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Technical

Introducing Flea, Mindtribe’s Fast and Familiar Bluetooth Smart Path

The Internet of Things is upon us. CES projectile vomited connected devices like a five year old on a road trip through the mountains.

From a consumer’s point of view it means that your plants get the right amount of water and your belt tells you that you’re fat. From our point of view at Mindtribe it means we’re quickly becoming pros at Bluetooth Smart, formerly Bluetooth Low Energy.

We’re in the business of quickly building high quality products, so anything we can do ahead of time to be prepared for product requirements will get us closer to the first works-like prototype, the first fully integrated prototype, and ultimately production.

So we’ve been doing some homework in the field of Bluetooth Smart, talking to vendors about the latest chipsets and finding evaluation modules to prototype and test with.

One of our favorite development kits is the LightBlue Bean by Punch Through. It’s been great for quickly developing iOS apps that interface with hardware. Where it falls short for us is its scalability. Punch Through offers an FCC certified LightBlue module, but it’s physically too big for many applications and too expensive for production. The best solution for us is to have hardware we can prototype on but that we also know how to walk through certification and into production.

Flea is Mindtribe’s custom hardware based on the popular Nordic Semiconductor nRF51822 Bluetooth Smart SoC. I designed it to be relatively small to fit into works-like prototypes but friendly to add peripherals to. It’s got its own CR2032 coin cell for power and a pushbutton and two LEDs for onboard debugging peripherals. Another great feature is the minimal Tag-connect programming pads for maximum space saving. And version two (coming soon) features an even smaller board area footprint.

We’ve already done a boatload of prototyping with it and it’s awesome. It gives us early insights to technical tradeoffs like space and power requirements for the prospective product, plus it helps navigate questions that our clients and design partners might have about interactions and concepts for connected devices. We can quickly develop mobile apps to communicate with Flea. It gives us a clearer path for production.

It means getting your connected product to market, faster.