Maker Board Spotlight: Arduino Nano 33 BLE

There are many Arduino boards coming to the market under the hood of the existing Nano lineup. The Arduino Nano has been around for a while being one of the most popular Arduino boards ever. Today, we will be discussing the Arduino Nano 33 BLE which was launched alongside the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense. The Nano 33 Ble Sense has added AI capabilities and a couple of onboard sensors, which are missing in the Arduino Nano 33 BLE board. After 2 years of launch, the board seems to fulfill the expectations of the online user community. 

The hardware design comes with the integrated nRF52840 microcontroller with ARM Cortex-M4 32-bit processor supporting a floating-point unit. The MCU offers extended capabilities for wearable devices and remote IoT applications, however, the board only supports Bluetooth for short-distance communication. Moreover, the board features only a 9-axis IMU sensor that consists of accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers. Before deciding if it's the right module for you, let's discuss some other important parameters.


What is Arduino Nano 33 BLE?

Arduino Nano 33 BLE comes in the size of the original Arduino Nano measuring only 48x18 mm in size. Compatible with the original Arduino Nano, the Nano 33 BLE comes with the U-blox NANI B306 module which is clearly visible on the hardware design. According to the power tree published by the manufacturer, the wireless connectivity module has a maximum current rating of 15mA. 

The main processor offers some really exciting features like Bluetooth pairing via NFC and ultra-low power consumption modes. This basically means that once both the devices have Bluetooth and NFC on, the connection can be done with a simple tap. With the 9-axis IMU sensor, it can become a better choice for advanced robotics and remote IoT applications. Interesting fact: The code developed for the original Nano hardware can also work on Nano 33 BLE. However, the code must be 3.3V compatible. 

Arduino Nano 33 BLE Specifications

Let's take a look at the specifications of Arduino Nano 33 BLE:

  1. SoC: nRF52840 microcontroller featuring ARM Cortex-M4 32-bit processor with FPU running at a clock speed of 64 MHz
  2. Memory: 256 KB RAM
  3. Storage: 1 MB Flash
  4. GPIOs: 14
  5. Onboard sensors: 9 axis accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer sensor
  6. Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth Low Energy
  7. Wireless module: U-blox NINA B306 module
  8. Interfaces: QSPI/SPI/TWI/I²S/PDM/QDEC
  9. USB ports: Native in the nRF52840 Processor
  10. Power supply: 3.3V operating voltage via USB or headers 
  11. Dimensions: 45x18 mm
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Arduino Nano 33 BLE Projects

Before deciding if this is the right board for you, lets take a look at some of the projects developed so far by the maker community:

1. Nano 33 BLE Propeller Car

Since the hardware comes with the relevant onboard sensors which include an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer sensor, the Nano 33 BLE becomes a favorite option for many robotic projects. This is one of the easiest projects on the web that uses the Arduino Nano 33 BLE. To start with, the project involves LEGO pieces, DC motor, and the Nano 33 BLE hardware. The car is powered by the LiPo battery which makes the wireless car easy to use along with the Bluetooth wireless connectivity. Some of the other parts included in the project were 3D-printed, which can be easily replicated using the .stl files included with the project.

[Image Credit: Arduino Project Hub]

For the power supply, the project also includes an additional add-on board that acts as a LiPo adapter enabling 3.7V LiPo battery connectivity and charging function. The complete code and schematic are open source for the community to play around with. This can be an interesting and fun project to get started with the board. You can also add more features to the propeller car by modifying the code available. 

2. Sound Spectrum Visualizer 

Once you are comfortable with the board, you can proceed towards building some sophisticated and complex projects like this one. The project visualizes sound frequencies spectrum with an OLED 128x32 display, Arduino Nano 33 BLE board, and an electret microphone amplifier (MAX9814). More details on the maximum sampling rate calculation and the consequence of the Nyquist theorem can be found on the project page.

But the output that can be seen on the mini-OLED display, the user interface is divided into eleven frequency zones. Each bar on the output display corresponds to the maximum value in the band with spaced lines and the mean value in the band with a filled rectangle. The audio samples are converted into a frequency spectrum using a fast Fourier transform or FFT. Then the spectrum is divided and grouped into 14 zones and only 11 zones are represented in dB. The complete project is open source on Arduino Project Hub where you can find more details. 

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Final thoughts on Arduino Nano 33 BLE

The Arduino Nano 33 BLE is great for prototyping or building simple projects. It can run off of a battery, which makes it really convenient to take with you on the go. With all these features offered at just $22, the Nano 33 BLE is an interesting board to consider. The price point seems decent for an upgraded processor and onboard sensors. However, if you are willing to spend a little more on many more AI capabilities, you might want to consider purchasing the Arduino Nano 33 BLE Sense

Due to its pin-to-pin compatibility with the original Nano board, you can now transfer all your existing projects to the new hardware with much lesser power consumption and without any code modification. Also, with the improved capabilities through BLE, the short-distance wireless communication aids to several remote-controlled Robots for Industry 4.0 applications.

Your turn: What's your experience/opinion on working with this device? Are there any other tutorials that could be helpful to first-time programmers that are interested in this product? Let us know in the comments below!

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