We’re happy to announce we’ve completed the design of our newest NFC reader, one we call FloBLE. It has the scanning and low power abilities of the FloJack but uses BLE instead of the audio jack to talk to the host device. We’ve been working on FloBLE for months but we agreed to wait until we had something to show you before revealing much about it. Granted, we like keeping our customers and friends updated along the way but it was important to us to have a working example before publishing anything official. Not to worry, we documented a lot of the effort and put together a video to catch you up on everything:
Badanamu to the Rescue
The FloBLE connects to any Bluetooth 4.0-enabled host and was funded by Badanamu, a learning environment for children based in South Korea. David, the CEO of Badanamu, asked us to develop a safe, easy to use reader for his customers. Our exclusive partnership with Badanamu aims to introduce the magic of NFC and BLE to children and their toys. FloBLE would not have been possible without the support from Badanamu as we’d exhausted our resources in building and supporting the FloJack.
The FloBLE development began in the middle of October 2013 with a CC2541 Development Kit and a hacked FloJack, this was our Proof of Concept (PoC). We wrote a UART driver and tweaked a SimplePeripheral BLE Profile and, along with this Proof of Concept, we were able to send scan notifications to the iPhone. Once this was done we were ready to begin our PCB prototyping. The PoC was sent out to Badanamu for review on December 24, 2013.
Getting it Right
Integrating the antenna into the PCB is a great improvement over the FloJack design and will simplify FloBLE manufacturing, increasing our production yield. The FloJack yield was barely above 80% because of it’s manual assembly aspects. With the FloBLE design we expect close to a 98% yield like other pure surface mount technology (SMT) based products.
The firmware design of the FloBLE has started to take form. The task of porting over 13,739 lines of code from the FloJack’s MSP430 to the FloBLE’s CC2540 is proving arduous but the low level drivers have been proven out. We’ve got the SPI interface to the TRF7970A up and running. The timers, Interrupt Service Routines (ISRs) and LED drivers are all functional as well. We’re able to do full handshakes with ISO14443A tags and successfully retrieve their UUIDs and data payloads.
We’ve also done a fair share of BLE Profile development and we have a working serial profile prepared to advertise scans once they are captured by the FloBLE. It also allows the host app to confirm when read operations have completed so further NFC tags can be read. We’re able to refresh the device for new scans roughly 10 times a second thanks to the frequency of the BLE connection events. This is much better than the typical refresh rate of Android NFC-enabled phones’ at 2 times a second.
FloJackers Get First Dibs
We are currently working with factories abroad in an effort to get the FloBLE ready for production and have all the suppliers selected. In parallel we’re wrapping up rest of the firmware and SDK in the weeks ahead. We hope to have units ready for shipment out to our backers by May, 2014.
We will offer priority to our original FloJack community. Well deserved. Unfortunately, we didn’t plan the fulfillment side of things very well so sorting through those entitled to a FloBLE has become a labor intensive process. If you’re interested in a FloBLE create a post in the Forums reflecting your FloJack order number and interest to swap it for a FloBLE. We will search there before fulfilling orders.
The sleepless nights, the sweat, the pain was all worth it and will continue to be worth it. Flomio’s goal is to remain at the bleeding edge of NFC development and make it accessible to every device that wants it. We started with the FloJack and have now taken it one step further with FloBLE. Stay tuned for more.
-Richard and the Flomies