Latest wireless solutions for complex IoT applications

22nd January 2020
Alex Lynn

Nordic Semiconductor hosted a range of demonstrations highlighting the capabilities of its low power cellular IoT and low power, short range wireless products at CES 2020. At the booth, the Nordic Thingy:91 multisensor cellular IoT prototyping platform, formed the basis of a cellular IoT (LTE-M) asset tracker connected to nRF Connect for Cloud, Nordic's software tool for Cloud connectivity.

The company also demonstrated a Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE)-to-cellular IoT (LTE-M) bridge. The demonstration, based on the nRF9160 DK (Development Kit) which incorporates Nordic's nRF9160 SiP and the nRF52840 advanced Bluetooth 5, Thread and Zigbee multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC), showcased how Nordic technology can be used to connect inexpensive short range wireless sensors to the Cloud. 

Notable among the booth's short range wireless exhibits was the nRF5340 dual processor SoC supporting Bluetooth 5.1, Bluetooth mesh, NFC, Thread, and Zigbee. The nRF5340 is the latest product to join Nordic's short range wireless portfolio and is the world's first wireless SoC with two Arm Cortex-M33 processors. 

The nRF5340 combines a high performance application processor with a fully programmable, ultra low power network processor, plus advanced root-of-trust and trusted execution security features, into a low power multiprotocol SoC ready for complex IoT applications. A demonstration highlighted the processing capabilities of the nRF5340 application processor by using it to run the first-person shooter game, Doom, while driving an external LCD display. At the same time, the network processor ran the RF protocol software to enable gameplay using a Nordic-powered micro:bit wireless game controller.

Other exhibits showed Nordic's nRF52840 advanced multiprotocol SoC powering smart home applications. The demonstrations show Nordic's proven Thread, Bluetooth LE, and Bluetooth mesh solutions in action. A further exhibit showed Zigbee smart-lock and -lighting controlled by an Amazon Echo and a Bluetooth LE-to-Zigbee bridge. Bluetooth LE, Thread, and Zigbee play a key role in ecosystems such as Amazon's Alexa Smart Home, Apple's HomeKit, Google's Weave, and the Zigbee Alliance's Dotdot data models. In turn, these ecosystems will form the basis of Connected Home over IP, a proposed new open standard for smart home connectivity using Internet Protocol (IP). Amazon, Apple, Google, and the Zigbee Alliance have backed the formation of a new working group to drive this smart home initiative.

Other demonstrations exhibited Bluetooth 5 high throughput and multilink capability. A further Amazon Echo-based demonstration showed an implementation of Alexa Gadgets, interactive companion devices that work with Amazon Echo and Amazon Alexa and include functionality beyond simple voice-control. In the demonstration, the smart speaker wirelessly connected to an e-Paper product to display appointments, shopping lists, and weather information.

In addition, Nordic demonstrated the capabilities of its nRF52811 and nRF52833 Bluetooth 5.1 Direction Finding SoCs. Bluetooth 5.1 ushers in a new range of location services applications and the demonstration showed a Quuppa solution for tracking devices and people as they move around the Nordic booth.

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