– Nordic Semiconductor today announces that STATSports, a Newry, Northern Ireland-based data-tracking solutions company, has specified Nordic’s nRF52840 Bluetooth® Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) advanced multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC) for its ‘APEX’ advanced athlete performance-tracking wearable device, currently used by a host of major international sporting organizations including English Premier League football clubs.
The APEX device is embedded in a custom lightweight vest worn by the athlete, and integrates a 6600Hz accelerometer, 3200Hz high impact accelerometer, 6600Hz gyroscope, 100Hz magnetometer, and 18Hz augmented GPS, to provide sporting organizations and coaches with accurate and reliable live, uninterrupted sports-specific data for hundreds of metrics including total distance covered, current and maximum speed, number of sprints, maximum and average heart rate, accelerations, impacts, dynamic stress load, and step balance.
To transmit live metrics, the device must be within range of a STATSports beacon, installed around the training facility. The live data is transmitted to the beacon using Ultra Wideband (UWB) radio technology, where it is in turn relayed via a Wi-Fi local area network (LAN) to various APEX software applications for live review by coaching staff, or analysis after a match or event. Live data from the units can be transmitted onto the UWB network at any one time, while the beacon also creates a local hotspot to allow wireless access to the metric data via a user’s smartphone or tablet. The positional information is provided by GPS in pure outdoor set-ups, by UWB positioning in indoor set-ups, and using proprietary MAPPS (Multiple Augmented Performance Positional System) technology for mixed or difficult set-ups, where extremely reliable positioning is necessary.
The addition of Bluetooth LE wireless technology enabled by Nordic’s nRF52840 SoC provides individual athletes or sports coaches connectivity to the STATSports APEX app on a paired Bluetooth 4.0 (or later) iOS or Android smartphone, tablet, PC, or smartwatch, to immediately engage with the metrics being calculated in real time from the data, captured by the APEX wearable’s body sensors during a match or training session. The Nordic’s SoC’s S140 SoftDevice—a Bluetooth 5-certified software protocol stack for building long range and high data throughput Bluetooth LE applications—offers concurrent Central, Peripheral, Broadcaster, and Observer Bluetooth LE roles and supports up to 20 connections with variable bandwidth, allowing APEX to act both as a hub collecting and forwarding data from a network of peripheral on-body sensors (such as a heart rate monitor, oxygen saturation sensor, or muscular activity sensor) concurrently, while transmitting the data from the APEX’s own sensors to a mobile device via Bluetooth LE wireless connectivity.
APEX’s battery life can be extended, thanks in part to the ultra low power operating characteristics of the Nordic nRF52840 SoC. The nRF52840 has been engineered to minimize power consumption with a fully-automatic power management system that reduces power consumption by up to 80 percent compared with the nRF51 Series.
Nordic’s nRF52840 multiprotocol SoC is Nordic’s most advanced ultra low power wireless solution. The SoC supports complex Bluetooth 5/Bluetooth LE and other low-power wireless applications that were previously not possible with a single-chip solution. The SoC combines a 64MHz, 32-bit Arm® Cortex® M4F processor with a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio with 1MB Flash memory and 256kB RAM. A new radio architecture with on-chip PA provides features -96-dBm RX sensitivity, a maximum output power of 8dBm, and a total link budget of >110dBm. The chip supports all the features of Bluetooth 5 (including 4x the range or 2x the raw data bandwidth (2Mbps)) compared with Bluetooth 4.2.
“The nRF52840’s powerful Arm M4F processor was an important factor in our choice of chip as it allowed us to integrate Bluetooth LE functionality into our APEX design as an independent subsystem to the device’s own Arm-based processor,” says Arthur McMahon, Chief Technical Officer at STATSports.
“The quality of Nordic’s technical and support documentation including reference designs was very much a key point in our decision to select a Nordic Bluetooth LE solution.”