NRFICE is a dongle-free Bluetooth FPGA board in an Arduino Uno form factor. It combines the dual-core Bluetooth SoC nRF5340 with the Lattice ICE40UP5K FPGA to simplify development of edge computing and IoT products. Built in J-Link programming and debugging means no emulator dongles to buy or carry around, including for commercial use. The open source Android app allows loading of nRF and ICE40 projects over Bluetooth out of the box. The NRFICE’s form factor supports 3.3 V shields and has a beefy 5 V power supply on board (9 - 12 V wall-wart input) to supply shield/daughter boards with plenty of power for LED lighting, motor controllers, etc.
NRFICE allows for rapid prototyping of mobile peripheral and edge computing devices. With fewer wires and no programming dongles, many things are possible. Educators can provide experimentation hardware to students with minimal bring-up. Our community can easily develop new sample projects. Once underway, any of the complete sample builds can be chosen in a list on the mobile app and immediately programmed into the board with a phone, no other wires/dongles needed.
We believe the combination of the nRF5340 and ICE40UP5K is the best chip set for development of edge computing applications. The ICE40UP5K already has examples from Lattice that interface to image sensors and implement AI models for gesture detection, and there are many more existing open source projects for the ICE40 family that perform cutting edge tasks.
In using both, developers and students are getting real world development experience on an FPGA family that is also cost effective in volume production environments. This is in contrast to a lot of DIY projects using Arduino, and others, where the skills learned are not easily carried into industry where cost, size, and manufacturability are serious issues.
Now, importantly, you’ve got your ICE40 for edge computing/AI tasks, but how does it communicate with the outside world? There’s always an MCU to work the marionette strings. We think the nRF5340 is the best choice for development. Nordic semi, as well as module makers like Fanstel, have a rich list of parts at various performance and price points, so when you’ve got your design proven on NRFICE, you can then choose the most cost effective production chip set.
Development tool chains for embedded systems can be costly and cumbersome. Fortunately, Segger Embedded Studio is free to Nordic Semi chip users, and Lattice has made its professional FPGA development tool, Radiant, free for the ICE40 family. This means professional grade development tools are ready to go for NRFICE at no cost to you. Microsoft VS Code is also free and supported by the nRF-Connect plugin. Example projects exercising every feature of the nRF5340 SoC are a few clicks away.
Any idea requiring mobile device connectivity is appropriate for the NRFICE board as a base, in particular, if FPGA performance is needed. Existing example projects for nRF5340 include Central, Peripheral, and HIDS Bluetooth LE 5 roles, Bluetooth 5 mesh networking, near field communication such as pairing to smart cards and implanted chips, direction finding and distance measurement using Bluetooth radio, and cryptographic capabilities: AES CBC/CCM/CTR/GCM, ECDH, ECDSA,HKDF, HMAC, PSA TLS, RNG, RSA, SHA-256.
The Lattice ICE40UP5K FPGA has many capabilities. Reference designs from Lattice, including AI training data sets, include:
NRFICE Android App
With the Nordic nRF5340 as its brain, NRFICE makes it possible to load a project into the onboard Lattice iCE40UP5K FPGA out of the box, bypassing the typical extensive toolchain setup. In this way, Nordic Semi enables a new class of FPGA development, where any number and variety of bitstreams are hosted in the cloud, selected by a user on their phone, and loaded wirelessly.
|IcyBlue FPGA Feather
|nRF5340, Dual-core Bluetooth 5.3 SoC, 128MHz Corex-M33, 1MB Flash, 512KB RAM
|Open Source Tools
|2x RGB LED, 2x User Button, Bluetooth Mobile App
|4x LED + 2x push button + 2x DIP switch
|2x LED, 1x button
|1x RGB LED, 2x user LED, 1x button
|Yes (CERN-OHL-P-2.0 & OSHWA, UID: US002181)
|Yes (CERN Open Hardware Licence v1.2)
We are passionate about open source and our public GitHub repository includes our BOM, Eagle schematic and BRD files, Gerbers, sample verilog (FPGA) projects, android app source, nRF Connect projects, and a PC app that supports the device over a serial connection as an alternative to Bluetooth.
We work with a number of proven, vetted, PCB assemblers with which we have years of experience across many projects. The NRFICE design is complete, including all necessary manufacturing documents for a clean, low risk re-order.
After our production run is complete, we will box everything up and send it along to Crowd Supply’s fulfillment partner, Mouser Electronics, who will handle distribution to backers worldwide. You can learn more about Crowd Supply’s fulfillment service under Ordering, Paying, and Shipping in their guide.
Because the alpha prototype of NRFICE was turnkey manufactured turnkey by one of our production suppliers, we’re confident that the re-order process is low risk. There were minor changes to the design after the prototype, but we have meticulously checked them and implemented them as reworks on our existing boards. We do not face the risk of prohibitive re-spin costs, and the project is well financed. In the unlikely event that the end product has a flaw, the delay would be approximately four weeks. But again, we do not expect any issues. We are dedicated to 100% customer satisfaction and will take any steps necessary to deliver a flawless board as quickly as possible.
NRFICE is part of Nordic Community Hub
"Since it's built on the Lattice ICE40UP5K FPGA, the NRFICE board can utilize examples from Lattice for interfacing with image sensors and implementing AI models. "
Produced by Hurley Research in Aptos, CA.
Sold and shipped by Crowd Supply.
A dongle-free, Bluetooth-enabled FPGA board with a built-in J-Link OB debugger, an Arduino Uno form factor, and everything you need for edge-computing applications
A small team of affiliated engineers, we have been developing new technologies since 1997 for a variety of companies, and some projects of our own. Now we’re looking to share what we’ve learned over the decades with the open source community.