Nordic Semiconductor today announces that AirBolt, a Melbourne, Australia-based technology company, has selected Nordic’s nRF9160 low power SiP with integrated LTE-M/NB-IoT modem and GPS in combination with the nRF52833 Bluetooth® Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) advanced multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC) to power its ‘AirBolt® GPS’.
AirBolt GPS is a lightweight, waterproof, asset tracking device combining Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP’s low power cellular connectivity and assisted GPS with the nRF52833 SoC’s Bluetooth LE and Direction Finding to provide power-efficient and precise localized and global tracking functionality. The nRF9160 SiP combines cellular network location data with GPS trilateration for precise position monitoring in asset tracking applications with the nRF52833 enabling precise indoor location services in 2D/3D contextual tracking applications. The nRF52833 also enables wireless connectivity between the AirBolt GPS device and other Bluetooth LE AirBolt products and connectivity with the associated iOS and Android ‘AirBolt App’ on the user’s Bluetooth 4.0 (and later) smartphone.
The tracking device employs multiple embedded sensors including a 3-axis MEMS accelerometer for free-fall and motion detection, and a temperature sensor for remote monitoring of the environment. The integrated LTE-M connectivity can then used to send this information back to the user.
Secure access and remote asset management support
AirBolt GPS is also designed to support AirBolt’s ecosystem of Nordic-powered secure access and remote asset management products. Most notably, AirBolt GPS is deployed as a gateway for AirBolt’s patented smart travel lock, allowing users to remotely locate and monitor a range of valuables such as luggage, keys, and pets. In addition, the solution can be used for enterprise level large-scale asset tracking deployments, enabling companies to secure and remotely monitor their critical equipment.
AirBolt® GPS uses a 350mAh Li-Ion battery and user-configurable options for data reporting to provide “best in class” battery life, enabling devices to operate for up to 12 months between charges, according to the company. When it’s time to plug in the device, simply recharge via USB-C. This extended battery life is achieved thanks in part to the low power capabilities of Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP. The nRF9160 is optimized for low power operation, supporting PSM and eDRX power saving modes. For example, in PSM mode, uploading 1 KB every 12 hours, the average current is 5.5 uA.
The nRF9160 SiP is certified for global cellular IoT applications and comprises a dedicated application processor and memory, multimode LTE-M/NB-IoT modem with integrated RF front end (RFFE), GPS, and power management in a compact 10 by 16 by 1mm package. The 64MHz Arm® Cortex®-M33 processor includes 1MB Flash and 256kB RAM, a range of analog and digital peripherals, automated power and clock management, Arm TrustZone® for trusted execution, and Arm CryptoCell™ 310 for application layer security. The processor communicates with the LTE modem through a BSD secure sockets API and supports the application layer protocol (for example CoAP, MQTT or LWM2M) and the application itself.
The nRF9160 SiP’s LTE modem supports both SIM and eSIM, offers 700 to 2200MHz LTE band support, 23dBm output power, and single pin 50 Ω antenna- and UICC-interfaces. The LTE stack layers L1-L3, IPv4/IPv6, TCP/UDP, TLS/DTLS are part of the modem firmware. Related products include the nRF9160 DK, a precertified single board development kit and the nRF Connect SDK, a software development kit which includes application layer protocols, application examples, and LTE modem firmware offered as precertified and precompiled downloads.
Nordic’s nRF52833 advanced multiprotocol SoC combines a 64MHz, 32-bit Arm® Cortex® M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU), with a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5.2, Bluetooth mesh, Direction Finding, 2Mbps throughput, and Long Range plus Thread, Zigbee, IEEE 802.15.4, and proprietary 2.4GHz RF protocol software). The nRF52833 SoC’s radio architecture with on-chip PA provides -95dBm RX sensitivity (at 1Mbps in Bluetooth LE mode), a maximum output power of 8dBm, and a total link budget of 103dBm.
The nRF52833 is supplied with S113 or S140 SoftDevices, Nordic’s Bluetooth RF protocol stacks. The S140 is a qualified Bluetooth 5.1 stack and includes support for 2 Mbps throughput, Long Range, and improved coexistence through CSA #2.
One year operation on a single charge
“We selected Nordic’s nRF9160 for a range of features including cellular IoT and GPS capabilities in a single SiP, its size compared to competitive solutions, and its low power consumption,” says Mr. Kabir, CEO and Founder of AirBolt. “With user configurable options for data reporting the AirBolt GPS can operate for up to a year on a single charge which will be an absolute game changer for the industry.
“The nRF52833 SoC was our preferred choice for AirBolt GPS due to its generous RAM and Flash memory allocation, 128-bit AES Encryption engine, low power/sleep current, Direction Finding, a large feature set for future firmware updates, and an extended operating temperature range ideal for extreme environments enabling both retail and enterprise deployments of the device.
“In addition, we appreciated the availability of technical information through the Nordic DevZone forum, Nordic’s great reference designs, fast response times, and good application engineers providing valuable feedback on front-end design improvements.”