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December 18, 2015 AT 10:00 am

Adafruit Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Bluetooth

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New and improved Bluetooth … now a whole lot more than cheesy wireless headsets!

Bluetooth has been around since the dawn of time, and seemed destined to become another dinosaur technology relegated to niche audio solutions, but the Bluetooth SIG managed to give it a new lease on life with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), which was released as part of the Bluetooth 4.0 core specification.  You’ll find BLE in almost every low power health gadget, any recent MacBook, Mac, iPhone or mid to high end Android device, and you’ll probably be seeing a lot more of it as time goes on.

(In our opinion), the big tipping point for BLE came when Apple decided to include easy BLE access in their iOS platform without having to jump through all of the previous hoops and legalities that hardware manufacturers had to with Classic Bluetooth or WiFi.  If you were designing something that used BLE, you could have full access to the BLE API and the hardware on the other side entirely at the application level, without having to hire a team of crack lawyers, with all the risks and invoices that to go with that.  Suddenly, apps + HW became reasonable — and reasonably easy — for the small startup-y type hackers and makers!

And of course … if you’re interested in Bluetooth Low Energy, Adafruit has you covered!

So what is Bluetooth Low Energy?

Good question!  You can have a look at our short Introduction to Bluetooth Low Energy learning guide for the absolute basics like terminology, as well as some useful links, or if you want to really get a solid overview of how things work and are structured, you can pick up a copy of Getting Started with Bluetooth Low Energy:

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How Can I Really Get Started With BLE?

Another great question! We’ve got you covered there as well with a huge array of Bluetooth Low Energy development boards and tools, based on our in house Bluefruit LE firmware that we wrote from scratch to give you the most flexibility and keep things future proof for customers (including easy over the air firmware updates to keep your modules up to date).

Adafruit Feather 32u4 Bluefruit LE

This board gives you absolutely everything you need to start designing a HW accessory that can talk to your BLE enabled phone, laptop, Raspberry Pi, or whatever else.  It includes an Atmel 32u4 MCU, a Bluefruit LE module, and a LIPO charger and power switching circuit so you can go totally ‘wireless’. It’s 100% compatible with the Arduino IDE, and works exactly the same as all your other 32U4 based sketches and projects.

If you want a general purpose device that you can easily embed in anything or bring on the road, this is a great place to start.  Have a look at our comprehensive learning guide for details on how it works!

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Need to integrate BLE into your existing project based on another MCU like the Teensy, or one of the many Arduino variants? We’ve got you covered there as well!

We have both UART and SPI based versions of our Bluefruit LE Firmware and hardware, so you’re free to choose the communications mechanism that works the best for you.  We recommend SPI for most situations, but sometimes UART is just more convenient, such as when you’re working with FTDI CDC to UART type devices.

Bluefruit LE SPI Friend

This board requires 5 pins to work, and has full level shifting to allow it to work with 5V or 3.3V based boards:

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Bluefruit LE UART Friend

This board only requires 2 or 4 pins to use (depending on if you use HW flow control, though we do recommend using it), and has all the same functionality as the SPI version, it just uses a different means of sending commands and receiving response data back:

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Bluefruit LE Friend

Looking for something that plays well with your computer, just as an initial proof of concept, or maybe to try out Bluetooth Low Energy on an operating system that doesn’t natively support it like Windows 7?  Our original Bluefruit LE Friend is a great choice since it comes in a convenient USB stick format that plugs right into your computer, and uses an FTDI chip as a USB CDC to UART bridge to send commands and retrieve the response messages.

Plug it end, open up a terminal emulator (Putty, RealTerm, etc.) and start sending AT commands to talk to a Bluetooth LE Central device on the other end (like you iPhone or Android device):

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Flora Wearable Bluefruit LE Module

If you’re after a wearable solution, we’ve got you covered with our awesome Flora Wearable Bluefruit LE Module for the popular Flora family (flawless manicure not included):

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Software Resources

With the hardware out of the way, that still leaves the problem of software on your favorite platform. You’ll need something to talk to on the other end, and as always we’ve got a helping hand ready to, err, help via a variety of Bluetooth Low Energy applications we publish and maintain.

Check here for full details, but we currently have open source examples for the following platforms and languages:

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Project Ideas

Looking for ideas?  Have a look at some projects we’ve put together to get the creative juices flowing in your own head!

Datalogging Hat with Flora BLE

This awesome project turns a hat into a wireless data logging system, with step by step instructions from Becky:

EEG Costume Cap

Looking for an awesome festively-animatable EEG type cap to be the highlight of your Christmas party?  Have a look at this awesome project:


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We’re excited for the Holiday Season here at Adafruit, and we can’t wait to share that excitement with you! Stay tuned into the blog where you will find new, handpicked gift guides five days a week from November 9th through December 24th, 2015 alongside holiday themed tutorials and builds!


Free Deals

Adafruit offers exciting deals and free items when you shop with us. As of October 13th, 2015 we are currently offering:

Some restrictions apply


Adafruit Holiday Deadlines 2015

Here are your 2015 shipping deadlines for ordering from Adafruit. Please review our shipping section if you have specific questions on how and where we ship worldwide for this holiday season.

The Adafruit Shipping Department works hard to get your orders out as quickly as we can, but once they’re in the hands of our carriers they’re out of our control.

Carriers have been struggling to keep up with the sharp rise in online orders. UPS, FedEX, and USPS all experienced delivery delays over the last few years.

So all the Adafruit Shippers say: Please be sure you get your gifts early! Order as soon as you can! Once you place your order we’ll ship like the wind!

UPS ground (USA orders): Place orders by Friday 11am ET – December 11, 2015 – There is no guarantee that UPS Ground packages will arrive by December 24.

UPS 3-day (USA orders): Place orders by Thursday 11am ET – December 17, 2015 – Arrive by 12/24/2015.

UPS 2-day (USA orders): Place orders by Friday 11am ET – December 18, 2015 – Arrive by 12/24/2015.

UPS overnight (USA orders): Place orders by Monday 11am ET – December 21, 2015 – Arrive by 12/24/2015.

Please note: We do not offer Saturday or Sunday service for UPS or USPS.

Friday, Dec. 25, 2015, Christmas, no UPS pickup or delivery service.

Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, New Year’s Day, no UPS pickup or delivery service.

United States Postal Service, First Class and Priority (USA orders): Place orders by Friday– December 11, 2014 – Arrive by 12/24/2015 or sooner.

USPS First class mail international (International orders)): Place orders by Friday – November 20, 2015. Can take up to 30 days or more with worldwide delays and customs. Should arrive by 12/25/2015 or sooner, but not a trackable service and cannot be guaranteed to arrive by 12/24/2015.

USPS Express mail international(International orders): Place orders by Friday – December 5, 2015. Can take up to 15 days or more with worldwide delays and customs. Should arrive by 12/24/2014 or sooner.

Gift Certificates are always available at any time.

When in doubt contact us!


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