BLE Connectivity on Portenta H7

This tutorial explains how to use BLE connectivity on the Portenta H7 to control the built-in LED using an external Bluetooth® application.


In this tutorial we will enable low energy Bluetooth® (BLE) on the Portenta H7 to allow an external Bluetooth® device to control the built-in LED either by turning it on or off.

You Will Learn

  • Enabling BLE connectivity on the Portenta H7.
  • Connecting the Portenta to an external BLE Mobile Application (In this case nRF Connect by Nordic Semiconductor).

Required Hardware and Software

Portenta and Low Energy Bluetooth® (BLE)

The onboard WiFi/Bluetooth® module of the H7 offers low energy Bluetooth® functionality that gives the board the flexibility to be easily connected to devices which also support BLE such as the Arduino Nano 33 IoT or most modern smart phones. Compared to classic Bluetooth®, Low Energy Bluetooth® is intended to provide considerably reduced power consumption and cost while maintaining a similar communication range.


Configuring the Development Environment

To communicate with the Portenta H7 via Bluetooth®, we are going to start by uploading a pre-built sketch that starts a Bluetooth® network and allows your mobile device, which will be used to control the LEDs, to connect to it. The sketch uses the ArduinoBLE Library that enables the BLE module and handles important functions such as scanning, connecting and interacting with services provided by other devices. You will also be using a third party application (e.g. nRF Connect), running on your mobile device that will connect your device to the board and help you control the built-in LED.

BLE Configuration Scheme

1. The Basic Setup

Begin by plugging in your Portenta board to the computer using a USB-C cable and open the Arduino IDE or the Arduino Pro IDE. If this is your first time running Arduino sketch files on the board, we suggest you check out how to set up the Portenta H7 for Arduino before you proceed.

The Portenta H7 can be connected to the computer using an appropriate USB-C cable

2. Install the ArduinoBLE Library

You will need to install the ArduinoBLE library in the Arduino IDE you are using. For this example we will use the classic Arduino IDE. To install the library go to : Tools -> Manage Libararies... type ArduinoBLE and click Install. Make sure you install ArduinoBLE version 1.1.3 or higher.

Download the BLE library in the Library Manager.
Download the BLE library in the Library Manager.

3. Create the BLE Sketch

Let's program the Portenta with the following example sketch. If the BLE module can be initialized correctly, you will see the blue LED lighting up for one second after uploading the sketch. If it fails you will see the red LED lighting up instead. Copy and paste the following code into a new sketch in your IDE or by open it from: Examples -> Arduino_Pro_Examples -> BLE Connectivity on Portenta H7 -> PortentaBLE

1#include <ArduinoBLE.h>2
3BLEService ledService("19b10000-e8f2-537e-4f6c-d104768a1214");4
5// BLE LED Switch Characteristic - custom 128-bit UUID, read and writable by central6BLEByteCharacteristic switchCharacteristic("19b10000-e8f2-537e-4f6c-d104768a1214", BLERead | BLEWrite);7
8const int ledPin = LED_BUILTIN; // Pin to use for the LED9
10void setup() {11  Serial.begin(9600);12  //while (!Serial);   // Uncomment to wait for serial port to connect.13
14  // Set LED pin to output mode15  pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);16  digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH);17
18  // Begin initialization19  if (!BLE.begin()) {20    Serial.println("Starting BLE failed!");21    digitalWrite(LEDR, LOW);22    delay(1000);23    digitalWrite(LEDR, HIGH);24
25    // Stop if BLE couldn't be initialized.26    while (1);27  }28
29  // Set advertised local name and service UUID:30  BLE.setLocalName("LED-Portenta-01");31  BLE.setAdvertisedService(ledService);32
33  // Add the characteristic to the service34  ledService.addCharacteristic(switchCharacteristic);35
36  // Add service37  BLE.addService(ledService);38
39  // Set the initial value for the characeristic:40  switchCharacteristic.writeValue(0);41
42  // start advertising43  BLE.advertise();44  digitalWrite(LEDB, LOW);45  delay(1000);46  digitalWrite(LEDB, HIGH);47  Serial.println("BLE LED Control ready");48}49
50void loop() {51  // Listen for BLE peripherals to connect:52  BLEDevice central = BLE.central();53
54  // If a central is connected to peripheral:55  if (central) {56    Serial.print("Connected to central: ");57    // Print the central's MAC address:58    Serial.println(central.address());59    digitalWrite(LEDB, HIGH);60    delay(100);61    digitalWrite(LEDB, LOW);62    delay(100);63    digitalWrite(LEDB, HIGH);64
65    // While the central is still connected to peripheral:66    while (central.connected()) {67      // If the remote device wrote to the characteristic,68      // Use the value to control the LED:69      if (switchCharacteristic.written()) {70        if (switchCharacteristic.value()) {   // Any value other than 071          Serial.println("LED on");72          digitalWrite(ledPin, LOW);          // Will turn the Portenta LED on73        } else {                             74          Serial.println("LED off");75          digitalWrite(ledPin, HIGH);         // Will turn the Portenta LED off          76        }77      }78    }79
80    // When the central disconnects, print it out:81    Serial.print("Disconnected from central: ");82    Serial.println(central.address());    83    digitalWrite(LEDB, HIGH);84    delay(100);85    digitalWrite(LEDB, LOW);86    delay(100);87    digitalWrite(LEDB, HIGH);88  }89}90

In our example we use a pre-defined Bluetooth® number code pre-setup for controlling a device's LEDs. This code can also be referred to as GATT codes, which define how two Bluetooth® low energy devices transfer data. Once a connection is established with a device, its respecitve GATT code, which is a 16 bit identifier, is stored in a lookup table for future reference. These GATT codes are very long, but in our example it is always the same code:

BLEService ledService("19b10000-e8f2-537e-4f6c-d104768a1214"); // BLE LED Service

Remember that on the Portenta the built-in LED is turned on by setting it to LOW and turned off by setting it to HIGH, the opposite of most other Arduino boards.

4. Upload the Sketch

Double press the reset button so the built-in LED is slowly pulsing green. Then, select your board in the menu: Tools -> Board -> Arduino Portenta H7 (M7 core)

Select the Arduino Portenta H7 (M7 core) in the board selector.
Select the Arduino Portenta H7 (M7 core) in the board selector.

Then choose the Port where your Portenta is connected to and Upload the sketch. Open the Serial Monitor once you've uploaded the code to the board to see debugging messages. If the BLE setup was successful you should see the message

BLE LED Control ready
. If something went wrong you will see the message
Starting BLE failed!
In that case update the Arduino BLE library (in the Library Manager) and the board (in the Board Manager) to the latest version and try again.

Select the Port to which the Portenta is connected to.
Select the Port to which the Portenta is connected to.

5. Connect an External Device

On your mobile device install nRF Connect or an equivalent app that allows for BLE connections. We will refer to nRF Connect for the rest of this tutorial.

Download the nRF Connect app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
Download the nRF Connect app from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

Once you have downloaded the nRF application on your mobile device look for your Portenta in the device list. You may filter the list by "Portenta" to make it easier to find your board in case you're using nRF Connect.

  • When you found your board in the list tap "Connect".
  • Navigate to the "Services" screen and tap the arrow up button.
  • Switch to "Bool" type and move the toggle to "True". Confirm the dialog with a tap on "Write" and you should see the built-in LED turned on. If you do the same procedure again but setting the toggle switch to "False" it will turn off the LED.

In the nRF Connect app use a Bool toggle switch to toggle the built-in LED.
In the nRF Connect app use a Bool toggle switch to toggle the built-in LED.


This tutorial shows how to connect and control the built-in LED using a BLE connection. You have learnt how a simple BLE connection between your Portenta and your cell phone which has basic communication abilities between the two devices works.

Next Steps

Now that you learnt how to configure the Portenta as a BLE endpoint you can try with two Portentas (or other BLE capable Arduino devices) to facilitate bidirectional communication. More information on how to achieve that can be found on the BLE library reference page


Sketch Upload Troubleshooting

If you try to upload a sketch and receive an error message, saying that the upload has failed you can try to upload the sketch while the Portenta H7 is in bootloader mode. To do so you need to double click the reset button. The green LED will start fading in and out. Try to upload the sketch again. The green LED will stop fading when the upload completes.

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