38 SERVO 01.2017
these technologies together, and created a “drop-in-place”
sensor package that could be easily inserted into any
project. Well, that “someone” is Cypress Semiconductor
cypress.com) and they’ve done it! They have a newly
released solar-powered sensor solution that enables you to
add a pint-sized, low cost, battery-free sensor package
anywhere on virtually any robot (see Figure 1).
Officially known as the Cypress “solar-powered
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon” or Solar BLE Sensor,
you can see by the name that Cypress added an
unbelievable extra to this sensor. Yes, this is a Bluetooth-enabled sensor package.
Figure 2 shows a couple of assembled sensor
packages, along with the sensor PCB (printed circuit board)
and enclosure pieces. Not only that, it’s solar powered with
an energy harvesting circuit used for charging a capacitor
array, giving you unlimited operation while it is within range
of an adequate illumination source.
Specifically, the solar BLE sensor uses a couple of clever
Cypress devices: an Energy Harvesting Power Management
IC (PMIC) S6AE103A, and an EZ-BLE Programmable Radio-on-Chip (PRoC) module CYBLE-022001-00 for achieving an
impressive set of specifications. Namely: a 3.6V solar cell;
0.2F super-capacitor; 10-pin GPIO connector (be
forewarned, however, this connector is very difficult to
access without the Cypress debug board); BLE chip
antenna; programmable via the Cypress debug board; and
an integrated temperature and humidity sensor IC (see
Figure 3 and Figure 4).
Incredibly, all of this goodness is housed on a wafer-thin disc PCB that is about one inch in diameter as shown
in Figure 5. And remember, this solar BLE sensor is totally
self-contained — just install and forget. In situations where
the presence of ambient light might not be sufficient, you
can solder an optional CR2032 cell battery to the PCB.
I’m No Node, I’m a Network
Studying the size of the solar BLE sensor, it’s hard to
believe that it is at the center of its own wireless sensor
network (WSN). You can access this portion of the BLE
module through an optional debug board as shown in
Figure 6 and Figure 7. This board is packaged with one
solar BLE sensor in a reference design kit (RDK).
Figure 1. Cypress has cracked the code for creating battery-less sensor networks.
Figure 2. The solar BLE sensor by Cypress.
Post comments on this article at www.servomagazine.com/index.php/magazine/article/January2017_Symbiont-Sensors.