Nordic-powered Thread mesh solution enables smart control of energy efficient commercial lighting applications and retail sensor arrays

Zenatix Solutions

Zenatix Solutions’ WattMan employs Nordic’s nRF52840 advanced multiprotocol SoC for Thread wireless mesh sensor network and future upgrade potential to other protocols such as Bluetooth mesh

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that Zenatix Solutions, a Delhi, India-based Internet of Things (IoT) company, has selected Nordic’s nRF52840 Bluetooth® 5/Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE), Thread, Zigbee, and 2.4GHz proprietary advanced multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC) for its ‘WattMan’ ecosystem. WattMan is a mesh-enabled sensor network based on Thread, an open source wireless mesh RF software protocol with native support for IPv6.

WattMan is deployed to optimize operational energy efficiency for smart lighting and other commercial applications via automated, intelligent monitoring and control. The ‘plug and play’ solution delivers key benefits including centralized visibility, energy savings, improved asset maintenance, customer comfort, and increased compliance.

The WattMan platform incorporates a network of battery-powered sensors each using a Nordic nRF52840 SoC-based module to report back data via nRF52840-powered mains-powered routers to a central gateway (based on the Raspberry Pi Compute Module) that uses Ethernet, Wi-Fi, or cellular connectivity to relay data to the Cloud. Each router can support up more than 100 different sensors (monitoring temperature, humidity, and luminosity and which can be easily extended to support other on-board sensors such as pressure, current, voltage, and magnetic flux). Up to 32 routers can then form a multi-hop wireless network sending data to the gateway. Sensors, routers, and gateway communicate locally in the Personal Area Network (PAN) using the Thread protocol.
The availability of Nordic’s software development kits was very useful as it aided faster turnaround in testing the proofs of concept
Amarjeet Singh, Zenatix
The sensors can also enable smart control for enterprise OEMs in, for example, a smart lighting application. The system uses luminosity and occupancy data from sensors to automatically alter lights according to whatever conditions are required. For example, if the occupancy of an office is low, lights can be turned off in unused areas. The solution also enables the user to control the lighting for personalized comfort using the web dashboard or mobile app. Smart lighting actuation is enabled by Zenatix-designed nRF52840 SoC-based lighting control cards, that can be used to turn lights on/off, perform dimming functions, or control smart LED lighting operation.

The nRF52840 SoC is a Thread 1.1 and Bluetooth 5/Bluetooth LE-certified wireless solution and is the only multiprotocol SoC on the market that offers concurrent Thread and Bluetooth 5 support. The SoC’s boasts a ‘Dynamic Multiprotocol’ feature which simultaneously supports the OpenThread RF protocol stack and Nordic's S140 SoftDevice (a Bluetooth LE protocol stack). The device also supports Zigbee. Multiprotocol mesh networking support was a key reason for Zenatix’s selection of the nRF52840 because it facilitates switching to other popular wireless connectivity protocols without the need to update the application’s hardware.

Nordic’s nRF52840 multiprotocol SoC features a 64MHz, 32-bit Arm® Cortex® M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU), a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5, ANT™, Thread, Zigbee, IEEE 802.15.4, and proprietary 2.4GHz RF protocol software), 1MB Flash memory and 256kB RAM. This hardware capability ensures the WattMan mesh network can support the most complex wireless applications while the SoC’s Arm CryptoCell-310 cryptographic accelerator enables secure Over-the-Air Device Firmware Updates (OTA-DFU). The nRF52840’s radio architecture with on-chip PA provides -95dBm RX sensitivity (at 1Mbps Bluetooth LE), a maximum output power of 8dBm, and a total link budget of 103dBm.

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.

The WattMan sensors use two AAA batteries providing battery life of 15-18 months, thanks in part to the ultra low power 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.

“The availability of Nordic’s software development kits was very useful as it aided faster turnaround in testing the proofs of concept and developing our own application code,” says Amarjeet Singh, Co-Founder and CTO of Zenatix. “Furthermore, the nRF52840 SoC’s multiprotocol support provides us with the flexibility to move to a different wireless mesh protocol in future without requiring any hardware modifications.

“In addition, the Nordic team has proved very responsive to our queries. We were initially skeptical of having no physical support in India, but Nordic’s DevZone forum and email communication removed those concerns.”