With wide spread proliferation of low cost wireless technologies such as WiFi, BLE etc and smart phones, there is a need to provide such connectivity to systems across application domains. For example, nowadays wellness industry expects the products such as thread mills to communicate with user phones and provide details of the calories spent so far along with the running pattern.  While it might be possible to incorporate the wireless features in newer designs, there are many cases in which the existing systems need to provide these new features with minimal design changes due to reasons such as re-engineering complexity, costs etc.  This calls for Bluetooth to Serial Adapter that can be interfaced to existing systems over UART and enabling wireless connectivity easily with minimal changes.

In this blog, we will discuss in detail about such an application where by Embien’s eStorm-B1 platform is used as a Bluetooth UART module and performing BLE communication to an Android mobile app.

eStorm-B1 Bluetooth UART Module

Embien recently launched “eStorm-B1”, an automotive ready BLE module as a part of its eStorm offerings. The module supports many peripherals and interfaces such that it can be used as a standalone system or can embed in an existing system to enable BLE communication.

Of the available interfaces such as CAN, SPI, I2C etc, this particular demo uses UART as the choice of communication. For such application, eStorm-B1 will act as a slave module which can receive commands from the host processor via UART and do actions accordingly.

The following block diagram depicts the setup of eStorm-B1 as a UART to BLE bridge,

 Bluetooth to Serial adapter

eStorm-B1 – UART to BLE Bridge Setup

The host processor and the module are connected via TTL UART interface. Interrupt signal from eStorm-B1 can be routed to a digital input of the host processor with interrupt detect functionality such that the host processor is made aware of the connection event occurred between the devices. eStorm-B1 can operate in sleep mode where it consumes ultra low power and the module can be switched between active and sleep mode suitably when data transfer is required.

Bluetooth UART module communication

Based on a simple command set, the host processor can speak to the eStorm-B1 module and in turn communicate with another BLE device such as a smart phone, tablet or an IoT gateway.

The following picture illustrates the serial command sequence between the eStorm-B1 BLE module and host processor via UART,

UART to BLE command sequence

Serial Command Sequence

The following video shows the real time demo of eStorm-B1 UART to BLE bridge application typically applicable in many IoT device developments for enabling BLE communication on existing system.

To show case the same, instead of a host MCU, a PC is used and connected to the eStorm-B1 over an USB to UART bridge. PC is connected to eStorm-B1 module via UART interface using an external commercially available UART to USB converter. Tera term, a terminal emulator is used to transfer the data’s from Laptop to eStorm-B1 module via UART. On the other end, a custom Android application installed in Smartphone is used to receive and transmit the data via BLE. UART to BLE Bridge is suitable for various device designs such as wearable device in healthcare, key finder, tire pressure monitoring system in automotives, asset tracking in industries, etc.

Apart from the above mentioned features, the eStorm-B1 also supports rich peripheral options such as timers/PWM, ADCs, GPIO’s which adds more advantage for standalone system developments in various domain applications such as automotive, industrial, healthcare etc.

About Embien: Embien Technologies is a leading provider of embedded design services for the Semi-conductor, Industrial, Consumer and Health Care segments. Embien has successfully executed many projects for IoT product developments such as healthcare/wellness wearable’s, data acquisitions systems, Gateways, and Data Analytics platforms etc. Embien also offers a set of wearable design collections complete with electronics, firmware and Cloud that can be used to shorten product development costs and time significantly.

Windows Embedded Compact 7 is a popular OS being used in low power embedded systems. Embien, working from its early iterations from 4.2 to latest 2013, has ported the same on to NXP’s iMx 6UL based development platforms. This blog demonstrates the Windows Embedded Compact 7 on iMx6 UltraLite with the video, show-casing our capability in porting such Operating systems to various processors and architectures.

Windows Embedded Compact 7

Windows Embedded Compact 7 more commonly known as WinCE 7 or WEC7 is the successor to the WinCE 6.0. Released on 2011, it is still one of the most popular versions of the Microsoft offerings for the embedded devices.

Some of the features of the OS include

  • Rich User Interface
  • Silverlight support
  • Support for Symmetric Multi processing (SMP)
  • Rich Media play back support
  • Complete Win95 based shell

In a WEC7, is still more sought after than its successor WEC2013 because of better licensing options and more importantly the availability of the Shell. From WEC2013, Microsoft removed the support for Windows 95 like Shell that forces the developer to offer an equivalent shell which involves a lot of effort. Further WEC 7 can be ported on the non-Thumb2 only devices too.

WinCE on NXP iMx6UL

Embien offers its expertise in Windows CE for porting the RTOS on to various platforms. One of the most popular low cost SoC of recent times from NXP stables is the iMx6UL. This processor has gained a good market share at low power low cost computing. Some of the features include

  • ARM® Cortex®-A7 @ 696 MHz, 128 KB L2 cache
  • Parallel LCD Display up to WXGA (1366×768)
  • 8/10/16/24-bit Parallel Camera Sensor Interface
  • 16-bit LP-DDR2, DDR3/DDR3L
  • 8/16-bit Parallel NOR FLASH / PSRAM
  • Dual-channel Quad-SPI NOR FLASH
  • 8-bit Raw NAND FLASH with 40-bit ECC
  • 2x MMC 4.5/SD 3.0/SDIO Port
  • 2x USB 2.0 OTG, HS/FS, Device or Host with PHY
  • Audio Interfaces include 3x I2S/SAI, S/PDIF Tx/Rx
  • 2x 10/100 Ethernet with IEEE 1588
  • 2x 12-bit ADC, up to 10 input channel total, with resistive touch controller (4-wire/5-wire)
  • Advanced Power Management
  • Partial PMU Integration

Many vendors offers different development boards for the same. Some of the popular platforms are

  • NXP – iMX 6 UltraLite EVK
  • Variscite – DART-6UL
  • Compu lab – SOM-iMX6UL
  • TechNexion’s PICO-IMX6 COM
  • iWave Systems – iW-RainboW-G18M-SM
  • Embedded Artists – iMX6 UltraLite COM Board

Embien has ported Windows Embedded Compact 7 (WEC7) on to the NXP iMx6UL supporting all the major peripherals. Below is a video demonstration of the port running on the Variscite DART-6UL platform.

 

A video of WEC7 running on NXP iMx6UL Platform.

About Embien: Embien Technologies is a leading service provider in the Embedded software domain. Our team has rich experience in working with various OS like Linux, Android, Windows CE, FreeRTOS, uC-OS, QNX etc. We have created various applications on top the WinCE systems such as HMI, Medical instrumentation displays, Smart Home control system etc. We have also enabled running legacy Windows Applications on top of latest hardware and software including emulation over Linux using technologies such as Mono, OpenNETCF etc.