Welcome to the world of microcontrollers, where the nRF52840 Seeed Studio XIAO is making waves. This powerful, fully programmable device is revolutionizing modern electronic applications, especially in the field of IoT and smart devices. The nRF52840 Seeed Studio XIAO is not just a microcontroller; it's a compact, versatile solution that combines the power of ARM cores with Bluetooth and numerous sensors, all packed into a tiny thumb-sized board. Let's dive into the world of this remarkable device and discover why it's the perfect solution for your next project.
Ian has also been working with the Xiao nRF52840 Sense, and featured it in this week’s Electromaker Show. Check it out here:
Challenges with Bulky Microcontroller Boards for Commercial Products
Microcontrollers are critical in almost all modern electronic applications thanks to their ability to be fully programmable, integrate numerous peripherals, and provide a great deal of flexibility. The introduction of wireless communication into MCUs has also played a massive role in accelerating the use of MCUs in modern applications, especially in the field of IoT and smart devices.
However, many microcontroller boards available for development on are generally very bulky and impractical to use in a commercial product. While the schematic for these boards can be obtained and re-engineered into a design, this is not only complex and time-consuming but prone to error. Not only does the design need to be confirmed, but the choice of components must be done correctly, and then to make things worse, the PCB needs to be laid out which can introduce a whole range of challenges.
Well, for those who want to avoid all of this mess, Seeed Studio has the perfect solution for you. The new XIAO nRF52840 Sense MCU combines the power of ARM cores with Bluetooth and numerous sensors to create a singular development platform that can easily be integrated into designs. With machine learning support, numerous sensors, and a battery management system all integrated onto a tiny thumb-sized board, the XIAO nRF52840 really packs a punch!
What’s included in the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense?
Before we dive into the features integrated into the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF58240, we first need to know what an XIAO board is and why they are awesome. With the many microcontroller options available to engineers, moving between different platforms can introduce challenges with packages and pinouts as many manufacturers will use unique layouts for their own products.
What the XIAO range of products does for the engineer is instead using a standardised board layout with identical pin mappings so that they can easily be swapped. As such, engineers working with one microcontroller may feel that they require more power or improved peripherals, and so an upgrade XIAO board can be put in place without needing to make any circuit changes (as the pin mappings are identical). Furthermore, the miniature size of XIAO boards (just 21mm x 17.5mm) makes them ideal for all kinds of miniaturised applications, ranging from smart watches to discrete IoT sensors.
At the heart of the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense is the nRF52840 MCU which integrates two CPU cores (one for application code and another for network stacks), both operating at 64MZ and having an FPU for floating point mathematics. With regards to memory, the nRF52840 integrates 1MB of flash for program space, and 256KB of RAM, while the XIAO board has an additional 2MB of on-board QSPI memory. The nRF52840 also supports Bluetooth 5.0 as well as low energy modes, and NFC for communication with contactless systems (such as ID and debit cards). Finally, the nRF52840 has a range of security peripherals that help to secure against hardware and software attacks including 128-bit AES CCM, ARM CryptoCell, and Secure Boot.
However, the Seeed Studio XIAO Sense also integrates two onboard sensors for monitoring the environment as well as aiding advanced projects. One of the sensors is a digital microphone (MSM261D3526H1CPM) that allows for high quality audio to be recorded. Thus, it is possible for the board to react to sounds, record voice messages, and even react to specific spoken commands.
The second sensor is a 6-axis inertial measurement unit which incorporates a 3-axis accelerometer and 3-axis gyroscope. This allows for the board to not only measure current acceleration (from which speed and distance can be calculated) but can also measure its orientation relative to a stationary point. This is especially useful in applications involving gestures, motion, or remote control.
To help with the battery management of lithium-ion batteries, the Seeed Studio XIAO sense integrates a BQ25101 battery charger. This chip not only provides all the needed circuity to work with batteries, but can help minimise consumption when the nRF52840 is in sleep mode (around 5uA of sleep current), and this greatly extends battery life.
However, one of the best features of the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense is that it is fully supported by the Arduino IDE, which includes the many thousands of libraries that come with the platform. Code written in C has an excellent speed of execution, allowing for high performance applications, while the Arduino IDE simplifies programming development. There is no need for dedicated programmers, the use of complex IDEs, or the need to use a terminal to program the board.
The nRF52840 Seeed Studio XIAO boasts Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, onboard sensors for a variety of applications, and an ultra-small form factor perfect for compact projects.
What can you do with the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense?
The first application that comes to mind when considering the features of the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense is smart wearables. The small profile of the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense combined with the numerous integrated sensors and support for TinyML allows for the creation of wearable devices that can respond to spoken commands, detect motion gestures, and wirelessly connect to other devices such as smartphones. If combined with a small capacitive touch screen, it is possible to create a device that can easily be interacted with, such as a sports watch or health monitor.
The small size of the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense also makes it highly ideal for use in large IoT sensor networks, where thousands of devices collect data and stream it to remote datacenters for processing. For example, Smart Buildings that need to monitor the environment could benefit from the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense if combined with a number of environmental sensors (such as temperature, pressure, humidity, and CO2). The use of Bluetooth Mesh could allow devices very far away to send data to a remote server (via data hopping across devices in the mesh), which would help to reduce energy consumption massively.
Thanks to its low power consumption and support for TinyML, the nRF52840 Seeed Studio XIAO is ideal for creating energy-efficient, smart applications.
For those looking to create surveillance hardware, the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense has the ability to be used as a miniature audio recorder; turning on when hearing conversations, saving short conversations to an external memory device, and then entering sleep mode until a new conversation is heard. This could also be useful in security applications looking to protect areas of interest, and could even be used to create smart entry systems, thanks to the support for NFC.
Finally, the small size of the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense along with the ability to support TinyML also makes it applicable in drone applications. The low power consumption of the onboard MCU along with the use of TinyML can be used to create a flight controller that is entirely automated; taking off from one platform, travelling to another platform, and then landing. This could also be useful in DIY rocket applications where flight data needs to be recorded, such as the g force experienced by the rocket, and the speed at which it is traveling. The IMU could even be used to detect if the rocket has flipped over (i.e., at its apogee), and deploy parachutes to prevent damage to the rocket.
Ready to take your projects to the next level? Buy the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense today!
Who should buy the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense?
Normally, modern MCUs can be challenging to use, even for the most experienced engineers, but while the nRF52840 is a complex MCU, its support for the Arduino IDE means that creating projects with the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense is incredibly easy. As such, anyone familiar with even the Arduino Uno can use this board for projects, and the fact that the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense allows for soldering to pin headers, they can be used with breadboards too!
Those who are looking to create smart applications should definitely consider the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense, thanks to the support for TinyML, use of a dual-core ARM MCU, and the large program and RAM space provided. Additionally, the combination of multiple on-board sensors also makes this board ideal for those looking to learn how to integrate TinyML into their projects, as the sensor data can be used to make predictive and learning systems (such as predictive maintenance and gesture detection).
Finally, those who are looking to design commercial products can also consider using the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense, thanks to the castellated holes on the side. This allows for the board to be directly soldered onto PCBs, making it permanently fitted while providing a very secure connection. The inclusion of multiple security systems including Secure Boot and hardware cryptography help to protect designs from reverse engineering as well as malicious attacks, providing trust to customers who use products integrating the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense.
If you're looking to buy a powerful MCU for your next project, the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense is an excellent choice.
FAQs about the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense
- What is the power input of the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense?
The Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense can be powered via a USB connection or an external power supply. The board supports a wide voltage range, making it versatile for various applications.
- What is the battery voltage of the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense?
The Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense is equipped with a BQ25101 chip for efficient battery charge management, which helps extend the battery life when the nRF52840 is in sleep mode.
- How much power does the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense draw?
The power consumption of the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense is minimal, making it an energy-efficient choice for IoT projects. It consumes as low as 5 μA in deep sleep mode.
- What are the features of the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense?
The Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense is a compact yet powerful development board. It integrates the nRF52840 MCU, supports Bluetooth 5.0, low energy modes, NFC, and includes security peripherals. The board also features two onboard sensors - a digital microphone and a 6-axis inertial measurement unit.
With an incredibly small size, numerous on-board features, and the integration of a powerful MCU, the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense is a single-board development system that really packs a punch. With its ability to execute TinyML applications, have access to multiple sensors, utilise Bluetooth Mesh, and work with multiple sensors, the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense provides makers with every they could possibly need to take projects to the next-level.
With its robust support for various programming languages and its stable, secure operation, the nRF52840 Seeed Studio XIAO is a versatile choice for any development project.
When you buy the Seeed Studio XIAO nRF52840 Sense, you're investing in a powerful, versatile, and user-friendly MCU that can take your projects to new heights.