Nordic Semiconductor today announces that Farm Jenny, a Pittsburgh, PA-based agricultural technology company has selected Nordic’s nRF52840 Bluetooth® 5/Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE)/Thread advanced multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC) and nRF52832 Bluetooth LE SoC for its recently released ‘Farm Jenny for Horses’ equine health monitoring platform. Designed for farms, ranches, or wherever horses are stabled, the solution comprises a network of wearable sensors, field receivers, beacons, and a gateway, enabling horse owners to not only keep track of the location of their animals, but monitor various activities that are indicative of a horse’s health.
In operation, the nRF52832 SoC-powered wearable is fitted in a pouch to the horse’s existing halter or bridle, or in a custom sensor headband. Its sensors record the animal’s activity—for example if it is walking, lying down, rolling, grazing, or running—as well as temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure data. The behavioral data can be used to monitor the animal’s wellbeing for potential signs of illness or injury, while the weather data provides context for evaluating animal behavior, as well as help determine the horse’s comfort level. The device also records the animal’s location on the farm, allowing the owner to track its position in relation to facilities, food and water, as well as other horses in the herd. The wearable is powered by a lithium coin cell providing approximately two months battery life between replacement, thanks in part to the ultra low power characteristics of the Nordic SoC.
If the animal is in the pasture, the data is relayed from the sensor via Bluetooth LE wireless connectivity to any nearby solar-powered Field Receiver. In turn, the Field Receiver relays the data to a central gateway that forwards the data to the Cloud via LTE-M or NB-IoT cellular connectivity, where it can be retrieved by the owner via a web-based dashboard, or via the ‘Farm Jenny’ app on their iOS or Android Bluetooth 4.0 (and later) smartphone or tablet. The horse owner can then review the animals’ current location and behavior, local environmental and other sensor data, as well as compare the information against historical data and trends. If a potential problem with an animal is detected, a push alert can be triggered enabling rapid response.
The Farm Jenny Field Receiver is one of the world’s first ‘Built on Thread’ Certified devices. It employs a Thread-powered wireless mesh network providing farm-wide wireless connectivity. Both the Field Receivers and the Gateway employ Nordic’s advanced nRF52840 SoC. The chip’s Dynamic Multiprotocol feature uniquely supports concurrent Bluetooth 5 and Thread and wireless connectivity. This eliminates the need for the receivers to disconnect from the wearable before connecting to the Thread network and enables them to act as a bridge between the two protocols.
Animal location in the pasture is determined relative to the Field Receivers, whereas the nRF52832 SoC-powered Beacons are used indoors and to provide pin-point location for specific areas of interest, such as individual stalls or food and water sources. In the event the animal is in a barn, the wearable can relay the sensor data directly to the gateway via Bluetooth LE. If the horses are in transit, on a trail, or at a show, the wearable can relay data to the Cloud via the Farm Jenny app on a smartphone or tablet.
The nRF52840 multiprotocol SoC is Nordic’s most advanced ultra low power wireless solution. The SoC is Bluetooth 5-, Thread 1.1-, and Zigbee PRO (R21) and Green Power proxy specification-certified. The SoC combines a 64MHz, 32-bit Arm® Cortex® M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU), with a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio with 1MB Flash memory and 256kB RAM. A new radio architecture with on-chip PA provides features -95dBm RX sensitivity (at 1Mbps Bluetooth LE), a maximum output power of 8dBm, and a total link budget of 103dBm. 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.
Nordic’s nRF52832 multiprotocol SoC combines the Arm processor with a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5, ANT, and proprietary 2.4GHz RF protocol software) featuring -96dB RX sensitivity, with 512kB Flash memory and 64kB RAM. The SoC is supplied with Nordic’s S132 SoftDevice, a Bluetooth 5-certifed RF software protocol stack for building advanced Bluetooth LE applications. The S132 SoftDevice features Central, Peripheral, Broadcaster and Observer Bluetooth LE roles, supports up to twenty connections, and enables concurrent role operation.
“We selected the nRF52840 SoC for the field receiver because it is one of the few devices that can handle Bluetooth LE and Thread concurrently with a single radio,” says Rob Crouthamel, Co-founder and COO, Farm Jenny. “A single radio means lower power consumption, lower cost, and far fewer regulatory compliance headaches than a multi-radio design.
“For the wearable, the nRF52832 SoC’s generous memory and processing capability allows us to do more behaviour processing on the animal, so we save power by not transmitting as often when everything is okay. Also, the professional technical support and Nordic’s Software Development Kit [SDK] were key to our decision. Nordic’s Bluetooth LE SDKs are unmatched in the industry.”
Farm Jenny plans to release solutions for additional animal types and a suite of interoperable Thread-based farm sensors and actuators in the near future.