Low cost Bluetooth LE beacon helps build smarter pallet tracking solutions


Nordic’s nRF52 Series programmable TX power and low power consumption extends range and battery life in cost-sensitive asset tracking solution for large logistics groups

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that Camarillo, CA-based Xirgo Technologies, LLC., a custom wireless M2M solutions developer, has selected Nordic’s nRF52 Series Bluetooth® 5.2/Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC) for the Xirgo ‘XT1520 (BLE beacon)’. The XT1520 is a low cost tracking solution designed for mass deployment and works in conjunction with a Xirgo XT49 series cellular gateway or other Cloud gateway.
The XT1520 provides proximity tracking of assets referenced to a data aggregating gateway. Typically, the beacon is attached to a pallet or other lower cost asset. When a pallet, for example, is loaded the customer can associate the cargo with the specific pallet through the barcode on the beacon. Because the beacon is associated with a specific pallet, the customer can then use the beacon data and the gateway’s GPS data to check if the shipment is in transit or stationary. The XT49 series cellular gateway is positioned on trailers throughout fulfillment centers or shipment yards. The information from the beacon and gateway can be used to generate a “chain of custody” record of the shipment’s movements.
Nordic has helped Xirgo with everything from start-up development to working with us to invent, innovate, and develop new features
Jake Blair, Xirgo

Five-year battery life

The XT1520 uses the Eddystone open beacon format developed by Google. Once attached to an asset, the beacon sends out a universally unique identifier (UUID) signal to any gateway within range. The gateway receives beacon data and together with GPS data transmits the information to the Cloud where it can be accessed from a web application. The web application enables the customer to tag and associate each Bluetooth LE beacon with a particular asset, track assets, and share the information with others.
The XT1520 is protected by a plastic, IP67-rated enclosure, measures 72.4 by 96.5 by 24.6mm, and weighs 88g. The beacon is powered by two AA alkaline batteries and has a battery life of five years in part due to Xirgo’s proprietary collision avoidance algorithm—which enables over 50,000 beacons to operate in a small area such as a warehouse—and in part due to the ultra low power consumption of the nRF52 Series. 
The nRF52 Series SoCs combine a 64MHz, 32-bit Arm® Cortex® M4 processor, with a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5, ANT™, Thread, Zigbee, IEEE802.15.4, and proprietary 2.4GHz RF protocol software) featuring reduced radio energy consumption, with generous Flash memory and RAM allocations. TX is programmable and sensitivity is -96dBm (Bluetooth LE 1 Mbps). The nRF52 Series SoCs are supplied with Nordic’s SoftDevices, Bluetooth 5-compliant RF protocol software.

Greener pallet tracking

“We were looking to build a long-range beacon with a battery that lasts many years and which would appeal to cost-sensitive customers. We see this product as a solution to a smarter and greener pallet tracking logistics system,” says Jake Blair, Xirgo Field Application Engineer and Product Owner. “The nRF52 Series SoC’s size, price, long distance, and low power consumption were the key factors that convinced us to select the chip for the XT1520 beacon.
“Nordic's engineering team and support was fantastic. Nordic has helped Xirgo with everything from start-up development to working with us to invent, innovate, and develop new features. Nordic also assisted Xirgo in an optimized inverted-F antenna design to increase range.”