nRF Desktop: Integrating your own hardware

This page describes how to adapt the nRF Desktop application to different hardware and lists the required steps.


Make sure to get familiar with the Configuration section before porting the application to a new board.

Adding a new board

When adding a new board for the first time, focus on a single configuration. Moreover, keep the default debug build type that the application is built with, and do not add any additional build type parameters. The following procedure uses the gaming mouse configuration as an example.

Zephyr support for a board

Before introducing nRF Desktop application configuration for a given board, you need to ensure that the board is supported in Zephyr.


You can skip this step if your selected board is already supported in Zephyr.

Follow the Zephyr’s Board Porting Guide for detailed instructions related to introducing Zephyr support for a new board. Make sure that the following conditions are met:

  • Edit the DTS files to make sure they match the hardware configuration.

    Pay attention to the following elements:

  • Edit the board’s Kconfig files to make sure they match the required system configuration.

    For example, disable the drivers that will not be used by your device.


You can define the new board by copying the nRF Desktop reference design files that are the closest match for your hardware and then aligning the configuration to your hardware. For example, for gaming mouse use nrf/boards/nordic/nrf52840gmouse.

nRF Desktop support for a board

Perform the following steps to add nRF Desktop application configuration for a board that is already supported in Zephyr.

  1. Copy the project files for the device that is the closest match for your hardware. For example, for gaming mouse these are located at applications/nrf_desktop/configuration/nrf52840gmouse_nrf52840.

  2. Optionally, depending on the reference design, edit the DTS overlay file. This step is not required if you have created a new reference design and its DTS files fully describe your hardware. In such case, the overlay file can be left empty.

  3. In Kconfig, ensure that the following hardware interface modules that are specific for gaming mouse are enabled:

  4. For each module enabled, change its configuration to match your hardware. Apply the following changes, depending on the module:

    Motion module
    • The nrf52840gmouse uses the PMW3360 optical motion sensor. The sensor is configured in DTS, and the sensor type is selected in the application configuration. To add a new sensor, expand the application configuration.

    Wheel module
    • The wheel is based on the QDEC peripheral of the nRF52840 device and the hardware-related part is configured in DTS.

    Buttons module
    • To simplify the configuration of arrays, the nRF Desktop application uses _def files.

    • The _def file of the buttons module contains pins assigned to rows and columns.

    Battery measurement module
    • The _def file of the battery measurement module contains the mapping needed to match the voltage that is read from ADC to the battery level.

    LEDs module
    • The application uses two logical LEDs - one for the peers state, and one for the system state indication.

    • Each of the logical LEDs can have either one (monochromatic) or three color channels (RGB). Such color channel is a physical LED.

    • The module uses Zephyr’s Light-Emitting Diode (LED) driver for setting the LED color. Zephyr’s LED driver can use the implementation based on either GPIO or PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation). The hardware configuration is described through DTS. See the CAF: LEDs module configuration section for details.

  5. Review the HID configuration.

  6. By default, the nRF Desktop device enables Bluetooth connectivity support. Review the Bluetooth configuration.

    1. Ensure that the Bluetooth role is properly configured. For mouse, it should be configured as peripheral.

    2. Update the configuration related to peer control. You can also disable the peer control using the CONFIG_DESKTOP_BLE_PEER_CONTROL option. Peer control details are described in the Bluetooth LE bond module documentation.

  7. Edit Kconfig to disable options that you do not use. Some options have dependencies that might not be needed when these options are disabled. For example, when the LEDs module is disabled, the PWM driver is not needed.

Adding a new motion sensor

This procedure describes how to add a new motion sensor into the project. You can use it as a reference for adding other hardware components.

The nRF Desktop application comes with a Motion module that is able to read data from a motion sensor. While nRF Connect SDK provides support for two motion sensor drivers (PMW3360 and PAW3212), you can add support for a different sensor, based on your development needs.

Complete the steps described in the following sections to add a new motion sensor.

Add a new sensor driver

First, create a new motion sensor driver that will provide code for communication with the sensor. Use the two existing nRF Connect SDK sensor drivers as an example.

The communication between the application and the sensor happens through a sensor driver API (see Sensors). For the motion module to work correctly, the driver must support a trigger (see sensor_trigger_set) on a new data (see SENSOR_TRIG_DATA_READY trigger type).

When the motion data is ready, the driver calls a registered callback. The application starts a process of retrieving a motion data sample. The motion module calls sensor_sample_fetch and then sensor_channel_get on two sensor channels, SENSOR_CHAN_POS_DX and SENSOR_CHAN_POS_DY. The driver must support these two channels.

Create a DTS binding

Zephyr recommends to use DTS for hardware configuration (see Devicetree versus Kconfig). For the new motion sensor configuration to be recognized by DTS, define a dedicated DTS binding. See Devicetree bindings for more information, and refer to dts/bindings/sensor for binding examples.

Configure sensor through DTS

Once binding is defined, it is possible to set the sensor configuration. To define the binding, edit the DTS file that describes the board. For more information, see Introduction to devicetree.

As an example, take a look at the PMW3360 sensor that is already available in the nRF Connect SDK. The following code excerpt is taken from boards/nordic/nrf52840gmouse/nrf52840gmouse_nrf52840.dts:

&spi1 {
   compatible = "nordic,nrf-spim";
   status = "okay";
   cs-gpios = <&gpio0 13 0>;

 pinctrl-0 = <&spi1_default_alt>;
 pinctrl-1 = <&spi1_sleep_alt>;
 pinctrl-names = "default", "sleep";
     pmw3360@0 {
       compatible = "pixart,pmw3360";
       reg = <0>;
       irq-gpios = <&gpio0 21 0>;
       spi-max-frequency = <2000000>;

The communication with PMW3360 happens through the SPI, which makes the sensor a subnode of the SPI bus node. SPI pins are defined as part of the bus configuration, as these are common among all devices connected to this bus. In this case, the PMW3360 sensor is the only device on this bus, so there is only one pin specified for selecting the chip.

When the sensor’s node is mentioned, you can read @0 in pmw3360@0. For SPI devices, @0 refers to the position of the chip select pin in the cs-gpios array for a corresponding device.

Note the string compatible = "pixart,pmw3360" in the subnode configuration. This string indicates which DTS binding the node will use. The binding should match with the DTS binding created earlier for the sensor.

The following options are inherited from the spi-device binding and are common to all SPI devices:

  • reg - The slave ID number the device has on a bus.

  • label - Used to generate a name of the device (for example, it will be added to generated macros).

  • spi-max-frequency - Used for setting the bus clock frequency.


    To achieve full speed, data must be propagated through the application and reach Bluetooth LE a few hundred microseconds before the subsequent connection event. If you aim for the lowest latency through the LLPM (an interval of 1 ms), the sensor data readout should take no more than 250 µs. The bus and the sensor configuration must ensure that communication speed is high enough.

The remaining option irq-gpios is specific to pixart,pmw3360 binding. It refers to the PIN to which the motion sensor IRQ line is connected.

If a different kind of bus is used for the new sensor, the DTS layout will be different.

Include sensor in the application

Once the new sensor is supported by the nRF Connect SDK and the board configuration is updated, you can include it in the nRF Desktop application.

The nRF Desktop application selects a sensor using the configuration options defined in src/hw_interface/Kconfig.motion. Add the new sensor as a new choice option.

The Motion module of the nRF Desktop application has access to several sensor attributes. These attributes are used to modify the sensor behavior in runtime. Since the names of the attributes differ for each sensor, the Motion module uses a generic abstraction of them. You can translate the new sensor-specific attributes to a generic abstraction by modifying the configuration/common/motion_sensor.h file.


If an attribute is not supported by the sensor, you do not need to define it. In such case, set the attribute to -ENOTSUP.

Select the new sensor

The application can now use the new sensor. Edit the application configuration files for your board to enable it. See nRF Desktop: Board configuration for details.

To start using the new sensor, complete the following steps:

  1. Enable all dependencies required by the driver (for example, bus driver).

  2. Enable the new sensor driver.

  3. Select the new sensor driver in the application configuration options.

Changing interrupt priority

You can edit the DTS files to change the priority of the peripheral’s interrupt. This can be useful when adding a new custom board or whenever you need to change the interrupt priority.

The interrupts property is an array, where the meaning of each element is defined by the specification of the interrupt controller. These specification files are located at zephyr/dts/bindings/interrupt-controller/ DTS binding file directory.

For example, for nRF52840, the file is arm,v7m-nvic.yaml. This file defines the interrupts property in the interrupt-cells list. For nRF52840, it contains two elements: irq and priority. The default values for these elements for the given peripheral are in the dtsi file specific for the device. In the case of nRF52840, this is zephyr/dts/arm/nordic/nrf52840.dtsi, which has the following interrupts:

spi1: spi@40004000 {
         * This spi node can be SPI, SPIM, or SPIS,
         * for the user to pick:
         * compatible = "nordic,nrf-spi" or
         *              "nordic,nrf-spim" or
         *              "nordic,nrf-spis".
        #address-cells = <1>;
        #size-cells = <0>;
        reg = <0x40004000 0x1000>;
        interrupts = <4 1>;
        status = "disabled";

To change the priority of the peripheral’s interrupt, override the interrupts property of the peripheral node by including the following code snippet in the dts.overlay file or directly in the board DTS:

&spi1 {
    interrupts = <4 2>;

This code snippet changes the SPI1 interrupt priority from default 1 to 2.