Adafruit Seeks to Bring the Bluefruit EZ-Link Back From the Dead with an Espressif ESP32 Pico

Discontinued after the original module supplier closed, the handy Bluetooth SPP EZ-Link could be on its way back in more compact form.

Adafruit is looking to bring a classic development board design back from the dead, showing off a potential successor to the Bluefruit EZ-Link — jokingly referred to as the "Zombie Bluefruit EZ-Link."

"Many, many years ago we developed and sold a pair of products called [Bluefruit] EZ-Key and EZ-Link that implemented Bluetooth classic HID [Human Interface Device] and SPP [Serial Port Protocol] respectively," Adafruit's Phillip Torrone explains. "They were popular because we actually did the two 'right' – with SPP having control lines for remote programming of boards that would normally use the RTS/DTR/CTS lines for auto-reset control."

Development of the Bluefruit EZ-Link was far from straightforward, however, requiring specific Bluetooth modules and a round-trip for FCC certification plus proprietary firmware and toolchains for development. The company persevered, and the Bluefruit EZ-Link launched — only to end up discontinued when the module manufacturer closed its doors.

"Perhaps we can bring it back from the dead," Torrone muses, "with [the Espressif] ESP32 Pico modules, small enough to make for tiny lil' boards and with [Bluetooth] Classic support and without a nonsense SDK [Software Development Kit]. Best of all there’s a version of the Pico that can use external antennas for looooong range Bluetooth!"

While still in the design stage, Adafruit's proposed EZ-Link successor boasts a considerable smaller board design while retaining the same pinout as the original. The on-board LED, used for pairing notifications, is an RGB Neopixel, receive and transmit are linked to the ESP32's hardware UART, and the pairing button can also be used for switching the module into programming mode. "We [also] strapped GPIO [General-Purpose Input/Output] 15 to ground," Torrone adds, "which should turn off the boot message so its a clean UART pipe over SPP."

While a little more information is available on Adafruit's blog, the company has not yet offered information on a launch date or pricing. "We'll see if it works," Torrone says.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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