Nordic Semiconductor today announces that the first nRF9160 System-in-Package (SiP) member of its nRF91® Series of cellular IoT modules will be available to all customers via its global distribution network within the next 24 hours. This includes Digi-Key Electronics, Mouser Electronics, and Premier Farnell (amongst others).
The nRF9160 has also received GCF certification—the trusted mobile communications industry ‘quality mark’ for compliance to the 3GPP LTE specification and global cellular network interoperability—along with separately required FCC and CE regulatory certifications. This means the nRF9160 SiP is approved for deployment in cellular networks and cellular IoT product applications around the world.
The general availability of the nRF9160 SiP will make cellular IoT wireless technology accessible to any application due to the unique ease with which the module can be designed-in. Prime examples include asset monitoring and tracking, utility metering, industrial (machinery) connectivity and predictive maintenance, smart city and infrastructure, agrotech (smart agriculture), and medical.
At just 10 x 16 x 1mm in size, the nRF9160 SiP is suitable for even compact wearable consumer and medical devices, yet is a complete solution that integrates everything a cellular connection and IoT application may need beyond requiring just an external battery, SIM, and antenna.
To achieve this ultra-high integration Nordic partnered with Qorvo to make a System-in-Package that more closely resembles an integrated chip than a module. The nRF9160 SiP leverages Qorvo’s state-of-the-art, proven RF front-end, advanced packaging, and MicroShield™ technology to deliver a unique, ultra-compact solution that combines high performance with low power consumption. The nRF9160 SiP supports global operation with a single SiP variant thanks to the combination of Nordic’s multimode LTE-M / NB-IoT modem, SAW-less transceiver, and a custom RF front-end solution from Qorvo.
In parallel, the nRF9160 SiP is the first cellular IoT module to incorporate Arm’s latest Arm Cortex M-33 CPU core. This is supported by 1MB of Flash and 256kB of RAM on-board memory. The nRF9160 SiP is also the first module to incorporate Arm’s state-of-the-art Arm TrustZone and Arm CryptoCell security for Internet-level encryption and application protection. Both these technologies are designed for highly energy-efficient embedded IoT products that require the highest levels of performance in processing, power consumption, and security.
The nRF9160 SiP has 1MB of Flash plus 256 kB of RAM on-board memory with a broad range peripheral set, analog and digital interfaces, 32 GPIOs, a stand-alone modem with full LTE capability, plus a multiband RF front-end.
Another unique feature of the nRF9160 SiP in the cellular IoT module market is integrated GPS support to allow a combination of GPS and cellular data to be used for more accurate positioning than either technology is capable of when used in isolation.
“Nordic Semiconductor expanded the application-range of Bluetooth by abstracting away from the designer all unnecessary technical complexity,” comments Peder Rand, Nordic Semiconductor’s Product Manager – Cellular IoT. “The pre-certified, ready-to-drop-in, LTE-M/NB-IoT nRF9160 SiP module promises to do the same for cellular IoT by taking a completely different approach to competing solutions. And it’s now available to everyone.”
“Among its many unique IoT-targeted features, one of the most key is security which is of paramount importance to any IoT application,” adds John Leonard, Tactical Marketing Manager at Nordic Semiconductor. “Arm TrustZone means the nRF9160 SiP can have areas specified as trusted execution zones and non-trusted zones. This means critical aspects such as cryptographic elements and key storage, for example, will reside in trusted areas where the outside world cannot get direct access. Allied with the nRF9160 SiP’s Arm CryptoCell security, this module is without question the cellular IoT device with the most advanced security on the market today.”
“We are pleased with our strategic partnership with Nordic Semiconductor to bring this new category of cellular IoT solution to the market,” said Eric Creviston, President Mobile Products at Qorvo. “Qorvo is excited to see our leading RF and advanced packaging technology playing a key and enabling part of new products targeting the emerging low power cellular IoT market.”
The nRF9160 SiP is supported by—and all available now—a development kit, SiP module samples, LTE-M firmware, and an SDK with application example for cloud connectivity. This includes Nordic’s ‘nRF Connect for Cloud’ cloud-based device management tool and ‘nRF Connect for Desktop’ PC-based tool, plus support for Segger Embedded Studio. These are all designed to help give customers a flying start with sensor-to-cloud IoT applications.
NB-IoT and GPS functionality is in limited sampling and will be made available for evaluation through firmware updates during Q1 2019.
For full technical details on the nRF9160 SiP module please visit the Nordic website product page (see below).
How the world’s largest Bluetooth chip supplier came to be in cellular IoT
Nordic Semiconductor is best known for its leadership (both commercial and technological) in the global Bluetooth® chip market. The wide availability of the nRF9160 SiP module marks Nordic’s official – but brand new – entrance into the low power, cellular IoT wireless technology market.
Cellular is a notoriously complex wireless technology that only a handful of engineering teams worldwide truly have the expertise and experience to design at the architectural level. Nordic Semiconductor’s team all originated from outside the company when Nordic hired some of the smartest cellular R&D engineers in the world from a bout of rationalization layoffs in Finland between 2011 and 2014 from companies such as Nokia, Microsoft, Broadcom, and ST-Ericsson.
This means Nordic’s heritage in cellular wireless technology is on-par with any other company in the world: most of Nordic’s cellular IoT design team have been working in cellular design for most of their careers. And most importantly of all, all technical support for the nRF9160 SiP module will come from engineers that designed the product from the ground up.
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