Wireless

Compact dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE modules

8th November 2022
Sheryl Miles

u-blox, a global provider of positioning and wireless communication technologies and services, has announced the NORA-W3 module series that extend their Wi-Fi stand-alone module portfolio, making dual-band capability available for the first time in this compact form factor.

This series is aimed at market segments such as healthcare, HVAC, energy management, EV charging, professional grade power tools and industrial sensing or monitoring applications.

As connectivity becomes more important in multiple application sectors, designers are faced with an increasing number of challenges including saturation of Wi-Fi channels in the 2.4GHz band, size constraints, need for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) to work in conjunction to connect to infrastructure, back-end systems, sensors and mobile devices.

Additionally, there is a constant trade-off between cost and functionality and with many companies entering this space for the first time, a need to be able to configure solutions without advanced Wi-Fi connectivity knowledge.

The new NORA-W3 modules comprise dual band Wi-Fi 4 (IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth LE 5 based upon a Realtek Ameba chipset. The modules feature u-connectXpress to simplify the task of integration for designers, only requiring the use of high-level AT commands.

Despite their small size, they also integrate two microcontrollers (MCUs): an Arm Cortex-M33 compatible, 200MHz as the main MCU, and an Arm Cortex-M23 compatible, 20MHz for low power operation. This system allows the complete communication firmware to run on the module. To further smoothen the integration process, NORA-W3 comes with the option to use an embedded antenna.

By offering dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE, the u-blox NORA-W3 modules ensure a robust Wi-Fi connection in the field, partly due to the ability to operate in the less congested 5GHz band while the Bluetooth LE capability ensures ease of use and installation.

The inclusion of u‑connectXpress significantly reduces software effort by removing the need for competence in embedded Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE, thereby allowing solutions to be delivered to the market more rapidly.

These days, it is essential that any connectivity is secured. The modules offer a wide range of security features including secure boot, encryption, trusted execution environment, authentication and storage that protect sensitive data and prevent unauthorised access.

The small size of the NORA-W3 modules (measuring just 14.3 x 10.4 x 1.9mm) makes them suitable for space-constrained designs – especially as a high-performance embedded antenna is included within this envelope. NORA-W3 is an upgrade, from single to dual band, for customers using u-blox’s NINA-W15 while also being a smooth transition for those using ODIN-W2. Since the NORA series has a common form factor and pin-out, it allows simple migration for customers already using for instance the NORA-W1 and NORA-B1 modules.

The modules series come in two variants. The u-blox NORA-W36 with the u-connectXpress software simplifying the integration into the end-product, or the u-blox NORA-W30 with an open CPU architecture, allowing customers to run their own applications right on the modules.

The NORA-W3 series will be globally certified for use with the internal antenna or a range of external antennas, reducing time, cost and effort for customers integrating Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE in their designs.

“Realtek looks for strong IoT partners to bring increased functionality to our line of IoT products, especially in industry 4.0 and medical fields. The u-blox's NORA-W3 modules including 4MB flash bring ultra-low power, tiny size, high security IoT solutions with an easy and open development environment to customers. Adding Wi-Fi dual-band and Bluetooth connectivity to a global IoT ecosystem offers an excellent user experience to customers. Combined with Realtek Ameba IoT SoC, the NORA-W3 modules are the perfect solutions for consumer electronics, medical, and industrial IoT applications,” says Realtek’s Vice President and Spokesman, Yee-Wei Huang.

“Connectivity is increasingly important in an ever-growing number of applications and, as new companies enter this sphere, they may not have extensive experience in embedded wireless. Our new NORA-W3 modules deliver dual-band capability to overcome congestion and include Bluetooth LE for convenience while containing software that allows for easy installation,” says Erik Carlberg, Senior Product Manager at u-blox.

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