Fingernail-sized BLYST840 nRF52840 Module Features Bluetooth 5.2, Thread, Zigbee and 46 I/O (Crowdfunding)


Canada based I-SYST inc has designed a tiny nRF52840 module about the size of a fingernail. BLYST840 module fully leverages the capability of Nordic Semi’s wireless microcontroller with Bluetooth 5.2, Thread, and Zigbee connectivity, and exposes 46 I/Os.

BLYST840 specifications:

  • Wireless MCU – Nordic Semiconductor nRF52840 Arm Cortex-M4F microcontroller @ 64 MHz with 1 MB flash, 256 KB RAM
  • Connectivity
    • Bluetooth 5.2 up to 2 Mbps, -96 dBm sensitivity for long-range; Up to 111 dB link budget; Bluetooth Mesh
    • IEEE 802.15.4 radio support for Thread & Zigbee
    • NFC-A
    • Built-in ceramic antenna
    • Output power – Adjustable from +8 dBm to -20 dBm
  • 46 I/O pins exposed via pads around the edges of the module including
    • QSPI/SPI/2-wire/I2S/PDM/QDEC
    • Programmable Peripheral Interface (PPI)
    • SPI interface @ 32 MHz
    • Quad SPI interface @ 32 MHz
    • EasyDMA for all digital interfaces
    • USB 2.0 (12 Mbits)
    • 12-bit/200K SPS ADC
  • Security
    • Arm TrustZone Cryptocell 310
    • 128-bit AES/ECB/CCM/AAR co-processor
  • Misc – Built-in 32 MHz & 32.768 MHz crystal
  • Supply Voltage – 1.7 V to 5.5 V via battery or USB power.
  • Dimensions – 14 x 9 x 1.6mm
  • Certifications – FCC, IC & CE

The module is programmable with MicroPython, IOsonata open-source multi-architecture multi-platform library for IoT project, as well as Nordic SDKs. You’ll find some documentation and firmware file on SourceForge.

nRF5840 Modules Comparison
nRF52840 modules comparison table provided by I-SYST

BLYST840 is not the smallest module you’ll find as InsightSIP ISP1807 offers most of the same features in an 8x8mm packages, but will be more difficult to solder (LGA pads) and does not come with open-source software support out of the box. *They also included a price comparison in the table, but they haven’t been quite fair to themselves as BLYST840 includes shipping to the US, while the price for all other modules does not include shipping.

nRF52840 USB Dongles
UDG-NRF52840 (Left) and UDG-NRF52840C (Right)

Getting started with such a small module is not that convenient, so the company will also offer evaluation & development platforms including two USB dongles with either a USB Type-A or Type-C male connector with reset and user buttons, user LED, 7 to 10 GPIOs, and a Tag-Connect programming port to use with IDAP-Link.

The USB dongles are preloaded with a USB bootloader and can be used with Nordic nRFConnect Desktop software to act as sniffer testing tools for Bluetooth firmware development and/or as Bluetooth Mesh nodes.

BLYST840 Breakout BoardAnother option is IBK-NRF52840 breakout board with easier access to all I/Os via unpopulated 2.54mm pitch headers, two user buttons, three USB LEDs, and a Micro USB port for power and programming. There’s also an SWD/JTAG port for programming, battery power is supported (1.8 to 3.6V), and just like for the USB dongle, the module is preloaded with a USB bootloader firmware.

IDAP-LinkWhether you use the dongle or breakout board, the IDAP-Link – a low-cost CMSIS-DAP JTAG debug probe – is required for source code debugging.

BLYST840 succeeds the company’s earlier nRF52832 based BLYST Nano module, with an even smaller form factor (10×7) but limited to 30 I/Os and without support for Bluetooth 5 long range. That means it’s not their first nRF52 project, and there should be less risk if you decided to pledge for the module or kits on Crowd Supply. The module goes for $22, fully assembled USB dongle and breakout board for respectively $35 and $40, and the debugger for $55. The BLYST840 Exploration Kit will include all those in various quantities for $125, and purchasing bundles for multiple modules will lower the unit price to as low as $15.6. Shipping is free to the US, and varies from $8 to $15 to the rest of the world depending on the selected reward.

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