Nordic Semiconductor nRF52 Series-based Bluetooth low energy wearable word counter helps parents monitor and track verbal engagement with babies and infants

VersaMe’s ‘Starling’ employs Nordic’s next generation nRF52832 SoC to provide Bluetooth low energy wireless connectivity between the device and iOS smartphones and tablets

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that Menlo Park, CA-based childhood education technology company, VersaMe, has launched an educational wearable for infants and toddlers called ‘Starling’. Starling is a pacifier-sized, star-shaped device that attaches to a baby’s ‘onesie’, a toddler’s t-shirt, or a diaper bag, and tracks verbal engagement between parents and young children. It employs Nordic’s nRF52832 System-on-Chip (SoC) to provide Bluetooth® low energy (previously known as Bluetooth Smart) wireless connectivity between the device and Bluetooth 4.0 (or later) iOS smartphones and tablets.

According to VersaMe, research shows the number of words a child is exposed to before the age of four is the greatest predictor of their future success. The Starling wearable word counter is designed to help parents monitor this engagement, counting the number of words a child says and hears each day, measuring the total against a customized daily word goal. Starling works in any language and has been successfully tested in English, French, Mandarin, Hindi, Japanese, and Hebrew amongst others.

To start using Starling, the device is first calibrated to recognize the voices of the infant’s caregivers, filtering out background noise, such as television sound or other voices in restaurants. Once calibrated, Starling processes the audio signals from a parent’s verbal engagements with their child, and via its proprietary algorithms measures and tracks the number of words spoken to a child each day.

This meta-data (there is no actual recording of speech) is then transmitted via Bluetooth low energy connectivity to the Starling app running on Bluetooth 4.0 (or later) iOS smartphones or tablets. In the absence of a receiver, or when auto-sync is disabled, the data is stored on the device itself and downloaded to the smartphone or tablet at the next opportunity. From the Starling app the user can set word goals for their child, view the number of words the child has been exposed to that day and since they first started using the device, monitor battery life, as well as get age appropriate activities to help boost their child’s exposure to new words. For partner organizations―non-profit organizations, speech therapists, pediatricians, and educators―the app data can also be downloaded to a web dashboard to enable viewing of data from multiple Starling devices.

The device employs a rechargeable Li-poly battery, providing between five and seven days of operation between recharges depending on whether the unit is switched off at night, thanks in part to the ultra low power consumption of the nRF52832 SoC. The nRF52832 has been engineered to minimize power consumption with features such as the 2.4GHz radio’s 5.5mA peak RX/TX currents and a fully-automatic power management system that reduces power consumption by up to 80 percent compared with Nordic’s nRF51 Series SoCs. The result is a Bluetooth low energy solution which offers 90 CoreMark/mA, up to twice as power efficient as competing devices.

Nordic’s nRF52832 Bluetooth low energy SoC, a member of Nordic Semiconductor’s sixth generation of ultra low power (ULP) wireless connectivity solutions, combines a 64MHz, 32-bit ARM® Cortex® M4F processor with a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio (fully compatible with Bluetooth 4.2, ANT™ and proprietary 2.4GHz RF software) featuring -96dB RX sensitivity, with 512kB Flash memory and 64kB RAM. When launched, the SoC was the world’s highest performance single-chip Bluetooth low energy solution, delivering up to 60 percent more generic processing power, offering 10 times the Floating Point performance and twice the DSP performance compared to competing solutions.

“Our engineers have worked with Nordic on multiple occasions and were set on Nordic from the start,” says VersaMe Founder, Nicki Boyd. “We selected the nRF52832 primarily because of its ultra low power characteristics.”

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