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BLE Modules: A Guide on BLE Chips and Modules

Introduction to BLE Technology

Bluetooth Low Energy, also known as Bluetooth Smart, is a wireless communication protocol designed for low-power and low-cost applications. It operates in the 2.4 GHz ISM band and offers a range of up to 100 meters, depending on the environment and the power output of the device. BLE is ideal for applications that require infrequent data transfers and long battery life, such as wearables, smart home devices, and IoT sensors.

Key Features of BLE

  • Low power consumption: BLE devices can operate for months or even years on a single coin cell battery.
  • Low cost: BLE chips and modules are relatively inexpensive compared to other wireless technologies.
  • Small form factor: BLE devices can be designed to be compact and lightweight.
  • Secure communication: BLE employs various security measures, such as encryption and authentication, to protect data privacy.
  • Interoperability: BLE devices can communicate with a wide range of smartphones, tablets, and computers that support the protocol.

BLE Chips vs. Modules

When it comes to implementing BLE functionality in a product, developers have two main options: using a BLE chip or a BLE module. Let’s explore the differences between these two approaches.

BLE Chips

BLE chips are standalone integrated circuits (ICs) that contain the necessary components to implement the BLE protocol stack. They typically include a microcontroller, radio transceiver, antenna, and various peripherals. Developers can integrate these chips directly into their product’s printed circuit board (PCB) and program them using the manufacturer’s software development kit (SDK).

Advantages of using BLE chips:
– Customization: Developers have full control over the chip’s configuration and can optimize it for their specific application.
– Cost-effective: BLE chips are generally less expensive than modules, especially for high-volume production.
– Compact design: Integrating a BLE chip directly into the PCB allows for a more compact product design.

Disadvantages of using BLE chips:
– Complexity: Implementing a BLE chip requires a deeper understanding of the BLE protocol stack and embedded systems.
– Development time: Integrating and programming a BLE chip can be time-consuming, especially for developers who are new to the technology.
– Certification: Products using BLE chips need to undergo certification testing to ensure compliance with regulatory standards.

BLE Modules

BLE modules are pre-certified, ready-to-use solutions that combine a BLE chip, antenna, and other necessary components into a single package. These modules are designed to be easily integrated into a product, often through a simple serial interface such as UART or I2C. Manufacturers provide software libraries and example code to help developers quickly prototype and deploy their applications.

Advantages of using BLE modules:
– Simplicity: BLE modules abstract the complexities of the BLE protocol stack, making it easier for developers to integrate BLE functionality into their products.
– Faster development: Using a pre-certified module can significantly reduce development time and time-to-market.
– Reduced certification costs: BLE modules are typically pre-certified, which can save on certification testing costs for the final product.

Disadvantages of using BLE modules:
– Higher unit cost: BLE modules are generally more expensive than standalone chips due to the additional components and pre-certification.
– Limited customization: While some modules offer a degree of configurability, they may not provide the same level of customization as using a BLE chip directly.
– Larger footprint: BLE modules are typically larger than standalone chips, which may impact the overall product design.

Popular BLE Chips and Modules

There are numerous BLE chips and modules available in the market, each with its own features, performance characteristics, and development ecosystems. Some popular options include:

Nordic Semiconductor nRF52 Series

The nRF52 series is a family of high-performance, low-power BLE chips from Nordic Semiconductor. These chips feature a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 processor, on-chip cryptographic accelerators, and a multiprotocol radio that supports BLE, ANT, and 2.4 GHz proprietary protocols. The nRF52 series is widely used in wearables, gaming accessories, and IoT applications.

Chip Core Flash (KB) RAM (KB) Tx Power (dBm) Rx Sensitivity (dBm)
nRF52810 Cortex-M4 192 24 +4 -96
nRF52811 Cortex-M4 192 24 +4 -96
nRF52832 Cortex-M4 512 64 +4 -96
nRF52840 Cortex-M4 1024 256 +8 -95

Texas Instruments CC254x Series

The CC254x series from Texas Instruments is a family of cost-effective, low-power BLE chips that feature an 8051 microcontroller core. These chips are well-suited for simple BLE applications such as beacons, sensors, and remote controls. The CC254x series is known for its ease of use and extensive software support.

Chip Core Flash (KB) RAM (KB) Tx Power (dBm) Rx Sensitivity (dBm)
CC2540 8051 128 8 +4 -93
CC2541 8051 256 8 +4 -93

Cypress PSoC 4 BLE

The PSoC 4 BLE is a highly integrated, programmable system-on-chip (SoC) that combines a BLE radio, an ARM Cortex-M0 processor, and programmable analog and digital peripherals. This chip is ideal for applications that require a mix of wireless connectivity and analog/digital signal processing, such as wearables and industrial sensors.

Chip Core Flash (KB) RAM (KB) Tx Power (dBm) Rx Sensitivity (dBm)
PSoC 4 BLE Cortex-M0 128 16 +3 -92

HM-10 BLE Module

The HM-10 is a popular, low-cost BLE module based on the Texas Instruments CC2541 chip. This module is widely used in hobbyist and educational projects due to its simplicity and compatibility with Arduino and other development platforms. The HM-10 communicates via a simple UART interface and can be easily configured using AT commands.

Module Chip Tx Power (dBm) Rx Sensitivity (dBm) Dimensions (mm)
HM-10 CC2541 +4 -93 27 x 13 x 2.2

Adafruit Feather nRF52 Bluefruit LE

The Adafruit Feather nRF52 Bluefruit LE is a development board that combines a Nordic Semiconductor nRF52832 BLE chip with a USB-to-serial converter, Li-Po Battery Charger, and various peripherals. This board is compatible with the Arduino IDE and is ideal for prototyping and small-scale production. Adafruit provides extensive documentation, libraries, and example code to help developers get started quickly.

Module Chip Tx Power (dBm) Rx Sensitivity (dBm) Dimensions (mm)
Adafruit Feather nRF52 Bluefruit LE nRF52832 +4 -96 51 x 23 x 8

Choosing the Right BLE Chip or Module

When selecting a BLE chip or module for your project, consider the following factors:

  1. Application requirements: Determine the required features, performance, and power consumption for your specific application.
  2. Development experience: Consider your team’s expertise with embedded systems and wireless communication protocols.
  3. Time-to-market: Evaluate the development time and effort required to integrate the chosen solution.
  4. Cost: Compare the unit cost and total cost of ownership for different options, taking into account development, certification, and production costs.
  5. Ecosystem and support: Look for solutions with a strong development ecosystem, comprehensive documentation, and reliable technical support.

BLE Module Applications

BLE modules find applications in a wide range of industries and use cases, including:


BLE modules are extensively used in wearable devices such as fitness trackers, smartwatches, and medical monitoring devices. These devices rely on BLE’s low power consumption and small form factor to enable long battery life and comfortable wear.

Smart Home

BLE modules are used in various smart home applications, such as wireless sensors, remote controls, and smart locks. BLE’s low power consumption and secure communication make it an ideal choice for battery-powered devices that need to communicate with smartphones or smart home hubs.

Industrial Automation

BLE modules are increasingly being used in industrial automation applications, such as asset tracking, condition monitoring, and predictive maintenance. BLE’s low power consumption and long range make it suitable for deploying large numbers of wireless sensors in industrial environments.

Medical Devices

BLE modules are used in medical devices for remote monitoring, data collection, and patient management. BLE’s security features and low power consumption make it well-suited for applications that require the transmission of sensitive health data.


BLE modules are used in automotive applications such as keyless entry systems, tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), and in-vehicle diagnostics. BLE’s low power consumption and secure communication make it an attractive option for automotive manufacturers.

Developing with BLE Modules

Developing applications with BLE modules typically involves the following steps:

  1. Selecting a suitable BLE module based on the application requirements and development constraints.
  2. Setting up the development environment, which may include an integrated development environment (IDE), compiler, and debugger.
  3. Configuring the BLE module using the manufacturer’s software tools or AT commands.
  4. Implementing the application logic using the provided libraries and example code.
  5. Testing and debugging the application to ensure proper functionality and performance.
  6. Integrating the BLE module into the final product and performing any necessary certification testing.

Manufacturers often provide comprehensive documentation, application notes, and example projects to help developers get started with their BLE modules. Additionally, online communities and forums can be valuable resources for troubleshooting and sharing best practices.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. What is the range of BLE modules?

The range of BLE modules depends on various factors, such as the transmit power, receiver sensitivity, and environmental conditions. In ideal conditions, BLE modules can achieve a range of up to 100 meters. However, in practical applications, the range is typically shorter due to obstacles, interference, and power constraints.

2. Can BLE modules be used for streaming audio?

While BLE is not primarily designed for streaming audio, it is possible to use BLE modules for low-bitrate audio applications, such as voice commands or notifications. However, for high-quality audio streaming, other wireless technologies like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth Classic are better suited.

3. How secure is communication between BLE modules?

BLE employs various security measures to protect data privacy and integrity, such as encryption, authentication, and secure pairing. BLE modules can use AES-128 encryption to secure the communication channel and prevent unauthorized access. However, the overall security of a BLE-based system also depends on the implementation and management of security keys and pairing processes.

4. Can BLE modules be used with smartphones and tablets?

Yes, BLE modules are designed to communicate with a wide range of smartphones, tablets, and computers that support the BLE protocol. Most modern mobile devices, including iOS and Android smartphones, are compatible with BLE and can be used to control and monitor BLE-enabled products.

5. What is the typical power consumption of BLE modules?

The power consumption of BLE modules varies depending on the specific chip or module and the application requirements. However, BLE is designed for low power consumption, and BLE modules can typically operate for months or even years on a single coin cell battery. In low-power sleep modes, BLE modules can consume as little as a few microamps, while active transmission and reception consume a few milliamps.


BLE modules offer a convenient and cost-effective solution for adding wireless connectivity to a wide range of products. By understanding the differences between BLE chips and modules, as well as the key features and applications of popular options, developers can make informed decisions when selecting the right solution for their projects. With the growing demand for connected devices and the increasing adoption of BLE technology, BLE modules will continue to play a crucial role in enabling the next generation of wireless applications.