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I have built a prototype that uses RedBear Lab's Blend micro board (http://redbearlab.com/blendmicro/). The board combines Arduino and a BLE chip (Nordic nRF8001). The application is fairly simple

  1. iPhone finds and connects to BLE chip
  2. When user presses a button on iPhone a message is sent to the Blend Micro board
  3. Based on the message (3 choices) the Arduino reads analog input from one of the pins
  4. The reading is passed back to the phone via BLE

Everything works well. My question is

  1. If I were to evolve this into something that can be taken closer to production, do I need the arduino? Seems like the Arduino is only adding a small amount of value in interpreting the message from phone and transmitting the reading
  2. If I don't need Arduino, how do I program the BLE chip (Nordic nRF8001) directly? I have seen some kits on the internet and they all seem much more complex than programming Arduino.

I am a newbie to H/W - deep background in S/W engineering - but definitely motivated and interesting in making my project a reality. Advice and guidance are appreicated.

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The nRF8001 can not run custom code, so you need an external microcontroller to use it. However, the nrf5 series (for example nrf51822) has a microcontroller and can run custom code.

Nrf5 is Arduino compatible thanks to sandeepmistry's nrf5 arduino core.

You will need a programmer though, since the nrf51822 uses swd programming. References to recommended programmers are available here.

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