Nordic cellular IoT-powered modular sensor platform employs harvested solar energy

a close up of an oven

Brocere Electronics’ Blockcraft IoT Sensor employs the cellular and GNSS capabilities of Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP and the Bluetooth LE connectivity of the nRF5340 SoC

Taiwanese IoT solutions company Brocere Electronics has launched a modularized IoT sensor platform that can be used to monitor a wide range of data including temperature, humidity, pressure, movement, light, sound, ToF (Time of Flight), LWIR (Long-Wave Infra-Red), CO2 and VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds). The modularized ‘Blockcraft IoT Sensor’ includes a range of plug-and-play sensor modules to record the environmental data, as well as a network module to relay the data to the Cloud. The solution also includes an optional solar unit, so the device can automatically recharge when used in outdoor applications. 

A variety of connectivity options 

The ‘IOT5’ version of the network module can transmit data directly to the Cloud using the LTE-M/NB-IoT modem of Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF9160 SiP. Alternatively, the ‘IOT6’ and ‘IOT7’ versions of the product employ the Bluetooth® LE connectivity of Nordic’s flagship nRF5340 SoC to send data to a gateway, which will then transmit it to the Cloud. 

“The Blockcraft IoT Sensor has been designed as a modular solution,” says Daniel Lai, Founder and CEO of Brocere Electronics. “This is advantageous as it means customers can quickly create and implement customized IoT solutions without repetitive design and product certification. The ‘plug and play’ design helps companies get systems to market quicker, with lower cost, while our module recycling policy helps customers reduce e-waste and achieve carbon reduction.” 
One of the most important reasons we selected the nRF9160 SiP was the Nordic nRF Connect SDK [Software Development Kit]
Daniel Lai, Founder and CEO of Brocere Electronics

The solution can be used in a variety of applications, such as commercial freezers, smart lockers, indoor fire and wildfire monitoring, smart agriculture and e-bike tracking. It can also be employed in asset tracking for cold-chain logistics applications.  

“Cold-chain logistics is a market that has become increasingly important in recent years, relying on dependable temperature monitoring and data transmission,” says Lai. “To meet these needs, the Blockcraft suite can check whether the vehicle door is open or closed, and monitor the temperature of the goods, helping to ensure they remain within the required temperature range. It also tracks the location of the vehicle, using the Nordic nRF9160 SiP’s combination of cellular network location data and GNSS trilateration.” 

Once the data has been transmitted to the Cloud, it can be accessed using the Brocere web platform or smartphone app (available for iOS and Android). From there, users can access a dashboard of their sensor data, or view a map of their assets.


a bird sitting on top of a wooden pole

The Blockcraft IoT Sensor employs harvested solar energy to run modular sensors and transmit data to the Cloud  


Low power consumption 

Containing a rechargeable Li-ion 900 mAh polymer battery, this device can be charged using a USB-C cable or the optional solar unit. The low power consumption of the nRF9160 SiP—which supports both PSM and eDRX power saving modes—was key to ensuring that the module could operate autonomously using harvested solar energy in outdoor applications. For both LTE-M and NB-IoT the PSM floor current is as low as 2.7 µA, and with an eDRX interval of 655 s the average current is 6 µA for LTE-M and 9 µA for NB-IoT. 

“One of the most important reasons we selected the nRF9160 SiP was the Nordic nRF Connect SDK [Software Development Kit],” says Lai. “To achieve stable performance and low power consumption, we relied heavily on the core firmware to optimize our application software. When starting with a new function—for example, GNSS—we always started with a demo code from the SDK. 

“The Nordic team provided us with excellent support throughout the development process. Our engineers benefitted greatly from the assistance of the Nordic DevZone, which helped speed up the development process. 

“Nordic is a trusted expert with products that prioritize quality and data security. This excellent reputation was another reason we chose to work with Nordic.”