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The Thingy:52 (146-3540) is a short-range wireless development kit from Nordic Semiconductor designed to streamline IoT functions and applications straight out of the box. The board is based around the nRF52832 (169-7118) system on chip which features an impressive array of connectivity protocols from Bluetooth 5.2 and NFC to ANT and 2.4GHz proprietary. Branded as an “IoT Sensor Kit” the most notable feature of the Thingy:52 is how much sensing equipment Nordic have managed to cram onto such a small form-factor. This equipment gives the kit a rich array of environmental monitoring capabilities including, temperature, humidity, air pressure, air quality, light colour, light intensity, motion and orientation, all of which is accessible through the “Nordic Thingy” mobile app.

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Thingy:52 hardware diagram

The aim of this article is to demonstrate the immediate capabilities of the Thingy:52 provided by the “Nordic Thingy” app, which can be found and downloaded by scanning the top of the enclosure with an NFC compatible smartphone and following the link to the store. This article will use the Android app for any screenshots but the principle operation is the same on other platforms.

Setup and Connect

Accessing the device’s functionality is as easy as switching it on. This can be challenging at first as the on/off switch is carefully hidden underneath the protective rubber cover alongside the USB socket and JTAG port. The Thingy:52 is powered from a generous 1440mAh internal Li-Po battery which makes the device extremely efficient at quickly establishing remote IoT functions without the need for additional hardware. The inherent low-energy architecture of the device will also ensure the extended runtime of the battery, with recharging being as easy as connecting a micro USB cable. Applying power to the Thingy:52 will allow the smartphone app to establish a connection over Bluetooth and configure the device before interacting with any wireless functions. The app handles this process very efficiently which allows the user swift access to all the fun parts of the dev-kit.Screenshot_%2813%29_-_Copy_e536164579a70abcbf6a14f7dc0152a35b03c598.png

Finding the hidden switch

The Fun Parts

The app organises the Thingy:52 into five functional tabs that can control and monitor groups of related capabilities from the pull-out window at the side of the screen. These functions can be grouped into three key categories which are explored below.

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"Nordic Thingy" app sidebar

Sense

The extensive sensing capabilities of the Thingy:52 can largely be accessed through the first three tabs of the app. Live metrics from each sensor helps quantify immediate environmental data in real-time which is then plotted using a series of dynamic line-graph displays. Extrapolated motion data is used to monitor step and tap events while orientation data is used to measure the magnetic bearing and render the physical orientation of the device in 3D!

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Sensing functions of the Thingy:52

Stream

The Thingy:52 is packaged with an integrated microphone and speaker that can stream audio directly over Bluetooth. The “Sound” tab on the app allows half-duplex audio communication with the device which enables it to function as a short-range intercom. For the more musically inclined, the “Sound” tab features a single octave synthesiser, a soundboard of chip-tune samples and a number of PCM audio demos for confusing unsuspecting household members.

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Musical functions of the Thingy:52

Surf

The “Cloud” tab allows the Thingy:52 to connect to the wider IoT landscape as a IFTTT client, enabling it to control a number of internet functions like posting dynamic data to Twitter and similar webhooks that allow the device to interact with other hardware, apps and websites. This capability makes the Thingy:52 an especially powerful IoT edge device that is worth exploring further in a future article.

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Edge functions of the Thingy:52

Conclusions

The Thingy:52 is an excellent IoT development kit from Nordic Semiconductor that combines rich environmental sensing with the latest Bluetooth 5 standards to create a powerful yet easy to use platform. The dedicated app presents a refreshing approach to developer accessibility that quickly introduces the technology without needing to write a line of code.

The nRF52832 system on chip features a robust mid-level ARM core that allows the Thingy:52 to handle both sensor and network data quickly and efficiently. The 32-bit architecture also maximises the interoperability of the device by interfacing low-level data with high-level gateway functions such as Bluetooth webhooks, which make it a surprisingly powerful IoT edge device.

Nordic has succeeded in combining focused IoT design with user-friendly developer tools to create an impressive hardware platform that caters very well to prospective IoT developers. The nRF52 chipset guarantees the longevity of short-range wireless applications by integrating the latest 802.15-based protocols to ensure its relevance in a rapidly expanding IoT landscape.

Also if you are interested in Bluetooth, check out the Bluetooth Development Kit (146-3538)

A keen electronic engineer with a passion for sustainability, IoT and alternative transport. Follower of the digital nomad movement and founder of Kickstart Kamper, the sustainable campervan conversion project on DesignSpark. Compulsive tea-drinker. BrightSpark 2017. BEng.
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