Nordic's SiP to Provide Global Cellular IoT Connectivity for Plug and Forget Sensor Solutions

Nordic Semiconductor has announced that Netherlands-based Nowi B.V. has selected Nordic’s nRF9160 low power System-in-Package (SiP) with an integrated LTE-M/NB-IoT modem and GPS for its ‘Blue Coral - Energy Autonomous Sensor Fusion Platform’. The platform combines the Nordic SiP’s multimode cellular IoT connectivity alongside Nowi’s ‘NH2’ energy harvesting power management IC (PMIC) and is designed to help companies rapidly develop and commercialize plug and forget cellular IoT-based sensor solutions powered by harvested solar energy. Target end-use cases include smart meters, wearables and wireless sensor networks.

Multimode LTE-M and NB-IoT Connectivity

Despite its small 60 x 65 mm dimension, the modular platform is designed to maximize development versatility for end users, offering both LTE-M and NB-IoT connectivity, eSIM and nano-SIM formats, as well as a MikroE ‘mikroBUS’ header enabling developers to select from over 200 off-the-shelf analog or digital add-on sensor boards to suit the requirements of their application. Combined with Nowi’s NH2 PMIC, the platform allows for simple and fast development of low-cost energy autonomous connected products.

The nRF9160 is certified for global cellular IoT applications, offering multimode LTE-M and NB-IoT cellular connectivity and an LTE modem that supports both iBASIS eSIM and nano-SIM options to offer users secure and readily accessible network access worldwide. The nRF9160 SiP’s 64MHz Arm Cortex-M33 dedicated application processor provides the platform with the processing power to comfortably handle even the most complex and processor-intensive applications while retaining compact 10 by 16 by 1mm packaging.

Nowi’s NH2 PMIC offers a compact 3 by 3mm QFN package and a total assembly bill of materials (BOM) of 12mm2, that alongside the Nordic SiP allows easy integration into virtually any space- or cost-constrained application. In addition, the PMIC incorporates an ultra-fast Maximum Power Point Tracker (MPPT) regulator which is auto-adjustable and requires no external components. The MPPT permits users to extract the maximum power from the solar cell in any dynamically changing environment, enabling the platform to operate indefinitely via its energy harvesting capabilities.

The nRF9160 SiP is designed for low power operation, with features such as support for PSM and eDRX power saving modes, and is one of the lowest power consumption cellular IoT solutions on the market. For example, in PSM mode, uploading 1 KB every 12 hours, the SiP’s average current draw is 5.5 uA. This low power performance makes the nRF9160 the perfect match for Nowi’s energy harvesting solution.

The nRF9160 SiP consists of a dedicated application processor, an LTE-M/NB-IoT modem with integrated RF front end (RFFE), GPS, and power management. The processor includes 1MB Flash and 256kB 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 offers 700 to 2200MHz 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 that includes application layer protocols, application examples, and LTE modem firmware offered as pre-certified and pre-compiled downloads.

Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP provides a very low power solution which for energy harvesting applications is crucial in determining the feasibility and lifetime of a system. When paired with Nowi’s energy harvesting power management technology this enables products to operate indefinitely without the need for battery changes.

Easy Firmware Development

The addition of the SiP’s support for Zephyr RTOS and the many software features of Nordic’s nRF Connect SDK creates an environment for very easy firmware development which is an important addition to Nowi’s ease-of-use philosophy of our NH2 PMIC.

If support is required, Nordic’s DevZone is a forum where technical questions are answered quickly by both Nordic engineers and the community.

Nordic Semiconductor and Nowi will be hosting a partner webinar on April 28 titled ‘How to power your cellular IoT product with solar energy harvesting’. The webinar will showcase the capabilities of the Blue Coral - Energy Autonomous Sensor Fusion Platform.

Click here to register for the Webinar.