Cellular IoT-based supply chain tracker delivers trusted environmental and condition data for assets in transit


IoTeX’s Pebble Tracker employs Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP long range wireless solution for global asset tracking

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that Silicon Valley-based IoTeX, a technology company which combines blockchain and trusted hardware to build privacy-oriented device IoT ecosystems, has selected Nordic’s nRF9160 low power System-in-Package (SiP) with integrated LTE-M/NB-IoT modem and GPS to provide the cellular IoT connectivity for its ‘Pebble Tracker’. The Pebble Tracker provides trusted location, environment, and motion tracking data for global asset tracking and industrial supply chain applications.

According to IoTeX the product meets the demand of applications that require strong data security, integrity protection, and multiparty trust across the entire supply chain. Existing asset tracking solutions lack critical security features, rendering them easily hackable and exposed to data corruption. 

There are two versions of Pebble Tracker. The first targets blockchain and IoT developers while a second commercial version is designed for the asset tracking and industrial supply chain market.
By using secure solutions from semiconductor leaders such as Nordic, providers like IoTeX can build more trusted IoT applications
Raullen Chai, IoTeX
The product combines an environmental sensor (temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, altitude, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs)), a motion sensor (3-axis gyroscope, 3-axis accelerometer), and an ambient light sensor, with the nRF9160 SiP. The nRF9160 SiP enables cellular network connectivity and integrated GPS support in a single global version supporting precise, long range tracking of asset data using established cellular infrastructure. 
To meet the most stringent security and privacy requirements demanded for “trusted” professional tracking applications, the nRF9160 SiP features Arm TrustZone™ for trusted execution and Arm CryptoCell 310 for application-layer security. In addition, the nRF9160 is the first secure hardware device to sync with the IoTeX blockchain, enabling large scale, decentralized asset tracking applications.
The nRF9160 SiP sends environmental and GPS data securely across mature global cellular networks to blockchain-based backend services and applications. There the data is used to determine if smart contracts have been satisfactorily fulfilled. For example, the trusted tracker data can reveal if, when, and where an asset has been mishandled—perhaps due to excessive vibration or temperature—and if damage has occurred, the blockchain contract can automatically penalize the courier company and compensate the customer.
The Pebble Tracker uses a 3.7V 750mAh Li-Poly battery, providing up to one week of battery life between recharge for a typical asset tracking application, thanks in part to the Nordic SiP’s low power characteristics. The nRF9160 SiP has been engineered to minimize power consumption with, for example, support for PSM and eDRX power saving modes.
The nRF9160 is a low power SiP, certified for global cellular IoT applications, comprising 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 package. The 64 MHz Arm® Cortex®-M33 processor includes 1 MB Flash and 256 KB RAM, a range of analog and digital peripherals, automated power and clock management, Arm TrustZone, and Arm CryptoCell 310. 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 2200 MHz LTE band support, 23 dBm 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. Target applications for the nRF9160 SiP are asset tracking, smart city, smart agriculture, industrial, wearables, and medical among others.
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, ease product development and accelerate time-to-market. For the developer version of Pebble tracker, IoTeX has added blockchain-related APIs, enabling interaction with the IoTeX blockchain, to the SDK. 
“We chose cellular IoT over other low power wireless area networks [LPWANs] because it supports long range communication, is derived from global cellular standards which ensure communication reliability and longer device operation lifetime, and takes advantage of existing cellular infrastructure, thereby allowing IoT solutions to enter the market quickly,” says Raullen Chai, IoTeX Co-founder.
“IoTeX’s vision for an Internet of Trusted Things requires a joint effort from the semiconductor industry and IoT solution providers,” adds Chai. “By using secure solutions from semiconductor leaders such as Nordic, providers like IoTeX can build more trusted IoT applications. This will help reorient the entire IoT ecosystem toward better user privacy control and security.
“Nordic is one of the key players for bringing low-power IoT solutions to the market, and provides complete embedded software development tools, well written documentation, and impressive technical support, which all contributed to our decision to use the nRF9160 SiP.”
“For the IoT to fulfil its potential, adopters will have to have absolute trust that the technology they are using is both secure and reliable,” says Geir Langeland, Nordic Semiconductor's Director of Sales & Marketing. “IoTeX’s Pebble Tracker delivers on both counts, supported by the in-built security features and reliability of both the nRF9160 SiP and cellular wireless technology.”