There are 20 million shipping containers in the world and six million are on the move at any
time. Each holds around 40m3 of valuable cargo. Keeping track of where everthing is and how it’s being handled is a logisticial nightmare; but Nordic’s nRF91 Series promises to sweep away
the complexities of asset tracking and do the same for thousands of other monitoring challenges.
Nordic Semiconductor is best known for its commercial and technical leadership in Bluetooth Low Energy. But now, the commercial launch and immediate availability—from key distributors
such as Digi-Key Electronics,
At just 10 by 16 by 1 mm, the nRF9160 SiP (right of center) integrates everything a cellular connection and IoT application may need
IoT module to incorporate Arm’s latest Cortex M-33 microprocessor core at its heart.
The microprocessor is supported by 1 MB of Flash and 256 kB of RAM. The nRF9160 SiP is also the first module to incorporate Arm’s TrustZone and CryptoCell security for Internet-level encryption and application protection. Both these technologies are designed for efficient embedded IoT products that require the highest levels of performance in processing, power consumption, and security.
“Security is paramount to any IoT application,” explains John Leonard, Tactical Marketing Manager at Nordic. “By
incorporating Arm TrustZone,
Mouser Electronics, and Premier Farnell—of the nRF9160 System- in-Package (SiP) extends the company’s wireless Internet of Things (IoT) offering to the low power cellular IoT sector.
Cellular IoT is a low power wireless area network (LPWAN) technology that takes advantage of the mature and established global cellular network. Cellular LPWANs form robust, long-range connections between local area networks (LANs) of short-range wireless sensors and the Internet
– forming key element of the IoT. (See ULP WQ Spring 2018 pg10.)
“Nordic Semiconductor expanded the application- range of Bluetooth Low Energy by abstracting away from the
designer all unnecessary technical complexity,” explains Peder Rand, Nordic Semiconductor’s Product Manager – Cellular IoT. “The nRF9160 SiP module promises
to do the same for cellular IoT by taking a completely different
approach to competing solutions.”
Cellular is a notoriously complex wireless technology that only a handful of engineering teams worldwide have the expertise
and experience to design from the ground-up. Nordic
SiP offers the developer a different design approach to competing units”
Semiconductor’s team came together when the company hired some of the smartest cellular R&D engineers in the world. (See ULP WQ Summer 2018 pg14.) Most of Nordic’s cellular IoT design team have been working in cellular
for their entire careers and have used that expertise to design the nRF9160 from the ground-up.
At just 10 by 16 by 1 mm, the nRF9160 SiP is suitable for even the most compact devices.Yet the product is a complete solution that integrates everything a cellular connection and IoT application needs (apart from battery, SIM, and antenna).
The nRF9160 SiP is GCF certified—the industry ‘quality mark’ for compliance to the 3GPP LTE specification—along with U.S. FCC and European CE
certifications. Such certifications denote approval for deployment on cellular networks and cellular IoT applications around the world.
Nordic partnered with RF specialist, Qorvo, to design and fabricate a SiP that more closely resembles an integrated chip (IC) than a module. The nRF9160 SiP employs Qorvo’s proven RF front-end, advanced packaging, and MicroShield technology to deliver a compact solution that combines high performance with low power consumption.
“[We are] 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,” says Eric Creviston, President Mobile Products at Qorvo.
The nRF9160 SiP supports global operation with a single SiP thanks to the combination of Nordic’s multimode LTE-M/ NB-IoT modem, SAW-less transceiver, and Qorvo’s custom RF front-end. The SiP features integrated GPS support to allow a combination of GPS
and cellular for more accurate positioning than either alone. The product is the first cellular
the nRF9160 SiP features both trusted and non-trusted execution zones. Critical aspects such as cryptographic elements and
key storage reside in trusted areas which can’t be accessed by outsiders. Together with the CryptoCell security, TrustZone ensures the nRF9160 is the cellular IoT device with the most advanced security available.”
The nRF9160 SiP is supported by a development kit (DK),
SiP module samples, LTE-M firmware, and a software DK with application examples for Cloud connectivity. This includes Nordic’s nRF Connect for Cloud and nRF Connect for Desktop PC-based tool, plus support for Segger Embedded Studio. (See ULP WQ Spring 2018 pg18.)
The tools are designed to accelerate development of sensor-to-Cloud IoT applications including asset tracking, utility metering, industrial connectivity and predictive maintenance, smart city and infrastructure, agrotech, and medical.
The nRF9160 SiP module is available now. NB-IoT and GPS functionality is in limited sampling and will be available for evaluation during Q1 2019