Simple BLE bridge to TTN Lora using the TTGO ESP32 LoRa32 board

The TTGO LoRa32 is an ESP32 based board that features Wifi and BlueTooth low energy but also includes an external Lora chip, in my case the SX1276 868Mhz version.

The following code/hack is just to test the feasibility of bridging BLE devices over the ESP32 and then to Lorawan, more specifically sending BLE data to the LoraWan TTN network.

I’m using Neil Koban ESP32 BLE library, that under platformIO is library number 1841 and the base ABP code for connecting to TTN.

In simple terms this code just makes the ESP32 to emulate a BLE UART device for sending and receiving data. It does that by using the Nordic UART known UUID for specifying the BLE UART service and using also the Nordic mobile applications, that supports such device, for sending/receiving data.

Using the Nordic mobile Android phone applications, data can be sent to the Lora32 board either by using the excellent Nordic Connect application or by also using the simpler and direct Nordic UART application.

The tests program just receives data through BLE and buffers it onto an internal message buffer that, periodically, is sent through Lora to the TTN network. I’ve decided arbitrary that the buffer is 32 bytes maximum. We should keep our message size to the necessary minimum, and also just send few messages to keep the lorawan duty factor usage within the required limits.

So, using the following code we can use our phone to scan from the ESP32 BLE device named TTGOLORAESP32 connect to it and send data to the device.

After a while, when the transmission event fires up, data is transmitted, and the BLE device just receives a simple notification with the EV_TXCOMPLETE message.

That’s it.


The ESP32 Oled Lora TTGO LoRa32 board and connecting it to TTN

The TTGO LoRa32 board is an ESP32 based board that has both an Oled and a Lora transceiver, in my case, the SX1276 transceiver for the 868Mhz band. So it is very similar to some of the ESP32 Oled boards available on the Internet. The board looks like this:

And the interesting part of this board is the new Wifi antenna located in the back that is made of bend metal:

The board also has a LiPo connector, and probably a charger circuit, since I haven’t tried it yet, a user controlled blue led, and a very dim red power led. The led is so dim that at first I thought the board was broken/short circuited, but it is normal.
The Lora Antenna is connected by U.FL/IPEX connector. Both a U.FL to SMA adapter cable is provided and also a cable to connect to the LiPo connector.

An important information to use this board for the LMIC LoraWan based communication is the location of the Lora transceiver DI01 and DIO2 pins. Fortunately they are exposed and connected internally to the ESP32 processor GPIO33 and GPIO32 pins respectively. I’ve updated the pin out for this board:


EDIT: Thanks to Andreas on the comment section to point out that this image, while is correct for my board version (with the “3D” metal antenna under the board), the pin labels ARE WRONG. So much for copy it from the seller page.

The (so far yet…) pins mapping are on the bellow image. I’ve checked with my physical board and it seems right now. Notice that the board rotated 180 degrees.


I hope this corrects definitely the issue.

So back to basics, the LMIC definition pins for using this board are:

const lmic_pinmap lmic_pins = {
    .nss = 18,
    .rxtx = LMIC_UNUSED_PIN,
    .rst = 14,
    .dio = {26, 33, 32}  // Pins for the Heltec ESP32 Lora board/ TTGO Lora32 with 3D metal antenna

The Blue Led Pin is at Pin 2, and according to the sample code the Oled Display is at I2C address 0x3C. The I2C bus where the OLed is at SDA pin 4 and SCLK pin 15.

Also it seems there are at least two revisions for the ESP32 silicon, Revision 0 (Zero) for the initial one, and the latest, at the current date, Revision one.

By executing the Andreas Spiess revision check code it seems that my board is using the latest revision:

REG_READ(EFUSE_BLK0_RDATA3_REG) 1000000000000000

Chip Revision (official version): 1
Chip Revision from shift Operation 1

Programming the board:
The board can be programmed easily with Platformio IDE by selecting as the target board the Heltec Wifi Lora board. Probably both boards are identical.

The platformio.ini file is as follows:

platform = espressif32
board = heltec_wifi_lora_32
framework = arduino

For supporting the OLed and the Lora transceiver we also need to install the ESP8266_SSD1306 lib (ID: 562) and the IBM LMIC library (ID: 852) by either manually installing them on the project root or by adding the following line to the platformio.ini file:

platform = espressif32
board = heltec_wifi_lora_32
framework = arduino
lib_deps= 852, 562

With this, the sample TTN INO sketchs for connecting either through ABP or OTAA work flawlessly without any issue by using the above LMIC pins configuration.

The sample sketch for the board: Connecting to TTN and display the packet RSSI:
Since we have the OLed, we can use the RX window to display the received RSSI of our messages on the gateway. This only works if the downlink messages from the gateway can reach back our node, so it might not work always. In my case, I’m about 3Km from the gateway in dense urban area, and not always I can display the packet RSSI.

How this works? Simple, just send our packet, and on the backend we send back the received RSSI as downlink message by using Node-Red, the TTN nodes, and some code:

Since our packet can be received by several gateways, we iterate over the TTN message and calculate the better RSSI and SNR:

// Build an object that allows us to track
// node data better than just having the payload

//For the debug inject node. Comment out when in real use
//var inmsg = msg.payload;
var inmsg = msg;  // from the TTN node

var newmsg = {};
var devicedata = {};
var betterRSSI = -1000;  // Start with a low impossible value
var betterSNR = -1000;

// WARNING only works with String data
// Use TTN decode functions is a better idea
var nodercvdata = inmsg.payload.toString("utf-8");

devicedata.device = inmsg.dev_id;
devicedata.deviceserial = inmsg.hardware_serial;
devicedata.rcvtime = inmsg.metadata.time;
devicedata.nodedata = nodercvdata;

// Iterate over the gateway data to get the best RSSI and SNR data
var gws = inmsg.metadata.gateways;

for ( var i = 0 ; i  betterRSSI )
        betterRSSI = gw.rssi;
    if ( gw.snr > betterSNR )
        betterSNR = gw.snr;

devicedata.rssi = betterRSSI;
devicedata.snr = betterSNR;

newmsg.payload = devicedata;

return newmsg;

We build then the response object and send it back to the TTN servers that send it to our node. The received data is then displayed on the Oled.

The Node-Red code is as follows:

[{"id":"d4536a72.6e6d7","type":"ttn message","z":"66b897a.7ab5c68","name":"TTN APP Uplink","app":"b59d5696.cde318","dev_id":"","field":"","x":140,"y":220,"wires":[["facbde95.14894"]]},{"id":"facbde95.14894","type":"function","z":"66b897a.7ab5c68","name":"Calculate better RSSI","func":"// Build an object that allows us to track\n// node data better than just having the payload\n\n//For the debug inject node. Comment out when in real use\n//var inmsg = msg.payload;\nvar inmsg = msg;  // from the TTN node\n\nvar newmsg = {};\nvar devicedata = {};\nvar betterRSSI = -1000;  // Start with a low impossible value\nvar betterSNR = -1000;\n\n// WARNING only works with String data\n// Use TTN decode functions is a better idea\nvar nodercvdata = inmsg.payload.toString(\"utf-8\");\n\ndevicedata.device = inmsg.dev_id;\ndevicedata.deviceserial = inmsg.hardware_serial;\ndevicedata.rcvtime = inmsg.metadata.time;\ndevicedata.nodedata = nodercvdata;\n\n// Iterate over the gateway data to get the best RSSI and SNR data\nvar gws = inmsg.metadata.gateways;\n\nfor ( var i = 0 ; i  betterRSSI )\n        betterRSSI = gw.rssi;\n        \n    if ( gw.snr > betterSNR )\n        betterSNR = gw.snr;\n}\n\ndevicedata.rssi = betterRSSI;\ndevicedata.snr = betterSNR;\n\nnewmsg.payload = devicedata;\n\nreturn newmsg;","outputs":1,"noerr":0,"x":400,"y":220,"wires":[["1ac970ec.4cfabf","94515e56.904228"]]},{"id":"1ac970ec.4cfabf","type":"debug","z":"66b897a.7ab5c68","name":"","active":false,"console":"false","complete":"payload","x":670,"y":260,"wires":[]},{"id":"2bea15d8.18f88a","type":"ttn send","z":"66b897a.7ab5c68","name":"TTN APP Downlink","app":"b59d5696.cde318","dev_id":"","port":"","x":970,"y":100,"wires":[]},{"id":"94515e56.904228","type":"function","z":"66b897a.7ab5c68","name":"set Payload","func":"msg.dev_id  = msg.payload.device;\nmsg.payload = Buffer.from(\"RSSI: \" + msg.payload.rssi);\n\nreturn msg;","outputs":1,"noerr":0,"x":670,"y":100,"wires":[["2bea15d8.18f88a","cd04abb9.ccd278"]]},{"id":"cd04abb9.ccd278","type":"debug","z":"66b897a.7ab5c68","name":"","active":true,"console":"false","complete":"true","x":930,"y":200,"wires":[]},{"id":"b59d5696.cde318","type":"ttn app","z":"","appId":"TTNAPPLICATIONID","region":"eu","accessKey":"ttn-account-v2.CHANGEMECHANGEME"}]

Just make sure that we have the TTN nodes installed, and change the credentials for your TTN Application.

On the TTGO ESP32 Lora32 board we just modify the event handling code to display the downlink message:

void onEvent (ev_t ev) {
    if (ev == EV_TXCOMPLETE) {
        display.drawString (0, 0, "EV_TXCOMPLETE event!");

        Serial.println(F("EV_TXCOMPLETE (includes waiting for RX windows)"));
        if (LMIC.txrxFlags & TXRX_ACK) {
          Serial.println(F("Received ack"));
          display.drawString (0, 20, "Received ACK.");

        if (LMIC.dataLen) {
          int i = 0;
          // data received in rx slot after tx
          Serial.print(F("Data Received: "));
          Serial.write(LMIC.frame+LMIC.dataBeg, LMIC.dataLen);

          display.drawString (0, 20, "Received DATA.");
          for ( i = 0 ; i < LMIC.dataLen ; i++ )
            TTN_response[i] = LMIC.frame[LMIC.dataBeg+i];
          TTN_response[i] = 0;
          display.drawString (0, 32, String(TTN_response));

        // Schedule next transmission
        os_setTimedCallback(&sendjob, os_getTime()+sec2osticks(TX_INTERVAL), do_send);
        digitalWrite(LEDPIN, LOW);
        display.drawString (0, 50, String (counter));
        display.display ();

For example we can now see on the serial port monitor:

EV_TXCOMPLETE (includes waiting for RX windows)
Sending uplink packet...
EV_TXCOMPLETE (includes waiting for RX windows)
Sending uplink packet...
EV_TXCOMPLETE (includes waiting for RX windows)
Sending uplink packet...
EV_TXCOMPLETE (includes waiting for RX windows)
Data Received: RSSI: -118
Sending uplink packet...
EV_TXCOMPLETE (includes waiting for RX windows)
Data Received: RSSI: -114
Sending uplink packet...
EV_TXCOMPLETE (includes waiting for RX windows)
Data Received: RSSI: -105

Thats it!

Some final notes:
Probably not related to the board, but when connecting it to an USB3 port, the Linux Operating system was unable to configure a device for the board. Connecting it to an USB2 port worked flawlessly:

usb 2-1: new full-speed USB device number 2 using xhci_hcd
usb 2-1: string descriptor 0 read error: -71
usb 2-1: can't set config #1, error -71      

As additional information the serial chip on this board is an umarked CP210x chip:

usb 4-1.3: new full-speed USB device number 6 using ehci-pci
cp210x 4-1.3:1.0: cp210x converter detected
usb 4-1.3: cp210x converter now attached to ttyUSB0


Bus 004 Device 006: ID 10c4:ea60 Cygnal Integrated Products, Inc. CP2102/CP2109 UART Bridge Controller [CP210x family]

I haven’t yet tried the WiFi and checked if the metal antenna is any good, but with my preliminary tests, it seems it’s not very good.

Sample code:

Sample code for the board is on this github link:

Using the BSFrance Lora32U4 board to connect to the Things Network Lorawan

The BSFrance Lora32u4 II (Lora32U4II for helping Google out) board is an Atmega32U4 processor with a HDP13 Lora transceiver on the same board. As far as I’m aware, the HDP13 is similar to the RFM95W (including pinout), and in my case it seems it has an original Semtech SX1276 (868Mhz radio transceiver) chip installed on the HDP13 module. This board is similar to the Adafruit 32U4 Lora feather, if not equal… (possible schematics for the Lora32u4 board)

The board hardware includes beside the Lora HDP13 module a LiPo connector with an 2 pin JST PH 2.0mm pin spacing connector and the power supporting electronics.
There are two leds, on orange for LiPo and charger status, that blinks very fast when no LiPo is connected, and a very bright white led that fades in and out when the bootloader is in the programming mode or programming is ongoing. After the bootloader exists and starts the main program, the led shuts off.
This led, as usual in Arduino boards is connected to I/O pin 13, so it is software controllable.

Also the only way to power up the board is either trough the USB port, LiPo battery or 5V to an input pin. No other voltages, like RAW voltages above 5V are supported.

As a final note, the board that I’ve bought also came with an uFL adapter cable for SMA, an antenna and a link for accessing documentation, so, excluding the LiPo battery, the complete kit.

Starting up using the board:

I’m testing the board to send data to the Things Network and doing so by using PlatformioIO as the developing IDE. Platformio IDE is much better than the Arduino IDE, since each project has it’s own depending libraries directory .piolibdeps which we can modify and edit the library code without breaking other projects.

The platformio.ini board definition for the Lora32u4II board is just a clone of Adafruit feather 32u4:

platform = atmelavr
board = feather32u4
framework = arduino

As the code to send data to the TTN network, I’ve just used ABP lorawan device connection that I’ve used on my previous hand build node.

I’m testing the node with both the IBM LMIC Library (ID: 852) and the Arduino LMIC Library (ID: 1729).

After setting the correct keys and device ID, all we need is to change the LMIC pins configuration for this board: LoRa32u4II pinout diagram

According to documentation the pins are:

  1. nss (SS – Chip Select): Pin 8
  2. rst (Reset): Pin 4
  3. DIO (Lora TX/RX indicator): Pin 7

So the Lmic Pins configuration is:

const lmic_pinmap lmic_pins = {
    .nss = 8,
    .rxtx = LMIC_UNUSED_PIN,
    .rst = 4,
    .dio = {7, 6 , LMIC_UNUSED_PIN}

Regarding Pin 6, is the chosen pin to connect to the DIO1 pin. This pin signals receive timeouts generated by the radio module. The connection of this pin is required for LMIC and for the onEvent() function signaling of EV_TXCOMPLETE to be triggered/fired, otherwise the onEvent() funciton is never called.
Since this is a LoraWan Class A node, after the transmission, two receive windows are opened for any downlink data that might be sent to the node. The DIO1 pin signals the receive timeout, and at the end of the receive windows, triggers the EV_TXCOMPLETE event. I’ve tried to use other pins, for example, pin 3, but then the EV_TXCOMPLETE event was never fired… Strange. Anyway, with the above configuration and with DIO1 connected through a wire bridge to pin 6 works fine.

If we do not connect DIO1 by removing the DIO1 pin configuration:


with the platformio IBM Lmic library (Id: 852), or with the Arduino LMIC Library the LMIC fails. An example:

pio device monitor --port /dev/ttyACM0 --baud 115200
[cortex@brightlight:TTN32u4ABP]$ pio device monitor --port /dev/ttyACM0 --baud 115200
--- Miniterm on /dev/ttyACM0  115200,8,N,1 ---
--- Quit: Ctrl+C | Menu: Ctrl+T | Help: Ctrl+T followed by Ctrl+H ---
.piolibdeps/IBM LMIC framework_ID852/src/hal/hal.cpp:24

The line hal.cpp:24 point to an ASSERT that doesn’t allow a LMIC_UNUSED_PIN for DIO1.

Putting pin 6 and making sure that it is connected to DI1 is required. Otherwise if the pin is defined but not connected we have the following behaviour:

--- Miniterm on /dev/ttyACM0  115200,8,N,1 ---
--- Quit: Ctrl+C | Menu: Ctrl+T | Help: Ctrl+T followed by Ctrl+H ---
Sending uplink packet...

As we can see the EV_TXCOMPLETE event is never fired, and the associated reschedule of another transmission never happens, since that code is inside the code for the EV_TXCOMPLETE event. The only way, in this case, is to reset the board so another transmission happens.

So if using the above LMIC pins configuration and connecting DIO1 to pin 6, sending data to the The Things Network works just fine:

Data received at the TTN side

Some final notes, tips and tricks:

The ATMega 32U4 USB Serial port:
The ATMega 32U4 USB serial port is a bit fiddly when using it from the Arduino framework. At reset or connection first the USB port is used by the bootloader (white led fading in and out). After a while the board starts to execute the flash program (white led off), but it resets the USB port. The host computer might have an issue with this and fails to assign an USB address.

The solution is just to add at the start of the setup function a delay:

void setup() {
  delay(2500);   // Give time to the ATMega32u4 port to wake up and be recognized by the OS.

Using minicom instead of PlatformIO serial monitor:
This one is quite simple to explain, since minicom survives to the USB port resets since they appear and disappear through the board reset.
Against it, is that we need to explicitly exit minicom to be able to program the board.

# minicom -D /dev/ttyACM0 -b 115200

The PlatformIO Arduino LMIC library is outdated:
This is solved now. Lib 852 is now updated.
The Arduino LMIC version (1729) on the PlatformIO is outdated, since, for example doesn’t have neither the LMIC_UNUSED_PIN definition and the LMIC_setClockError function needed for a successful OTAA TTN network join.

The solution is just clone the Arduino LMIC library and copy the src folder to .piolibdeps/IBM LMIC framework_ID852/ removing the original src folder version.

Comparing Library sizes:

Using the IBM LMIC Library (ID:852) with PINGS and BEACONS disabled on the config.h file, otherwise it doesn’t fit on the 32u4 32K flash space, our sketch uses the following space:

AVR Memory Usage
Device: atmega32u4

Program:   26040 bytes (79.5% Full)
(.text + .data + .bootloader)

Data:       1014 bytes (39.6% Full)
(.data + .bss + .noinit)

Using the Arduino LMIC library (ID: 1729) with PINGS and BEACONS enabled, but a more efficient AES implementation, we get:

AVR Memory Usage
Device: atmega32u4

Program:   22776 bytes (69.5% Full)
(.text + .data + .bootloader)

Data:        954 bytes (37.3% Full)
(.data + .bss + .noinit)

With PINGS and BEACONS disabled we get:

AVR Memory Usage
Device: atmega32u4

Program:   19032 bytes (58.1% Full)
(.text + .data + .bootloader)

Data:        903 bytes (35.3% Full)
(.data + .bss + .noinit)

So we get, with this last change, and while keeping support for OTTA, at least 8K/9K for program space not related to the Lorawan/TTN code support.

Starting up with the Nordic NRF52 BLE chip

The nRF52 based chips are the latest version of the popular Bluetooth chip from Nordic that has an ARM Cortex based processor and Bluetooth communications support.
Major differences from the previous nRF51 version includes:

  1. Based on ARM Cortex M4F instead of ARM M0.
  2. Support for the latest Bluetooth 5 specification
  3. On chip NFC support for device bounding and probably something else

The following post centralizes the information that I gathered to start using the demo board that I bought based on the nRF52832 chip.

The eBay,Aliexpress nRF52832 based board:
I’ve bought my nRF52832 based board from AliExpress for around 13€. An higher price than the ESP32 which has both WifI and also blueetooth, but since I really needed to start using the nRF5X base chips I’ve bought what is called “NRF52832 Mini Development Board Gold Core board Wireless Bluetooth Transceiver Module”…

This board build is based on a two boards joined together: one daughter board holding the nRf52832 chip, and another, larger board, exposing the pins, JTAG/SWD connector, power regulator, two leds and two switches. As a bonus the main board was designed for something else and so all the pins silk screen are just plain wrong, but at least the power pins and the SWD pins are correctly identified.

For mapping out correctly the nRF pins to the out pins we need to see the board schematics vs the daughter board pins.

This board schematics are here at this link: NRF52832 Module Test Board V1.0.

And the daughter board pinout is here:

Checking the schematics vs the daughter board pin out we can see that on the pdf schematics file our nRF chip is located where would/should be a CC2640_RGZ module (!…). For example on that module the DIO0 pin corresponds to P25 pin, the DIO1 pin to P26, and so on. We also can check that by, probably sheer luck, the power pins and SWD pins TCLK-SWCLK and TDIO-SWDIO are just right… and so they just reused the main board to hold the nRF52.

Checking out the board and the schematic we can see also that we have a switch on nRF52 pin P04 and two red leds at P30 and P31. The leds can be disconnected by removing the soldering on the nearby solder bridges. The other pins seem free.

As a final note, at least the board that I’ve received, comes with the BLE peripheral Nordic UART example loaded as the running firmware.

More info:Taida Century Gold Core NRF52 board

Programming the board
The board can be programmed at least by two ways:

  1. Openocd On chip debugger – But a set of patchs are needed to support the nRF52
  2. Black Magic Probe – Running on a cheap stm32F103C8T6 board – Blue pill

Both ways allow to successfully program the board and debug the running code.

To avoid making this a very long post I’ve split it into further posts how to build the tools necessary to program the nRF52 chip.

  1. Setting up Openocd for programming the Nordic nRF52832 chip
  2. Building a Black Magic Probe using the “blue pill” STM32F103C8T6 based board

TTN LoraWan Atmega32U4 based node – ABP version

TTN is the The Things Network that provides the required backend services and infra-structure for supporting IoT (Internet of Things) connectivity that uses the LORAWAN protocol.

Anybody can participate on the Things Network by either providing the radio gateways that feed the received data to the TTN backend that, then, delivers it to the user applications, and so increasing the coverage of the TTN network, or just use the network by building TTN Lorawan nodes.

This post is regarding the later case, the build of a simple node based on an Arduino board: the Arduino Micro Pro. So why the Micro PRO, these are quite more expensive than the normal Arduinos, but come in two versions: 5V and 3.3V.
Since I’m using the SX1276 Lora radio that works with 3.3V, I’ve chosen the 3.3V Arduino Pro version so that I do not need to use level shifters if using a 5V based board. Also the Arduino Micro PRO chip, the Atmega32u4 has embedded USB connectivity/port, so no need for serial adapters and/or supporting chips which, at the end, might lead to lower power consumption.

Right now, on sites like eBay and Aliexpress, boards like the Lora32u4 come at least in two versions: with the Atmega328p and with the Atmega32u4. Both suffer the same problem, the Atmel micro processor used only has 32K of RAM available which might be too short to be used for some applications.
This is because the LMIC, the Lorawan stack, takes a huge amount of space if using the original IBM version. A much more memory efficient version for Arduino, originally ported from IBM code, but using a different AES encryption algorithm also exists and saves a lot of memory space. We will see about that. The great advantage of these boards is they also have connection and charger for a LiPo battery, so in reality all we need is to add sensors, battery and our code. An example of such board is the BSFrance Lora32u4 board.

The node build:
While I’m waiting for my Atmega32U4 based Lora32u4 board, I’m using an Hoperf RFM95 radio soldered on board/shield designed for the Wemos ESP8266: Wemos RFM95 Lora shield. this way I can use the RFM radio either on the ESP8266 Wemos based set of boards, or, as in this case, with the Arduino 32u4.

The Hallard shield as one interesting feature that is that merges all the Lora transceiver status pins by using diodes and hence only use one Arduino pin for inquiring Lora SX1276 radio status. This is needed due to the lack of I/O pins on the Wemos ESP8266 board. For this to work on Arduino we need to add a pull-down resistor to the Arduino pin that connects to the merged output. In my case I used a 10K resistor.
The RFM95 radio is controlled using SPI, so we need to use also the SPI Arduino Pins, and also need to connect the Chip Select pin.
The schematics is as follows:

Arduino Pro Micro and RFM95 Wemos Shield

The node software:
After the node hardware build is done, from the software perspective the node needs now at least another two things: the LMIC stack for implementing the Lorawan protocol support over the Lora radio and, at the TTN site, the device configuration.

Since I’m using Platformio to develop, the LMIC library is the library 852: pio lib show 852. We need to install it and add the reference to it on the file platformio.ini. Also since there is no ATMega 32U4 board on the Platformio IDE available boards, we can use the Adafruit Feather 32u4 board, which is the same thing:

platform = atmelavr
board = feather32u4
framework = arduino
lib_install= 852

The device registration can be done so that the node device access the TTN network in two different ways:

  1. ABP – Activation by personalisation – This means that all set of keys required to join the Lorawan network are embedded into the software.
  2. OTAA – Over the Air Activation – The network session keys needed to join the Lorawan network are generated when the device tries to join the network.

On this post we will ABP first, since I have no nearby TTN gateway capable o OTTA (I’m using a single channel gateway without downlink support.).

Anyway, the node code is really nothing special, except the necessary configuration for the LMIC to communicate with our RFM95 board.

On the ABP device registration TTN page we need to register our device, so that, on main.cpp code file we can fill the required keys and device ID.

As a quick introduction, after registering onto the TTN site, we go to the console and choose Applications. We can there create or reuse an existing application and register the device, making sure we choose ABP as the method to join the network.

On the Device EUI field, either we fill it or press the crossing arrows to generate an ID. We let the system generate an ID, and then we can finally press the Register button.

The newly register device is configured as an OTAA device:

So we go to Settings and change the OTAA to ABP. After this step we have the required data to put on our code.

Since our node doesn’t have any memory to track frame counting that survives reboots or power cycles, we disable the frame counter checks.

Don’t forget to press save. Again on the main device screen we can now copy the keys to the code:

We can now copy the keys:

static u1_t NWKSKEY[16] = { 0xEE, ... ... ... ... }; // <- Put here the NETWORK KEY
static u1_t APPSKEY[16] = { 0x4E, 0x12, ... ... ... ... };  // <- Put here the APPLICATION KEY
static u4_t DEVADDR = 0x26304050;   // Put here the device id in hexadecimal form.


Compiling the code with the pio run command, we have the following output when using the original IBM LMIC library:

Calculating size .pioenvs/feather32u4/firmware.elf
AVR Memory Usage
Device: atmega32u4

Program:   28542 bytes (87.1% Full)
(.text + .data + .bootloader)

Data:        957 bytes (37.4% Full)
(.data + .bss + .noinit)

And we can flash the firmware with the command: pio run -t upload.

The result is data on the TTN console referring to our device:

The problem… :
So, everything runs OK, and we can send data to the TTN Network, everything looks good, right?

As soon we start to add functionality to our code, for example reading some I2C sensors, our some serial debug messages, we hit this problem:

Linking .pioenvs/feather32u4/firmware.elf
Checking program size
text       data     bss     dec     hex filename
Error: The program size (28756 bytes) is greater than maximum allowed (28672 bytes)
28548       208     749   29505    7341 .pioenvs/feather32u4/firmware.elf
*** [.pioenvs/feather32u4/firmware.elf] Explicit exit, status 1

So in reality we can’t add much functionality to our code if using a full LMIC stack, since it occupies a lot of the available flash memory.

Trimming down the IBM LMIC stack:
Since our node is ABP only we can strip out some LMIC functionality for OTAA an other Lorawan features. For this we need to edit the config.h file from the LMIC library. Since we are using platformio, this file is located at project_root/.piolibdeps/IBM LMIC framework_ID852/src/lmic

We only leave support for ABP by enabling the disable lines for other LMIC functionality:

// Any runtime assertion failures are printed to this serial port (or
// any other Print object). If this is unset, any failures just silently
// halt execution.
#define LMIC_FAILURE_TO Serial

// Uncomment this to disable all code related to joining
// Uncomment this to disable all code related to ping
// Uncomment this to disable all code related to beacon tracking.
// Requires ping to be disabled too

// Uncomment these to disable the corresponding MAC commands.
// Class A
//#define DISABLE_MCMD_DCAP_REQ // duty cycle cap
//#define DISABLE_MCMD_DN2P_SET // 2nd DN window param
//#define DISABLE_MCMD_SNCH_REQ // set new channel
// Class B
#define DISABLE_MCMD_PING_SET // set ping freq, automatically disabled by DISABLE_PING
#define DISABLE_MCMD_BCNI_ANS // next beacon start, automatical disabled by DISABLE_BEACON

By uncommenting the above lines, our code now takes (we can and should ignore the LMIC compile warnings):

AVR Memory Usage
Device: atmega32u4

Program:   23324 bytes (71.2% Full)
(.text + .data + .bootloader)

Data:        796 bytes (31.1% Full)
(.data + .bss + .noinit)

So around 5KB less without the OTAA and Class B support.

So we have a bit more memory to do something useful.

Enabling OTAA by commenting the line //#define DISABLE_JOIN:

AVR Memory Usage
Device: atmega32u4

Program:   25048 bytes (76.4% Full)
(.text + .data + .bootloader)

Data:        912 bytes (35.6% Full)
(.data + .bss + .noinit)

We still have around 3K free. Tight but might be enough.

If using the Arduino ported LMIC library (852) we have:

AVR Memory Usage
Device: atmega32u4

Program:   18944 bytes (57.8% Full)
(.text + .data + .bootloader)

Data:        813 bytes (31.8% Full)
(.data + .bss + .noinit)

Much better!

The availability of boards with the AtMega32u4 processor, Lora Radio and LiPo charge and battery connectivity, is a great step to start using the TTN (or other) Lorawan networks. But with only with 32K or flash memory, for some applications, these boards might not be the best solution.

Also the price for such boards are still a bit on the expensive side, since a discrete 32u4 + RFM95 + Lipo charger is a bit cheaper than the single board solution.

Anyway, the STM32F103 blue pill boards cost half of the 32U4 price and have double the flash size and 9x the clock, are also 3.3v compatible and so it would be great that such single Lora boards used the STM32F103 instead of the 328p or 32u4…

So my conclusion is, without power considerations taken into account, a STM32F103 + RFM95 and LiPo charger, is a better alternative than the one that I’ve used here.

Using the Blackmagic probe with Netbeans

Using the Blackmagic debug probe (BMP) with Netbeans is very similar when doing the same but with using Openocd.

The initial steps are the same to use the BMP probe and Openocd. First we set up the ARM toolchain or other, as needed. We also need the gdbserver plugin for Netbeans, and so, we also need to install it. After these two initial steps, the remaining configuration and how to use the probe differs a bit differently from when using Openocd.

One of the main differences is that with Openocd, externally we launch an instance of Openocd and then use the Netbeans gdbserver plugin to connect to that openocd instance. For that we use the Netbeans menu Debug and Attach Debugger and use connection string extended-remote localhost:3333 and the selected project:

For using the BMP probe we don’t need no intermediary software since the code supporting the gdbserver plugin is already on the probe firmware, which means that the debugger can connect directly to the target. In fact due to this we do not need now to attach to a debugger and we can start using the Debug Project (CTRL-F5) to program/flash the code output (optional) and to start debugging the code running on the target device.

For this to happen we need to configure the Debug Command for the project (this must be done for each project if needed) and if wanted we can also configure the Run Command.
Before we are able to do that, we need first to create a command file for the gdb debugger that will pre-execute some commands, namely to attach to the targets probe, before starting the debugging session.

For that I’ve created a file named BMPgdbinit located, in my case, in /opt/ARM:

target extended-remote /dev/ttyACM0
monitor swdp_scan
att 1

This file is invoked by the ARM debugger toolchain (like this: arm-none-eabi-gdb -x /opt/ARM/BMPgdbinit file.out) and it will connect to the Blackmagic probe, that should be located at /dev/ttyACM0, scan the SWD searching for the device, attaches to it, loads/programs the output file, namely the firmware, and starts it. From this point the gdbserver from Netbeans takes control and should stop at the first line of code or the first break point.

So to configure the run command we edit the Project Properties and modify the Run command:

Just define the Run Command as arm-none-eabi-gdb -x /opt/ARM/BMPgdbinit “${OUTPUT_PATH}”

With this configuration we can now press F6 to flash our firmware (because the load command is on the BMPgdbinit file) and run it.

For debugging we need the following configuration:

We must define the Debug Command as ${OUTPUT_PATH} since this will be passed as the arm-none-eabi-gdb file parameter.
We also need to point to the correct location of the BMPgdbinit file.

We can now just press CTRL-F5 to launch a debug session, and again, the firmware will be loaded, and the code will stop at the first break point.

An example of using Netbeans to build a simple program targeting the nRF52832 (the blinky example from pcbreflux ) with an added variable and a watch point set:

That’s it….


There are some issues with the above process…

Can’t stop the debugger. Pressing Pause does nothing…
This is a long standing bug apparently so the solution is on a external terminal window send a SIGINT signal to the gdb process:

[pcortex@pcortex:~]$ ps -ef | grep arm-none
pcortex 9792  9405  0 20:22 ?        00:00:00 /tmp/dlight_fdam/5fe1c993/0397644155/pty --dir /opt/nordic/nRF52832/blinky --no-pty /opt/ARM/gcc-arm-none-eabi-6_2-2016q4/bin/arm-none-eabi-gdb -x /opt/ARM/BMPgdbinit -nx --interpreter mi -tty /dev/pts/7
pcortex 9794  9792  0 20:22 ttyACM0  00:00:00 /opt/ARM/gcc-arm-none-eabi-6_2-2016q4/bin/arm-none-eabi-gdb -x /opt/ARM/BMPgdbinit -nx --interpreter mi -tty /dev/pts/7

Just send a SIGINT signal to the process associated to the Blackmagic probe:

kill -SIGINT 9794

The control is returned to Netbeans.

The debugger doesn’t seem to follow my code…
Just Clean and build all the project and select run so a clean version of the program is flashed.

I unplug and plug the probe a lot and the tty ports change..

Because of this the BMPgdbinit script can be broken because the probe port changes, for example, to /dev/ttyACM2.

The solution is to create a rules file:

Mine, for Arch Linux is as follows:

# Black Magic Probe
# there are two connections, one for GDB and one for uart debugging
  SUBSYSTEM=="tty", ATTRS{interface}=="Black Magic GDB Server", SYMLINK+="ttyBMP"
  SUBSYSTEM=="tty", ATTRS{interface}=="Black Magic UART Port", SYMLINK+="ttyBMPUART"

This file is named 99-blackmagic.rules located at /etc/udev/rules.d.

We now need to change the port used on the BMPgdbinit file from /dev/ttyACM0 to /dev/ttyBMP. Note that after plugging in the probe to the USB port, it takes a while (2 to 3 seconds) to the ports appear.

This just doesn’t work…

Yes, some times the behaviour seems strange… I’ve worked around some of the issues by flashing again the softdevice and the program mannually from the GDB command line.

Also if something like this happens:

It is due to the fact that the Netbeans environment variables $OUTPUT_PATH is empty… The solution is to explicitly state the outputfile on the RUN and Debug commands instead of using the ENV var. For example change this:

arm-none-eabi-gdb -x /opt/ARM/BMPgdbinit "${OUTPUT_PATH}"

to this

arm-none-eabi-gdb -x /opt/ARM/BMPgdbinit /opt/Projects/nRF/proj1/program.out

or to this:

arm-none-eabi-gdb -x /opt/ARM/BMPgdbinit "${PROJECT_DIR}/file.out"

Final note:
As a final note, some other errors might creep up like:

  • Program is not being run: Check the command line of arm-none-eabi-gdb to see if the BMPgdbinit file is correctly provided.
  • Don’t know how to run. Try \”help target\”.: Same issue. Check if the run and debug commands are correctly defined.
  • Sometimes my target isn’t detected.: Adding an extra monitor swdp_scan line to the BMPgdbinit file might help.

NodeJS BLE Applications using BLENO on Arch Linux

BLENO is a greate NodeJS based library for building applications that communicat with other devices (Smartphones, tables, sensor tags) using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).

This post is just to quickly document some requirements for successfully use the BLENO library, in my case, on Arch Linux running the latest Plasma (KDE) desktop.

The tools:

Most the information available on the internet for using and controlling the bluetooth adapter uses the now deprecated tools hcitool, hciconfig and so on. Check here the deprecated list of commands.

So we need to use the new tools from the latest Bluez (Bluetooth Linux implementation): btmgm, btinfo, …

Making Bleno examples work:

The simplest example to try out the BLENO library is the battery example located at: […]/bleno/examples/battery-service

First let’s check if our computer/laptop bluetooth adapter is available: Note that all commands must be ran as the root user:

root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# btinfo local
Bluetooth information utility ver 5.45
Failed to open HCI user channel

This issue can be circumvented by stopping the higher level bluetooth stack:

root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# systemctl stop bluetooth
root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# btinfo local
Bluetooth information utility ver 5.45
HCI version: 6
HCI revision: 7869
LMP version: 6
LMP subversion: 64512
Manufacturer: 2

In case of previously disabling the Bluetooth through the graphical interface:

Disabling the Bluetooth here will have this behaviour (in this case the bluetooth service is still running):

root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# systemctl start bluetooth   (<- After this disable bluetooth on the graphical interface)
root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# btinfo local
Bluetooth information utility ver 5.45
Failed to open HCI user channel
root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# btmgmt power on
Set Powered for hci0 failed with status 0x12 (Blocked through rfkill)

Even stopping the Bluetooth service keeps the BT adapter disabled:

root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# systemctl stop bluetooth
root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# btmgmt power on
Set Powered for hci0 failed with status 0x12 (Blocked through rfkill)

We can check this with the rfkill command:

root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# rfkill list
0: phy0: Wireless LAN
        Soft blocked: no
        Hard blocked: no
2: hci0: Bluetooth
        Soft blocked: yes
        Hard blocked: no

We can unblock now the adapter:

root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# rfkill unblock 2
root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# rfkill list
0: phy0: Wireless LAN
        Soft blocked: no
        Hard blocked: no
2: hci0: Bluetooth
        Soft blocked: no
        Hard blocked: no
root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# btinfo local
Bluetooth information utility ver 5.45
HCI version: 6
HCI revision: 7869
LMP version: 6
LMP subversion: 64512
Manufacturer: 2
root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# btmgmt power on
hci0 class of device changed: 0x00010c
hci0 Set Powered complete, settings: powered bondable ssp br/edr le secure-conn 

So why we are having all this work for making sure that the BT adapter is powered on AND the bluetooth stack is stopped (systemctl stop bluetooth).

The answer is quite simple. If we don’t do this the BLENO examples will seem to work (they start) but the BLE advertised services are the bluetooth Bluez services and not our code.

To explain, check the following behaviour where we start the BLENO Battery Service with the Bluetooth stack started:

root@halcyon:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# systemctl start bluetooth
root@halcyon:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# node main.js 
on -> stateChange: poweredOn
on -> advertisingStart: success
setServices: success

Using the Nordic nRF Connect Android App we can see the non working behaviour vs what we should expect from the Bleno Battery example:

BLE Scan Results

Pressing Connect we can see on Client that no service are provided. This is due to the fact that the desktop bluetooth is enabled):

Now let’s disable the bluetooth stack (which powers the BT adapter) and start again the Bleno Battery example:

root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# systemctl stop bluetooth
root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# node main.js 

Example hangs in here, because BT adapter is disabled/off

^Croot@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# btmgmt power on
hci0 class of device changed: 0x00010c
hci0 Set Powered complete, settings: powered bondable ssp br/edr le secure-conn 
root@pcortex:/opt/bleno/examples/battery-service# node main.js 
on -> stateChange: poweredOn
on -> advertisingStart: success
setServices: success

And now if we scan again and connect to the Battery example with our mobile phone through the Nordic application we have:

It works now!

We can confirm that because on the file battery-service.js the service identifier is defined:

function BatteryService() {, {
      //uuid: '180F',
      uuid: 'ff51b30e-d7e2-4d93-8842-a7c4a57dfb07',
      characteristics: [
          new BatteryLevelCharacteristic()

and it is the same detected by the Android application.