The LightBlue Bean+ is an Arduino-compatible board that can be wirelessly programmed using Bluetooth Low Energy.
Last year, the Punch Through Design crew introduced the LightBlue Bean to the Maker community, an Arduino-compatible board with built-in Bluetooth Low Energy support. Unsurprisingly, the microcontroller became an immediate hit as Makers were able to upload their codes wirelessly and manage their projects right from their smartphones. Now with over 25,000 Beans sold since its debut, the team has once again returned with its bigger, better and bolder brother: the LightBlue Bean+.
The latest addition to the LightBlue Bean family boasts solderless connectors, 16 GPIOs and a rechargeable LiPo battery, as well as a longer range than its sibling. This enables it to communicate up to 1,300 feet with its fellow Bean+’s or be remotely controlled by smartphone at a distance of 820 feet.
As expected, the Bean+ can be wirelessly programmed from any of today’s most popular platforms, including OS X, Windows, iOS and Android. Meaning, you can write code at the comfort of your PC using the standard Arduino IDE, or on-the-fly with its special iOS and Android Bean Loader apps. What’s more, you can even configure multiple Beans at once.
Once again based on the versatile ATmega328P, the newest Bean features a built-in accelerometer, a temperature sensor and an RGB LED. Aside from its 600mAh battery, the board includes a microUSB port for juicing up the Bean+ wherever you go, or hooking it up to a USB solar charger for optimal portability. (Keep in mind that the Bean+ is programmed over-the-air, so the microUSB connector is simply for charging.) On top of that, the Bean+ has a switch for selecting between 3.3V or 5V as the operating voltage, and ships with two types of connectors — 0.1″ pitch female headers and Grove connectors from Seeed Studio.
Kicking the functionality of the original up a notch, the Bean+ boasts several exciting capabilities: beacon, MIDI, HID, Apple Notification Center Service (ANCS) and observer role. For instance, you can easily configure your MCU to trigger events whenever a device is nearby, or employ the BLE advertisement packets and the observer role to send simple messages between your Beans.
Or through the MIDI profile, you can transmit MIDI data and use it as an instrument with apps like GarageBand. Not to mention, the ANCS allows the Bean+ to receive notifications from any of your iPhone, iPad or any other Apple gadget. Heck, you can even write a sketch to have it blink an LED when your friend sends a text and ring a bell as your Uber ride arrives. The possibilities are truly endless.
Aside from all that, the BLE unit also includes the start of a shield ecosystem with protoboard shield and Grove shield that lets you plug in up to 18 Grove accessories into a single Bean+.
For those who are still gung-ho on the original Bean, not to worry. The Punch Through Design team says it’s here to stay and will actually undergo a transformation of its own later this year. Not before long, it receive all the new Bluetooth Low Energy capabilities, including ANCS and HID.
Looking for a BLE Arduino-like board for your next IoT project? Look no further than the LightBlue Bean+. Punch Through is currently seeking $30,000 on Kickstarter, and the first batch is expected to ship in December 2015.