Nordic Bluetooth SoC Powers National Instruments' Asset Monitoring System

National Instruments has selected the Nordic nRF52840 Bluetooth 5/Bluetooth Low Energy advanced multi-protocol SoC to provide wireless connectivity for the NI MON-10411 Wireless Vibration Sensor for online asset condition monitoring. The Sensor helps automate the otherwise manual process of route-based data collection, allowing industrial plant operators to remotely analyze asset health data and monitor the need for predictive maintenance to extend the life of equipment.

When mounted directly to an asset such as a large pump, motor, or bearing, the Wireless Vibration Sensor uses its internal MEMS triaxial accelerometer and temperature sensor to monitor the health status of the asset. The Sensor then wirelessly transmits diagnostic quality waveform data to NI InsightCM software, which is connected to a server via a gateway, using Bluetooth LE connectivity enabled by the integration of the Nordic nRF52840 SoC in both the device and the gateway. From the InsightCM software, maintenance managers and reliability engineers can remotely respond to alerts without needing to attend the plant in situ. The software can receive data from multiple gateways, while each gateway can communicate with multiple Wireless Vibration Sensors concurrently.

The Bluetooth 5 nRF52840 SoC’s new radio architecture features 95 dBm RX sensitivity (at 1 Mbps Bluetooth LE) and an on-chip power amplifier that boosts maximum output power to 8 dBm for a total link budget of >103 dBm, and even farther when paired with an external power amplifier/low noise amplifier. Combined with Bluetooth LE’s robust frequency hopping, this enables the device to transmit RF signals—in a challenging environment dominated by RF reflective substances such as steel—to the gateway up to a distance of up to several hundred meters, according to NI.

The Wireless Vibration Sensor is powered by a non-rechargeable lithium thionyl chloride primary cell battery that lasts two years or longer even when mounted outside in -20 to +80°C environments, thanks in part to the ultra low power operating characteristics of the Nordic nRF52840 SoC. The SoC has been engineered to minimize power consumption with a fully-automatic power management system that reduces power consumption by up to 80 percent compared with the nRF51 Series.

Nordic’s nRF52840 multiprotocol SoC is the company’s most advanced ultra low power wireless solution. The SoC supports complex Bluetooth LE and other low-power wireless applications that were previously not possible with a single-chip solution. It is Bluetooth 5-, Thread 1.1-, and Zigbee PRO (R21) and Green Power proxy specification-certified and its Dynamic Multiprotocol feature uniquely supports concurrent wireless connectivity of the protocols.

The SoC combines the M4F processor with a 2.4 GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5, ANT, Thread, Zigbee, IEEE 802.15.4, and proprietary 2.4 GHz RF protocol software) with 1 MB Flash memory and 256 kB RAM, which together enable future over-the-air device firmware updates (OTA-DFUs) within the small form factor of the Wireless Vibration Sensor. The chip supports all the features of Bluetooth 5 (including 4x the range or 2x the raw data bandwidth (2 Mbps)) compared with Bluetooth 4.2. 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.

The SoC is supplied with Nordic’s S140 SoftDevice, a Bluetooth 5-certified software protocol stack for building long range and high data Bluetooth LE applications. Nordic’s software architecture includes a clear separation between the RF protocol software and application code, simplifying development and ensuring the SoftDevice doesn’t get corrupted when developing, compiling, testing, and verifying the application code. The S140 SoftDevice offers concurrent Central, Peripheral, Broadcaster, and Observer Bluetooth LE role.

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