Nordic's New SoC Supports Bluetooth Direction Finding Protocol

Nordic Semiconductor has introduced the nRF52811 System-on-Chip (SoC), a fully-featured connectivity solution that supports Bluetooth 5.1 Direction Finding and a range of popular low power wireless protocols for applications such as gateways for smart home and industry products.

The SoC expands Nordic’s highly popular nRF52 Series platform by adding a device that combines the low cost of Nordic’s baseline nRF52810 SoC with the multiprotocol support of Nordic’s mid-range nRF52832 and advanced nRF52840 SoCs. The nRF52811 is also the first product in the Nordic low power wireless range to support Bluetooth 5.1, which adds Direction Finding to the high throughput, long range, and enhanced coexistence capabilities of Bluetooth 5.

The Nordic nRF52811 SoC includes a multiprotocol 2.4 GHz radio (featuring 4 dBm output power with -97 dBm sensitivity (at 1Mbps in Bluetooth 5 mode)), 64 MHz, 32-bit Arm Cortex M4 processor, and 192kB Flash and 24kB RAM memory. The nRF52811 SoC also includes a wide range of analog and digital interfaces.

The nRF52811 SoC is an ideal connectivity chip for applications that feature a companion microprocessor. Examples include home and industry gateways that demand low power wireless support for Bluetooth 5, Thread, and Zigbee smart applications such as those used with smart light networks, HVAC, and security systems. The SoC is also a good choice for cost-constrained Bluetooth beacon applications requiring Bluetooth 5 technology’s extended range or employed as part of a Direction Finding system.

The nRF52811 SoC is accompanied by an updated version (v15.3.0) of Nordic’s nRF5 Software Development Kit (SDK). This SDK includes Nordic’s S112 SoftDevice (a Bluetooth 5 certified RF software protocol “stack”) and a large selection of examples, libraries, and drivers, making it simple for a designer to quickly start product development. (Thread connectivity solutions will be available through Nordic’s upcoming new version (v2.1) of the nRF5 SDK for Thread and Zigbee.)

The nRF52811 SoC’s Bluetooth 5.1 Direction Finding enables positioning solutions to not only rely just on received signal strength indicator (RSSI) but also the actual direction of a signal. This improves accuracy significantly and opens up new applications. There are two types of methods for determining direction, angle of arrival (AoA), where the direction of the received signal is calculated, and angle of departure (AoD), where the direction of the transmitted signal is calculated. Direction finding can operate in either two or three dimensions depending on the selected design complexity and antenna array. The nRF52811 SoC is the ideal choice as a transceiver for both the AoA or AoD scenarios. Bluetooth 5.1 hardware functionality is built-in to the nRF52811 SoC.

The nRF52811 SoC will be produced in a 6 x 6 mm QFN48 package with 32 GPIOs, a 5 x 5 mm QFN32 with 17 GPIOs, and a 2.5 x 2.5 mm wafer level CSP32 with 15 GPIOs. All packages are compatible with those of the nRF52810 SoC enabling reuse of the same PCB layout.

All versions of the nRF52811 SoC are available now. Full capabilities of the nRF52811 SoC - including Bluetooth 5 Long Range, Bluetooth 5.1 Direction Finding, and Zigbee 3.0 - will be made available through software releases during 2019.