Low-cost development kit platform

Paul Boughton

Ultra low power (ULP) RF specialist Nordic Semiconductor ASA has launched the nRF51DK, a low-cost development kit platform for fast, easy, and flexible development of Bluetooth Smart (formerly known as Bluetooth low energy), ANT/ANT+, and 2.4GHz proprietary applications. Nordic has also announced the launch of the nRF51 Dongle, a highly versatile USB dongle to aid test, analysis, and development of Bluetooth Smart, ANT, and 2.4GHz applications.

The nRF51 DK is based on Nordic's nRF51 Series System-on-Chip (SoC), a highly-integrated transceiver that combines a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio, 32-bit ARM Cortex M0 processor, 128kB or 256kB flash memory, and 16kB or 32kB RAM. The SoCs can support a wide range of peripherals and are available in quad flat no-lead (QFN) and wafer level chip scale package (WLCSP) options. 

The SoCs can support a range of SoftDevices (Nordic's SoftDevices are self-contained stacks that incorporate RF protocols and associated management frameworks) for Bluetooth Smart, ANT, 2.4GHz proprietary, and even combinations of these protocols on a single device.

The nRF51 DK is compatible with the Arduino Uno connector standard enabling use with a broad range of third-party Arduino shield expansion boards. The nRF51 DK allows access to all device peripherals, interfaces, and I/Os. In addition, the nRF51 DK features four user-programmable buttons and LEDS plus voltage and current pins to measure device power consumption.

The nRF51 Dongle is a compact USB-connectable dongle that can be used for standard software development on the nRF51 Series SoCs. It features a user-programmable button and an RGB LED and is especially useful when used in conjunction with Nordic's nRF Sniffer and Master Control Panel (MCP) firmware and software. nRF Sniffer is a utility available as a download from Nordic and when used in conjunction with the nRF51 DK can capture Bluetooth Smart packets over the air. The information can then be viewed and analyzed using Wireshark, a free, open-source protocol analysis tool. The DK, dongle, and these two utilities (available as downloads from Nordic) provide developers with very powerful tools to test, monitor, and analyse the Bluetooth Smart communication of the application they are developing.

nRF51 DK and nRF51 Dongle are supported by standard tool-chain options including Keil, IAR, and Gnu Compiler Collection (GCC). nRF51 DK can also be used when developing ARM mbed applications. (ARM mbed is an innovative and easy-to-use platform for open-source developer collaboration when using ARM Cortex-M series microcontrollers. It provides a complete tool-chain for development that includes browser-based integrated development environment (IDE) and compiler in the Cloud, as well as other features including drag-and-drop device programming.)

When using the standard tool-chain, the nRF51 DK and nRF51 Dongle use Segger J-Link OB for program and debug options. The nRF51 DK additionally supports CMSIS-DAP program and debug when developing using the ARM mbed tool-chain.

The nRF51 DK measures just 63 x 101mm and features a coin-cell battery holder allowing field testing in target product application scenarios. The DK can also be used as a programmer for other target boards that use the nRF51 Series SoC. The nRF51 Dongle is a highly compact design at only 16 x 28 mm.


Nordic Semiconductor - nRF51 DK