Cellular IoT-based solar power monitoring system enables remote supervision of power conversion and environmental data


West Group’s PCS Monitoring System employs Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP to provide data processing power and long range wireless connectivity

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that Tokyo, Japan-based energy solutions company, West Group, 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 ‘PCS Monitoring System’ (PMS). Developed by IoT communications solutions company and system integrator, Creative5 Inc., the PMS enables the remote data collection from commercial solar power installations.

In operation, the power conversion system (PCS) data from each solar array, as well as data from luminance, temperature, and humidity sensors is relayed to the PMS via a cable connection. The luminance sensor detects the level of sunlight, while the temperature and humidity sensors record general environmental conditions to determine the efficiency of the solar array. A bi-directional smart meter connected to the solar array also sends data about power generation to the PMS via its smart meter gateway. In addition to this gateway, the PMS integrates two nRF9160 SiPs to provide data and application edge processing and cellular network connectivity. 
Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP is an important device which can enlarge and speed the IoT market
Alvin Chen, Creative5 Inc.
The Nordic SiP features a powerful Arm® Cortex®-M33 processor which provides ample computational power to handle the data from the PCS, smart meter, and additional sensors, as well as LTE-M and NB-IoT cellular connectivity, enabling the PMS to report solar array operational data to Creative5 Inc. Cloud service and from there to the nominated users’ email. In addition to the solar array, the PMS can be applied to any remote meter-based system across energy, agriculture, or water quality monitoring applications.
The nRF9160 is a low power SiP, certified for global cellular IoT applications, comprising a multimode LTE-M/NB-IoT modem with integrated RF front end (RFFE), GPS, and power management in a compact package. The 64 MHz processor includes 1 MB Flash and 256 KB 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 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.
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. Target applications for the nRF9160 SiP are asset tracking, smart city, smart agriculture, industrial, wearables, and medical among others.
“Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP is an important device which can enlarge and speed the IoT market,” says Alvin Chen, President, Creative5 Inc. “It has powerful computational power and a flexible software stack—including support for key application protocols and LTE stack layers—which was key to getting this  application up and running”.
“The Software Development Kit was a great help to us, and Nordic’ support team did a great job in helping us achieve both the software and hardware design.”