Cellular IoT/Bluetooth LE wearable allows owners to track pets anywhere


Link smart pet wearable employs Nordic nRF9160 SiP and nRF52840 SoC enabling pet location data to be relayed to smartphone

Nordic Semiconductor today announces that Jacksonville, FL-based technology company, Smart Tracking Technologies (Link), in collaboration with DiscoverTec for application development and engineering firm Paragon Innovations, have selected Nordic’s nRF9160 low power System-in-Package (SiP) with integrated LTE-M/NB-IoT modem and GPS in combination with the nRF52840 Bluetooth® 5.2/Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) advanced multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC) to provide the core processing power and wireless connectivity for ‘Link’. Link is a smart pet wearable solution enabling real time pet location and activity tracking. 

LTE-M connectivity

Once paired to a Bluetooth 4.0 (and later) smartphone using the Bluetooth LE wireless connectivity provided by the nR52840 SoC, owners and pet care facilities can locate and track a pet’s whereabouts and movement from an iOS- and Android-compatible associated app. If the pet is separated from the owner and wanders outside of smartphone Bluetooth range, the LTE-M connectivity provided by the nRF9160 SiP ensures remote tracking remains possible via a cellular network. LTE-M provides access to established cellular infrastructure around the world. The nRF9160 SiP is certified for global cellular IoT applications, and comprises a dedicated application processor and memory, multimode LTE-M modem with integrated RF front end (RFFE), and power management, all in a compact 10 by 16 by 1mm package. 

Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP offers a very small footprint and provides Link with extremely low current consumption when running the LTE-M in eDRX or PSM mode
Donny Lamey, Smart Tracking Technologies/Link

From the companion app, users can also create customized zones—enabling them to receive notifications if the pet leaves these defined areas—and access activity recommendations based on the pet’s age, breed, behavior, and size, and configure tone and vibration training tools to build and reinforce good pet behavior. In addition, Link has been purpose-built to seamlessly integrate third party pet technologies - for example, veterinary health records and pet daycare management systems. 

Link features a temperature sensor and an advanced Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) for tracking the animal’s activity and reducing power consumption. The wearable can enter ‘sleep’ mode whenever it is idle. Once the pet starts moving again a motion detection wakeup feature on the IMU signals the main processor to activate the device. Link Smart Collar uses a 700mAh single-cell Li-Po battery to achieve battery life of at least one week between recharge, depending on the activity level of the animal. This endurance is thanks in part to the ultra low power characteristics of the Nordic solutions. The nRF9160 SiP is optimized for low power operation, it supports both PSM and eDRX power saving modes, enabling it to sleep for longer periods of time. For both LTE-M and NB-IoT the PSM floor current is as low as 2.7µA, and with an eDRX interval of 655 seconds the average current is 6µA for LTE-M and 9µA for NB-IoT. With the modem switched off the current is 2.2µA. 

The combination of the nRF9160’s 64MHz Arm® Cortex®-M33 dedicated application processor, and the nRF52840 SoC’s 64MHz, 32-bit Arm Cortex M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU), provides Link with the processing power to comfortably handle complex and processor-intensive applications. The nRF9160’s Arm Cortex-M33 processor includes 1MB Flash and 256KB 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 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. The nRF Connect SDK supports the Zephyr RTOS ecosystem to streamline the development process. 

Nordic’s nRF52840 SoC is available in a wafer level chip scale package (WLCSP) to support both cost- and space-constrained wireless designs, and enables Link to be supplied in a compact form factor without sacrificing battery life or performance. The SoC combines the Arm Cortex M4 processor with a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5, ANT™, Thread, Zigbee, IEEE 802.15.4, and proprietary 2.4GHz RF protocol software) with 1MB Flash memory and 256kB RAM. Its Dynamic Multiprotocol feature uniquely supports concurrent wireless connectivity of the protocols. The radio with on-chip PA features -95dBm RX sensitivity (at 1Mbps Bluetooth LE), a maximum output power of 8dBm, and a total link budget of 103dBm. 

Power consumption and capability

“Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP offers a very small footprint and provides Link with extremely low current consumption when running the LTE-M in eDRX or PSM mode, while the WLCSP version of Nordic’s nRF52840 SoC provides an excellent balance between power consumption and capability, as well as the design flexibility required for our compact hardware layout,” says Donny Lamey, CEO of Smart Tracking Technologies/Link.  

“Using the Zephyr RTOS, our software team could easily divide tasks to work in parallel and transfer code across the two processors. In addition, Nordic’s DevZone made it possible to get feedback and assistance directly from subject matter experts.”