Bluetooth 5 SoC redefines scope for IoT and wearables

6th December 2016
Enaie Azambuja

Nordic Semiconductor announces the launch of the Bluetooth 5 ready nRF52840 SoC with features and capabilities that redefine the performance envelope of single-chip Bluetooth low energy applications. The nRF52840 SoC is especially suited to smart home and advanced wearables applications, including wearables for payments and medical, as well as industrial sensor and other IoT devices.

The nRF52840 is designed to support the latest Bluetooth wireless technology Core Specification, Bluetooth 5, that will shortly be officially adopted by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). Bluetooth 5 introduces longer range and throughput improvements that significantly enhance Bluetooth wireless technology's suitability for smart home, wearables, and IoT applications.

Compliance with the specification, coupled with increased maximum output power, enables the nRF52840 SoC to deliver Bluetooth low energy wireless connectivity with up to 4x the range or 2x the raw data bandwidth (2Mbps) compared with the Bluetooth low energy implementation of Bluetooth 4.2.

In addition to Bluetooth 5 support, the nRF52840 SoC includes IEEE 802.15.4 capability. 802.15.4 wireless technology forms the basis of smart home technologies such as ZigBee and Thread (with additional upper layers not defined by the standard).

IEEE 802.15.4 can also be employed as a Network Adaptation Layer with 6LoWPAN and standard Internet Protocols. The nRF52840 SoC's support for 802.15.4 significantly extends the product's capability as an interoperable foundation technology for IoT, smart home, or industrial sensor wireless networks using several different wireless technologies.

The nRF52840 SoC has been engineered to build on the mature architecture of Nordic Semiconductor's existing nRF52 Series of SoCs to support complex Bluetooth low energy and other low-power wireless applications that were previously not possible with a single-chip solution.

The nRF52840 SoC employs the proven 64MHz, 32-bit ARM Cortex M4F processor employed on Nordic's nRF52832 SoC, plus a CPU with ample generic processing power, Floating Point, and DSP performance, to meet the demands of even the most demanding wireless applications.

The nRF52840 SoC's hardware enhancements compared with Nordic's existing nRF52832 SoC include a new radio architecture with on-chip PA boosting output power considerably, and extending the link budget for 'whole house' applications; a doubling of Flash memory to 1MB and a quadrupling of RAM memory to 256kB; support for Bluetooth 5, 802.15.4, ANT, and proprietary 2.4GHz wireless technologies; a full speed USB 2.0 controller; and a host of new peripherals (many with EasyDMA) including a quad-SPI interface. The nRF52840 can also operate from power supplies above 5V, such as re-chargeable battery power sources.

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 for Cortex-M based SoCs. Extensive crypto ciphers and key generation and storage options are also available.

The introduction of the nRF52840 SoC will be accompanied by the release of the S140 SoftDevice, Nordic's latest addition to its family of RF protocol software 'stacks'. The S140 SoftDevice is a Bluetooth 5 compliant software stack with support for the long range and high data throughput features of Bluetooth 5.

"The nRF52840 SoC builds on the success of the nRF52 Series but will enable wireless product developers to embark on even more ambitious single-chip smart home, wearables, and IoT applications," says Thomas Bonnerud, Director, Product Management at Nordic Semiconductor.

"The scope of these application areas is developing quickly; wearables are moving towards payment and identification devices. The new Bluetooth 5 long range feature makes Bluetooth a genuine contender for smart home device communication and the nRF52840 is designed to meet and exceed developer expectations. Security cannot be an afterthought in today's connected products, the consequences can prove disastrous."

Bonnerud concludes: "With ARM CryptoCell hardware on-chip we are equipping developers with the very best-in-class hardware and software security options to build secure products. The nRF52840 SoC with its hardware enhancements, Bluetooth 5 range and bandwidth improvements, and 802.15.4 support, is the latest embodiment of that intention."

Nordic will release its S140 SoftDevice and associated nRF5 SDK with support for Bluetooth 5 longer range and high throughput modes upon ratification of the Bluetooth 5 standard in early December.

Engineering samples and development kits will be available to order from Nordic's global distribution network from December 6th. Production variants of the nRF52840 will be available Q4 2017.

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