlessly with the J-Link device and its drivers. You will
need the Keil Cortex-M MDK to compile and debug your
nRF52832 application code.
Once you have coded your nRF52832 BLE application,
you will need some way of pulling the radio information
in for verification. Monitoring your nRF52832 radio
transmissions requires the Nordic Master Control Panel,
which is also as close as a download from the Nordic
website. The Master Control Panel is fed by hardware.
You can use the Nordic NRF51 Dongle to feed the Master
Control Panel. The NRF51 Dongle also runs the Nordic
Sniffer application which allows you to use Wireshark to
gather information on the BLE transmissions. The NRF51
he number of microcontrollers being repackaged as SoC
(system-on-a-chip) packages is becoming common place. You
can get on the Wi-Fi wagon with an ESP8266 module, which can
either be hosted by an external microcontroller or programmed
natively using free compilation tools. Many of the new eight-bit
Super PICs are being loaded with operational amplifiers, digital-to-analog converters (DACs), and a plethora of analog subsystems.
The PSoC folks have been pushing the system-on-a–chip for quite
Nordic’s New nRF52832 Gets
You On Track with BLE Apps