TI CC2650STK SimpleLink™ IoT SensorTag - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: TI CC2650STK SimpleLink™ IoT SensorTag

Author: monroerl@gmail.com

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Evaluation Boards

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Samsung Note 3, Arduino Yun, Radxa Rock,

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Android Security and Privacy apps would not allow connection so I had to disable those for the testing.

Detailed Review:

When the two small boxes first arrived I had to immediately rip them open and pull the packaging and case apart. I’m that type of guy; I gotta see what makes things tick. The first SensorTag comes in a cool red rubberized case, like a keychain only cooler. I pried that apart to expose the plastic case that the SensorTag lays in. The circuit board is about the size of two quarters next to each other with a 2032 size battery sitting underneath. The board has what looks like a mini SATA type connection (called the DevPack Expansion Connection) on the top and bottom. Sure enough, the boards are stackable.


The second board has the same Devpack connection plus a micro USB connection. The boards sit on top of each very nicely but don’t fit back into the plastic or rubberized case stacked. I guess you could forgo the plastic the case and just slip the two stacked board back into the rubberized case but that leaves lots of exposed circuits. Bad things happen when I leave circuits exposed so I try not to expose myself too much.


Texas Instruments has created an easy to implement IoT device strategy built around three common communities. The first community is the web and application developers where these devices can be accessed using JavaScript and jquery from the cloud. The second community is the embedded software gang who use the Debug DevPack for low-cost hardware development. Both of these communities use the SensorTag application that can easily be ported between Bluetooth Smart, 6LoWPAN and ZigBee for additional communication channels. The last community is the hardware developers who will build the overall packages for end users as well as other open source projects.

I was hoping for XBee chip technology but you can only expect so much from such a tiny board. Texas Instruments is working on other boards to compliment the current collection.


I started off by installing the Android application (SensorTag app) from the Google Play store (running Android 4.3 and up). You can use the Apple Store as well if you are using iPad or iPhone devices. The app has the same name, no matter where you grab it. Once the app is installed, you are supposed to pull the protective tab off of the Senortab board to activate the sensor battery. Once the SensorTag is activated, you should open up the app on your own device and select your SensorTag. The connection should be seamless. But not for me. I never get things to work right the first time or second time, even when they are as simple as this set up is. I own a large collection of hammers for a reason.


Let’s pretend my setup went according to plan and I should be seeing the information my Sensortag is sending via the application I have installed on my phone. This would be really cool and could be done in under three minutes if you weren’t me. Luckily, you aren’t me so you shouldn’t have any problems with getting your Texas Instruments SensorTag connected to the cloud and sending you information from any of the ten sensors and communication channels built in. Yeah, ten, as in almost a dozen sensors packed into an area the size of four postage stamps. Plus a battery. The Devboard doesn’t have a battery but instead relied on the microUSB connection to your computer for power and data.


My problem came from my Android phone, not the device. The failure to sense has to do with how I have my Samsung phone set up for security and privacy.  Once I turned off my phone’s extra privacy and security features, the app was able to see the SensorTag and all its available information. The sensors included Infrared temperature, 9 axis motion sensor, digital humidity indicator, altimeter/pressure sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnet sensor, ambient light sensor. There is a microphone included on the board along with 4 meg flash memory, a buzzer, on/off and reset switches, JTAG debugging interface, activity indicator lights, wireless MCU, PCB female antenna mount, uSMA RF connector, a solder point for AAA batteries and a keychain type connection to go along with the strap mounts in case you decide to made it into a monitoring watch.


That is a heck of lot of stuff packed into this tiny kit. http://www.ti.com/ww/en/wireless_connectivity/sensortag2015/index.html#main


Once I had the SensorTag reporting to my Android phone, I mounted the sturdy red device to a remote control car. I’m a very good driver except for the occasional crash and burn. The sensor was mounted inside the car for extra protection (along with duct tape for a seatbelt, safety first). The phone app was fed tons of data on the constantly changing speed, direction, impacts (crashes), light changes when it went under trees and real cars plus humidity changes whenever the vehicle got too close to a sewer entrance. This test was a major success.


My next test as to attach the SensorTag to a Frisbee and my dog’s collar. I received the same information, a bit more erratic on both the dog and Frisbee but still quite amazing. Analyzing the data was pretty easy too because each sensor reports in a separate column for each type of sensor. I need to figure out how to map all this data into a 3D program like Google maps. The reason for mounting the SensorTag onto a remote control car was to see if it would work for disaster recover robots searching buildings for signs of life. The Frisbee test was to see how much fluxuation to its environment can be accurately identified and sent back for interpretation, like a plan during a crash. The third test was to see how well the device held up to a crazy dog running all over the yard, going through bushes, fetching sticks (but never returning them) and general mayhem.


In each test the SensorTag worked great. The data was retrieved either directly to my phone via the cloud or directly to my phone using Bluetooth. The cloud worked best but there was a much higher latency rate for retrieving the data. I was able to see temperature and lighting conditions change along with recording select sounds. As the battery and wheels in the remote control car and my dog heated up, this data was displayed with amazing accuracy. The magnet sensor picked up other metal objects as my dog approached our chain link fence and other cars the remote control car drove under.


The dev board was used to access Texas Instrument’s CCS Cloud IDE that came as a free bonus. This app allows you to create one or any combination of the three communities we mentioned earlier. I was very impressed with how well the SensorTag worked and how easily it connected to my phone once I set my device up properly. The 2032 battery that comes with the SensorTag is the same battery that is installed in most computers. This means the device will provide three to five years’ worth of solid performance. When the battery does die, folk out a few bucks for a new battery because it is replaceable. Another bonus.


This is a neat project with amazing potential. If you are looking for a project that needs any or all of these sensors and plenty of ways to communicate, grab the SensorTag from Element 14. There are other vendors out there but Element 14 has been one of my main suppliers for years.