Nordic Semiconductor today announces that BlueCats, an Australia and U.S.-based technology company, has selected Nordic’s 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 its ‘BC2500’ industrial asset tracking solution. The platform is designed for geospatial tracking of vehicles, containers, and heavy equipment within large controlled sites such as laydown yards, construction sites, and mine sites.
Long range capability
Each BC2500 integrates the nRF52840 SoC with a GNSS receiver and a high capacity battery. Once mounted to the equipment to be tracked, the BC2500 sends the GPS data of the asset to a ‘ProxPoint’ gateway using Nordic SoC-enabled Bluetooth LE wireless connectivity. The data is in turn relayed to the Cloud so site owners can monitor the location of assets using a web-based dashboard or companion app. Nordic’s nRF52840 SoC features 95dBm RX sensitivity (at 1 Mbps Bluetooth LE) and an on-chip power amplifier that boosts maximum output power to +8dBm for a total link budget of >103dBm. When combined with Bluetooth LE’s robust channel selection algorithm (which helps eliminate interference from other 2.4GHz wireless transceivers, the SoC’s link budget enables the device to confidently transmit RF signals to the gateway over a range of more than 200 meters, according to BlueCats.
For very large sites or when assets are out of range of the gateway, each BC2500 can act as a ‘node’ in the network, relaying the data to other BC2500 tags, that can in turn forward the data to the gateway. The data received from surrounding tags is time-stamped with its GPS location, stored locally, then offloaded at predetermined intervals or on an ad hoc basis as required.
The ‘BlueCats Loop Cloud’ asset management ecosystem aggregates all location data and provides users with access to live searches, reports, and visualizations ranging from many sites around the world down to a single BC2500, enabling site operators to remotely keep track of industrial assets in ‘real-time’. The Loop Cloud platform comprises compatible and multifunctional server-based applications, Cloud applications, and an iOS and Android ‘Loop Mobile’ app for Bluetooth 4.0 (and later) smartphones and tablets. The app can be used to associate tags to assets in the field, to visualize positions, as well as accomplish other workflow tasks. The app also contributes to data gathering by scanning for tags in range and sending this scan information to the BlueCats Loop Cloud software platform, allowing organizations to augment gateway coverage via the mobile app on employee smartphones.
Each BC2500 employs a D Cell Li-Thionyl Chloride 19Ah battery typically providing between five and 10 years of battery life before replacement or refurbishment. The BC2500 broadcast and fix characteristics can be dynamically adjusted depending on the use case—a typical profile which achieves the above battery life includes continuously transmitting Bluetooth LE information at 1Hz and receiving approximately six GPS ‘fixes’ per day—thanks in part to ultra low power performance of the Nordic SoC. The nRF52840 has been engineered to minimize power consumption with a fully-automatic power management system that reduces power consumption by up to 80 percent compared with the nRF51 Series.
The BC2500 is powered by the nRF52840 SoC’s 64MHz, 32-bit Arm® Cortex® M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU), with a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5.2, ANT™, Thread, Zigbee, IEEE 802.15.4, and proprietary 2.4GHz RF protocol software and featuring a maximum link budget of 103dBm), as well as a generous 1MB Flash and 256kB RAM memory allocation. Designed to address the inherent security challenges that are faced in IoT, the nRF52840 SoC incorporates the Arm CryptoCell™-310 cryptographic accelerator, offering best-in-class security. The SoC is supplied with Nordic’s S140 SoftDevice, a Bluetooth 5-certified software protocol stack for building long range and high data throughput Bluetooth LE applications.
Bluetooth LE backbone
“We selected Bluetooth LE as the backbone of the BC2500 solution because it provides outstanding range and power profile, and is globally compatible and interoperable with a range of devices,” says Cody Singleton, CTO – Innovation at BlueCats.
“We selected Nordic’s nRF52840 SoC not only for its power profile, but also the generous Flash and RAM memory allocation for storing and caching data, and the ability to achieve +8dbm TX power which gives us extra range while still maintaining Bluetooth LE 4.2 legacy backwards compatibility.
“By utilizing the Nordic SoftDevice our project was given a jumpstart and we were able to focus more on application development. We could lean on a tested and proven Bluetooth LE stack allowing us to develop portable applications that are future proofed with minimal maintenance or changes required.”