5 Reasons to Consider a Bluetooth Module Over an RF Chip-Down Design


In many cases, certified Bluetooth modules offer significantly lower cost and faster time-to-market than designing your own chip-down approach.

So, you have an incredible idea for a product that connects to a computer or mobile device without being too power hungry. Where will you start? Well first you would choose the protocol that you are going to use. A Google search for a Thread, Zigbee or Z-wave enabled Smartphone yielded NOTHING, so really the choice boils down to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Both are fairly ubiquitous, but in our experience only one really works for connecting products to their users devices: Bluetooth.

And your team is experienced in RF right? Good. That makes it even easier for me to tell you how hard analog RF can be. RF designs can be extremely challenging, time consuming and expensive. In addition to the required technical knowledge, choosing to design your project via a discrete or chip down solution for connectivity requires expensive and time-consuming testing, equipment and certifications. It has stopped many great project teams in their tracks.

But don’t give up on your killer idea. Choosing a BLE module versus a chip down design can solve all of these problems, including some you might not have even thought about. Deciding whether to use a BLE module can make or break your product and ultimately your business.

We think it’s a no-brainer so here are 5 reasons why you should use a BLE module in your product design:

1. Think beyond cost of chip down vs. module so you aren’t surprised

In this IoT world, speed of execution is everything. With all the research, certification, multiple testing, equipment and work involved in designing a BLE-enabled product from scratch, your development process could easily take a year longer than expected.Try to estimate the impact to your company or client by arriving to market too late. So having a simple cost model based around cost of chip down at volume versus module at volume is no longer valid. The lost opportunity costs push the standard “80,000 Module” crossover point to much closer to 400,000 – 700,000 units adjusted for customer context.

By the time you finish that initial prototype your market may have come and gone.

BLE modules can shorten your time to market and decrease your overhead costs in management.  You simplify your supply chain management. Sourcing only 1 module versus N-discrete components.

 

2. Modules come pre-certified with Bluetooth, FCC, IC, CE and other required certifications.

Many BLE modules, like Rigado’s BMD series, are pre-certified.We went through the pain, sleepless nights and bureaucratic frustration for you. It’s not worth wasting time navigating red tape when pre-certified modules are available. You also forgo the majority of fees required for certification. These save on your cash reserves. 

If you decide on a chip down BLE solution, it can take months to acquire all the necessary certification for your product and that is if you are lucky and pass first time! This means researching, applying, and waiting for certifications – and reapplying if your certification is denied the first time around. We are often called in for “rescue engineering” projects when, even with the best intentions, project teams sink into the quicksand of regulatory approval and need rescuing. We will always help people in need, but it’s not the most fun task. Just use the module. It’s cheaper than calling in the cavalry.

It reinforces point #1 – get to market faster, start selling sooner, worry less about end product reliability.

 

3. Hardware is hard. RF is painful. Why are you still thinking about rolling your own…

Be an engineer. Swallow your pride and do the right thing. Help your customers and stakeholders get the job done right and done quick. Save money on RF engineering, RF testing and production testing. The days of NIH are long dated. Time to market is king.

Instead of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for engineers, antenna matching and tuning testing equipment, you get a pre-certified and production tested solution.  You also don’t need to worry about procuring and evaluating multiple RF components, since we have designed, built, tested and pre-certified our solution. You just wire in and go.

 

4. Modules Enable Agility in Hardware, Makes Product Managers Happier.

You might scratch your head at this, but think this through. You create a superb board design with an all chip-down RF solution because you are so tight for cash. In true Silicon Valley Chicken Soup for The Soul, your product gets traction and you can afford to move out of the Internet Cafe where you sleep.

You then notice a problem with the layout.  Out of your mouth comes a phrase that rhymes with  “Clucking Bell”. You palpitate.

That’s fine, you’ll change it so that it works. Just a few tracks and the ground plane. Phew. Genius.

Then, because it’s a new layout and MAY affect the RF, you have to go through the whole re-cert process again.

Time to call the internet cafe for your room…

5. You can focus on what you’re best at

You know what you’re best at and what you love doing. Your best customers know that you deliver at your best when you are in that flow.

Using a BLE module allows you to devote your energy to building and marketing your strengths as a quality developer so you can move on to new projects. But I hear you say “Rigado, that’s all well but when I present this to my clients they get red faced and start getting angry about the size of my BOM”, well Rigado feels that no one should be judged on the size of their BOM. Part of the reason why they get so angry about marginally larger BOM’s  is because they don’t understand the reasoning behind a slightly larger BOM, because no one explains the risks of a cheaper BOM to them. Use this article and others to build a case for the cost delta that they will understand. Customers who see a clear case often are easier to work with.

 

With a BLE module, you have the power to bring your design to market faster, at lower cost and with more reliable RF connectivity – the three things every company wants for their product.

 


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