Nordic Semiconductor-powered smart streetlight controllers turn LED luminaires into IoT assets

graphical user interface

obiWAN smart luminaire controllers use Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP for Cloud connectivity, with plans to use Onomondo’s SoftSIM for even lower power

Leading smart city solutions provider, obiWAN (formerly Urban Control), has launched a range of smart streetlight controllers that convert a regular LED luminaire into an IoT asset.  

Once fitted, the Zhaga ‘obiWAN DCobi-NBZG’, the matchbox-sized internal ‘obiWAN DCobi-NBIN’, and the NEMA ‘obiWAN ACobi-NBNM’ controllers can be used to access information about the smart luminaire’s precise location, identity, and health status. The devices can also be used to remotely control, monitor, and meter the luminaire. The controllers can adapt dynamically to several scenarios to provide better lighting and save more energy. These new products enable obiWAN to address street lighting requirements in many different markets by allowing for different power connectors (including 24 VDC and 85-305 VAC). 

Additionally, several sensors—including a location, ambient light, mains-power monitoring, temperature, and tilt and impact—can be connected to the lighting interface of the smart controllers, with the acquired data relayed to a smart city Central Management System (CMS). A variety of sensors compatible with the intelligent lighting interface can also be deployed around the streetlight controller, such as a movement detection sensor, light spectrum sensor, and people/vehicle identifier and counter. 

Nordic-enabled cellular IoT 

Each obiWAN luminaire controller is powered by Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF9160 low power SiP. The multimode LTE-M/NB-IoT modem with integrated RF Front End (RFFE) enables the nRF9160 to transmit the sensor data directly to the Cloud. The company considered a number of wireless technologies before ultimately settling on Nordic-enabled cellular IoT connectivity.  

“Wi-SUN, LoRa, and Bluetooth were considered, but LTE-M/NB-IoT cellular connectivity allowed us to minimize data consumption, energy usage, and overall cost, as well as maximize network coverage, bandwidth and data throughput, security, and the interoperability between devices and systems,” explains Miguel Lira, obiWAN CEO. 

We rely on the Nordic nRF9160 SiP’s processing power, on both the cellular and GNSS radios, on all its security features, its very low power consumption, and its interfaces and peripherals
Miguel Lira, obiWAN CEO

Onomondo SoftSIM supports connectivity 

Further, obiWAN says it is keen to adopt the new features coming in the nRF91 Series cellular modem firmware, such as the ‘pseudo PSM mode’. To make its products even smaller with even lower power consumption, the company is planning to become the first Nordic Semiconductor customer to use Onomondo’s new ‘SoftSIM’ – a software-based, UICC SIM supporting all of the features required for connectivity. SoftSIM is directly integrated into the Nordic nRF Connect SDK. This works for both new radio modules manufactured today and for existing radio modules already deployed in the field with a firmware update. 

“As soon as Onomondo launched the SoftSIM, running with the Nordic nRF9160, we immediately decided to test it as this supports our strategy for future developments,” says Lira.  

“Having completed the testing phase we are now looking to make SoftSIM available in all our cellular street lighting controllers. We want to use the SoftSIM for several reasons including miniaturization of our devices, decreased cost of our Bill-of-Materials, to maximize the reliability of our products, the possibility of over-the-air SIM changes/updates, increased security, and even lower power consumption.”        

The target market for the obiWAN solutions can be segmented based on municipal applications (streets, roads, highways, public places, bridges, and tunnels), enterprise applications (such as supermarkets, shopping malls, retail stores, parking lots, and outdoor eating areas), and sensor applications (environmental, traffic flow, security monitoring, crowd management, smart parking, and others). 

“As the communication of these street lighting controllers is based on the existing cellular network and they are truly plug-and-play devices, they remove the complexity in the adoption of intelligent IoT technologies for street lighting control deployments, no matter their scale of implementation—from small towns to major cities—so customers can focus on providing better services, more attractive cities to live in, and increased energy savings,” says Lira. “One of the main reasons, if not the main reason, to use our smart street lighting controllers relies on the energy savings and carbon emissions avoided. 

“We rely on the Nordic nRF9160 SiP’s processing power, on both the cellular and GNSS radios, on all its security features, its very low power consumption, and its interfaces and peripherals,” adds Lira. “Our development team is used to Nordic’s excellent technical support and information, forum discussions, development tools, and the high level of expertise from the Nordic engineering team.”