Bluetooth 5.1 module enables mesh networking for ‘massive IoT’ applications


u-blox NINA-B4 modules use Nordic nRF52833 SoC-enabled Wirepas software for large-scale network deployments

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that u-blox, a global provider of leading positioning and wireless communication technologies and services, has specified Nordic’s nRF52833 Bluetooth® Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) System-on-Chip (SoC) to power its ‘NINA-B4’ stand-alone Bluetooth 5.1 modules. The small (10 by 15 by 2.2mm) Bluetooth LE/Bluetooth 5.1 MCU modules with open CPU architecture are optimized for, and can be supplied preinstalled with, ‘Wirepas Massive’ (previously Wirepas Mesh), a decentralized large-scale mesh networking solution. Wirepas Massive has been developed by global software connectivity company, Wirepas, and is designed for a wide array of ‘massive Internet of Things’ (IoT) applications. 

Reduced development time

The NINA-B4 series includes the NINA-B406, which comes with an internal PCB antenna (providing a robust low profile solution with high performance and extensive range), and NINA-B400, which integrates a U.FL connector for use with an external antenna of the developer’s choice. This greatly reduces time, cost, and effort for u-blox customers integrating Bluetooth LE in their designs. The NINA-B4 series also comes with u-blox’s ‘u-connect’ software, supporting dozens of use cases and providing an easy-to-use interface to configure the connectivity required from an external application host.

We opted for a Nordic solution because of the close, long-standing business relationship between the two companies, and because Nordic provides good development support
Stefan Berggren, u-blox

The NINA-B4 module is suitable for running Wirepas Massive, an updated version of Wirepas’ proprietary mesh connectivity software. (The module is also able to run third-party device applications alongside the Wirepas protocol.) Wirepas claims the software is the only solution to combine sensing, monitoring, control, positioning, and large-scale inventory in a single technology. According to Wirepas, networks built with its technology are optimized by local decision-making to reach unlimited scalability, coverage and density whilst using the available radio spectrum as efficiently as possible. The company says the network is immune to frequency interference, making it ideal for use in harsh industrial environments. 

Wirepas Massive can be deployed in smart tracking, smart logistics, smart building, smart industry, and smart metering applications, or whenever there is a need for large-scale industrial-grade network deployments. Wirepas Massive introduces 2x higher throughput, reduced power consumption, a dynamic provisioning algorithm which automatically authorizes new nodes in an existing network and allows roaming for logistics use cases, open source gateway software, a simpler protocol node-node system that doesn’t require any back-end link, high-density ultra-fast inventory (thousands of devices in less than one minute, for example in warehouses), directed advertising mode for reliable ultra-low power light switches, and advertising space extended to 32-bit to support ultra-large networks. 

Bluetooth Direction Finding support

The NINA-B4 module also supports Bluetooth 5.1—including Direction Finding—and can operate at an extended temperature range up to 105°C – which, together with its long range capability, makes it ideal for deployment in harsh environments. Designed to act as both a transmitter and receiver (using Angle-of-Arrival (AoA) and Angle-of-Departure (AoD) Direction Finding), the NINA-B4 modules bring the benefits of high-precision positioning to indoor applications. The integrated nRF52833 SoC’s multiprotocol radio is capable of all Direction Finding features for AoA and AoD applications. The SoC’s generous memory allocation enables integration of advanced embedded customer applications.

Nordic’s nRF52833 multiprotocol SoC supports the large-scale, low power Wirepas Massive mesh connectivity software enabling cost-effective, scalable IoT solutions with density, flexibility, and reliability. For example, a network of anchor nodes and up to hundreds of thousands of end-devices could be placed throughout a location and wirelessly linked using the Wirepas Massive connectivity integrated in the Nordic SoCs. Collected sensor data and analytics could then be relayed via Wirepas Massive to a u-blox NINA-B4 module-equipped gateway which in turn sends the data to the Cloud. 

Nordic’s nRF52833 advanced multiprotocol SoC combines a 64MHz, 32-bit Arm® Cortex® M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU), with a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting 2.4GHz RF protocol software in addition to Bluetooth 5.2, Bluetooth mesh, Direction Finding, 2Mbps throughput, and Long Range plus Thread, Zigbee and IEEE 802.15.4 software), featuring +8dBm maximum TX power and -95dBm RX sensitivity. The SoC incorporates a generous amount of Flash (512kB) and RAM (128kB) memory and a range of analog and digital interfaces such as NFC-A, ADC, High-speed 32 MHz SPI, UART/SPI/TWI, PWM, I2S and PDM. The SoC has been engineered to minimize power consumption. In addition to support for Thread, Zigbee and Bluetooth through the nRF Connect SDK, the SoC is also supported by the S113, 122 or S140 SoftDevices, Nordic’s Bluetooth RF protocol stacks.

“We selected Nordic’s nRF52833 SoC for our NINA-B4 series due to a combination of factors including the high quality hardware, compact size, MCU performance, support for Bluetooth 5.1 including Direction Finding, low power consumption, and multiprotocol capability,” says Stefan Berggren, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Product Center Short Range Radio at u-blox. 

“In addition, we opted for a Nordic solution because of the close, long-standing business relationship between the two companies, and because Nordic provides good development support.”