A smart locker that can be retrofitted to existing lockers used in offices, warehouses, gyms, and schools has been launched by U.K.-based company, eLocker. The wireless ‘eLocker’ system employs Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52832 Bluetooth® Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC) to provide the core processing power as well as wireless connectivity to a Bluetooth LE gateway.
Once installed to a new or pre-existing locker, managers of the smart locker system can assign personal lockers to individuals, team lockers to groups of up to 20 people, ‘hot’ lockers (which are agile lockers built to support hot desking), or asset management lockers (for accountability of valuable devices in warehouses and office environments). In operation, the smart lockers can be unlocked using a company-issued RFID card, with all lock and unlock data relayed to an online smart locker management system via a gateway using the Bluetooth LE wireless connectivity provided by the Nordic SoC.
From the gateway the data is relayed to the Cloud-based ‘eLocker Manager’ platform where the owner of the lockers can review a range of data including the status and availability of each locker, how the lockers are being used, and which individual last unlocked/locked the locker - reducing the time previously spent on manual locker management. According to the company, the system is proven to reduce the time associated with managing lockers by 94 percent and delivers an extensive analytics package, showing usage over time and a range of other reports, allowing customers to reduce their locker count by an average of 30 percent.
Each eLocker is powered by three AA batteries, providing a battery life of seven to ten years in standard operation—and negating the need for regular battery replacement across many lockers—thanks in part to the ultra low power characteristics of the Nordic SoC. The nRF52832 has been engineered to minimize power consumption with features such as the 2.4GHz radio’s 5.5mA peak RX/TX currents and a fully-automatic power management system that reduces power consumption by up to 80 percent compared with Nordic’s previous generation of SoCs.
To achieve this extended battery life eLocker employed Nordic Semiconductor’s ‘Power Profiler Kit II’, which provides a simple method for hardware and software engineers to measure average and dynamic power consumption in embedded solutions during development. Continuous power consumption measurement at all stages of software development ensures power problems are identified early in the engineering cycle making it easier to avoid time-consuming revisions of code at a later stage.
Nordic’s nRF52832 multiprotocol SoC combines a 64 MHz, 32-bit Arm® Cortex® M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU), with a 2.4 GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5.3, Bluetooth mesh, ANT™, NFC, and 2.4 GHz proprietary RF protocol software) featuring 4 dBm output power -96 dBm RX sensitivity for a link budget of 100 dBm, with 256/512 KB Flash memory and 32/64 KB RAM. The nRF Connect SDK integrates the Zephyr RTOS, supports applications using Bluetooth LE, Bluetooth mesh and Thread, and is recommended for nRF52832 software development.
“Battery life was the number one priority for this application and the Nordic SoC’s ultra low power consumption and the Power Profiler Kit II during development have been key in achieving the extended battery life we needed,” says Jacob Hinson, Technical and Sales Director of e-Locker. “The support we have received from Nordic has been great.”