Nordic Semiconductor today announces that New York-based Crosby Technologies is using Nordic’s nRF9160 low power System-in-Package (SiP) with integrated LTE-M/NB-IoT modem and GPS in its ‘ShipSafe’ asset tracker. ShipSafe enables users to remotely monitor the location and condition of valuable shipments via mature and widespread cellular infrastructure.
ShipSafe asset tracker monitors critical items such as ventilators, biomedical equipment, human organs for transplant, and high-end industrial equipment. In normal operation, the product remains in a very low power sleep mode until remote activation by the user from a companion iOS or Android app. When the device wakes up, it uses Wi-Fi tracking to determine its position within 10 meters and reports that location using the nRF9160 SiP’s LTE-M connectivity. This method of tracking extends the ShipSafe’s battery life to approximately two years on a single charge.
Accurate location technology
ShipSafe utilizes Wi-Fi signal triangulation as a primary means of tracking, leveraging the location of over five billion Wi-Fi routers. If the device senses limited Wi-Fi signal strength and is unable to report a location with satisfactory accuracy, Shipsafe determines its location using traditional GPS functionality. ShipSafe’s software and platform is provided by M2MD Technologies, an Atlanta-based software firm, that develops the next-generation IoT cellular experience with significantly better power and latency, while featuring the highest level of security.
ShipSafe’s additional features include a built-in accelerometer which can detect and report whether the monitored shipment has suffered a potentially damaging impact while on route to its destination, and an LED which can be remotely triggered to aid with visually locating a package. Additionally, the device has a built-in temperature and humidity sensor, which precisely relays temperatures of shipments while in transit.
Once logged into the smartphone app, the user can scan a new ShipSafe tracker ID, scan the shipping label, place the tracker in the box with the asset and ship. The shipment can be monitored in transit and, on arrival, re-scanned and recorded as delivered. ShipSafe is then sent back to the fulfillment center for re-use. Users can also employ the app to track groups of shipments, for example, those that are due to arrive on a certain date, or those that are destined for a specific region.
The device features a built-in, rechargeable 3200 mAh lithium-ion polymer (LiPo) battery custom-manufactured for ShipSafe. ShipSafe takes advantage of the nRF9160 SiP’s support of eDRX and eDRX at very low currents to extend battery life to over two years between charges with unlimited location requests. eDRX dramatically extends the time that a cellular IoT device can spend in a very low power sleep mode from just a few seconds to up to 40 minutes before waking up still synchronized with LTE-M’s “paging windows” – the period when data can be transmitted and/or received from the network. The nRF9160 SiP also supports Power Saving Mode (PSM), a second energy-saving functionality.
A light and compact asset tracker
ShipSafe takes advantage of the nRF9160’s compact dimensions (10 x 16 x 1 mm) to incorporate the SiP, a Wi-Fi chipset, sensors, LED, peripheral components, battery and Wi-Fi and Cellular antennas into a device measuring just 120 x 75 x 16 mm and weighing 145 gm. The nRF9160 SiP’s 64 MHz Arm® Cortex®-M33 processor provides sufficient computational power to not only run the LTE-M cellular connectivity but also all other product functionality. The 1 MB Flash and 256 KB RAM supports fast response and complex application software.
The nRF9160 SiP is certified for global cellular IoT applications, comprising a dedicated application processor and memory, multimode LTE-M/NB-IoT modem with integrated RF front end (RFFE), GPS, and power management in a compact package. The SiP incorporates the Arm M33 processor, Flash and RAM, a range of analog and digital peripherals, automated power and clock management, Arm TrustZone® for trusted execution, and Arm CryptoCell™ 310 for application layer security. The processor communicates with the LTE modem through a BSD secure sockets API and supports the application layer protocol (for example CoAP, MQTT or LWM2M) and the application itself. The nRF9160 SiP’s LTE modem supports both SIM and eSIM, offers 700 to 2200 MHz LTE band support, 23 dBm output power, and single pin 50 Ω antenna- and UICC-interfaces. The LTE stack layers L1-L3, IPv4/IPv6, TCP/UDP, TLS/DTLS are part of the modem firmware.
Related products include the nRF9160 DK, a pre-certified single board development kit and the nRF Connect SDK, a software development kit which includes application layer protocols, application examples, and LTE modem firmware offered as pre-certified and precompiled downloads.
“It’s the combination of features like the processor and memory, speed of operation, and low power consumption that makes the nRF9160 a winning product. It has truly been a game-changer for us,” says Jerry Pietroforte, Chairman of Crosby Technologies. “Compared with a competing cellular product we used previously in development, the nRF9160 draws less power by a significant order of magnitude because of the speed at which it performs location data transactions. The SiP is far and away the fastest solution we’ve tested.”
“The Nordic SDK is extensive and it’s easy to build on the feature set that’s included with it,” says Chuck Link, CTO and President of M2MD. “That accelerated our development program because we were able to take the SDK’s asset tracking-features and then just customize the software for our particular use case.”
“When we designed the nRF9160 SiP we knew that in addition to the cellular IoT connectivity, the product’s compact dimensions, power consumption, application processor, memory, and GPS functionality would be important to customers building applications in the logistics segment,” says Geir Langeland Nordic Semiconductor’s Director of Sales and Marketing. “What Crosby Technologies has done with ShipSafe is develop hardware, software, and a business model that makes maximum use of the capabilities of the nRF9160 to develop a compelling asset-tracking solution.”
ShipSafe will be commercially available in November 2020 and will operate on AT&T’s CAT-M1 LTE-M network.