Bluetooth 5/Bluetooth Low Energy smart rope load sensors assist crew when mooring vessels and provide alerts in the event of safety concerns

WSS smart rope

Wilhelmsen Ships Service’s smart ropes employ Nordic’s nRF52840 multiprotocol SoC to wirelessly transmit long-range load data to ship

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that Wilhelmsen Ships Service, a Lysaker, Norway-based shipping company, has specified Nordic’s nRF52840 Bluetooth® 5/Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) advanced multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC) for its ‘Timm Mooring Assistance’ smart ropes, designed to assist ship crews when mooring vessels in port.

The Timm Mooring Assistance set-up comprises up to 22 ropes—depending on the size of the vessel being moored—each fitted with a single load sensor to provide feedback on safety and efficiency parameters. For example, the load and temperature data can alert crew members to the load distribution between individual ropes, safety alerts for potential rope snaps, as well as predicting the lifetime of individual ropes. Access to this data allows the crew to take immediate corrective action in case of a problem.

In operation, sensor data from the ropes is wirelessly relayed to a ‘collector box’ on the vessel using Bluetooth 5 technology’s long-range feature enabled by the nRF52840 SoC. The collector box comprises a Bluetooth LE-equipped Ethernet router which relays data to the vessel’s bridge via a wired local area network (LAN) for immediate analysis by crew members via a dashboard on a connected tablet or PC. 

The high link budget and long-range feature, which help overcome the challenging RF environment, are the most important capability of the Nordic SoC for our application
Tore Strand, Wilhelmsen Ships Service

The Bluetooth 5 nRF52840 SoC’s new radio architecture with on-chip power amplifier (PA) provides -96-dBm RX sensitivity, a maximum output power of 8-dBm, and a total link budget of >110-dBm. Combined with Bluetooth 5 technology’s long-range feature, this enables the smart ropes to transmit RF signals—in a challenging environment dominated by RF absorbing substances such as steel and water—to a collector box sited up to 100 metres away from the smart rope sensor.

Nordic’s nRF52840 multiprotocol SoC is Nordic’s most advanced ultra low power wireless solution. The SoC supports complex Bluetooth LE and other low-power wireless applications that were previously not possible with a single-chip solution. The nRF52840 is Bluetooth 5-, Thread 1.1-, and Zigbee PRO (R21) and Green Power proxy specification-certified and its Dynamic Multiprotocol feature uniquely supports concurrent wireless connectivity of the protocols. The SoC combines a 64MHz, 32-bit Arm® Cortex® M4F processor with a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5, ANT™, Thread, Zigbee, IEEE 802.15.4, and proprietary 2.4GHz RF protocol software) with 1MB Flash memory and 256kB RAM. 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 SoC is supplied with Nordic’s S140 SoftDevice, a Bluetooth 5-certified software protocol stack for building long range and high data Bluetooth LE applications. The S140 SoftDevice offers concurrent Central, Peripheral, Broadcaster, and Observer Bluetooth LE roles, and supports high throughput and long range modes as well as advertising extensions. OpenThread and Zigbee stacks are available through Nordic’s nRF5 SDK for Thread and Zigbee.

“It is essential for us to use a low power consumption solution with a global standard as our customers are operating vessels around the world, but the high link budget and long-range feature, which help overcome the challenging RF environment, are the most important capability of the Nordic SoC for our application,” says Tore Strand, Subject Matter Expert at Wilhelmsen Ships Service. “We also appreciate Nordic’s great support and short response time to technical queries.”