Bluetooth Mate with Lilypad

Coming late to the game, I’m trying out a Bluetooth Mate from SparkFun with an Arduino Lilypad.Overall, it’s a nice Bluetooth radio to use with microcontrollers.  A few thoughts on getting it working:

This module mimics the 6-pin FTDI cable layout.  It can’t plug directly to a FTDI cable, but it can connect to anything that can connect to that cable and replace it, like the LilyPad and the Arduino Pro.  SparkFun has been standardizing on the 6-pin FTDI serial cable layout. I’m happy to see more companies doing that, regardless of whether they plan products to pair with the FTDI cables or not, because it’s useful to have a standard layout for serial connections to microcontroller devices.  To give credit where credit’s due, Limor Fried of Adafruit was the first person I saw do it with the Boarduino.  Yay.  It’s a good idea. The only caveat is that the Mate doesn’t work with the older 4-pin LilyPads. I have a bunch of them, but didn’t have any 6-pin models handy.

Once you’re connected, the Mate is really easy to use. The Roving Networks radio at its core has a nicely designed interface. When you power it up, it defaults to discoverable mode, and shows up as “FireFly-XXXX”.  Pair with it remotely using the passcode 1234, and you’ve got a serial port ready to connect to at 115200 bits per second.  There’s need to pre-configure the radio via serial or anything like that, as there’s been with other bluetooth radios.  For people building bluetooth microcontroller projects, this means you can concentrate on your circuit and not have to mess with the radio.

The advantage of Bluetooth is its ability to connect directly to desktops, laptops, and BT-enabled mobile phones — Xbee and other small radios on the market just can’t do that.  I’ve never been entirely happy with Bluetooth modules, though, because their cost is high relative to other radios, and the configuration is just enough to be irritating.  This is the first one I’ve seen that addresses the second issue really well.  will the $20, easy-to-use BT module beat it?  Not until it comes riding into town on the back of a unicorn, I suppose.  I’ll keep looking for unicorns, but use this in the meantime.

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