Bluetooth 5 Ready Module for Smart Homes, IoT, and Wearables

Nordic Semiconductor has launched a Bluetooth 5 ready SoC with features and capabilities that redefine the performance envelope by delivering 4x range and 2x bandwidth for 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 Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

It has been designed to support the latest Bluetooth 5 specifications. 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.

This new SoC has been built 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 uses the proven 64 MHz, 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 an 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 256 kB; support for Bluetooth 5, 802.15.4, ANT, and proprietary 2.4 GHz 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.

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.