Nordic Semiconductor, a Norwegian fabless semiconductor company specializing in wireless communication technology that powers the Internet of Things (IoT), has developed the nRF70 Series of Wi-Fi companion ICs for ultra-low power Wi-Fi devices. Nordic Semiconductor is utilizing decades of wireless ultra-low-power expertise to maximize Wi-Fi’s low-power potential in applications such as sensor networks, smart speakers, security cameras, home appliances, robot vacuums, and more.
In August 2022, Nordic announced its entrance into the Wi-Fi wireless IoT market with the introduction of the nRF7002 Wi-Fi 6 IC. The nRF7002 is a ’companion IC’ which means it is designed to provide seamless Wi-Fi connectivity and Wi-Fi-based location (SSID sniffing of local Wi-Fi hubs) when used alongside Nordic’s existing products. These include the nRF52® and nRF53® Series Bluetooth Systems-on-Chip (SoCs), and Nordic’s nRF91® Series cellular IoT Systems-in-Package (SiPs). The nRF7002 can also be used in conjunction with non-Nordic host devices.
Why Wi-Fi 6 Enables IoT
Wi-Fi appears to be the perfect option for wireless networks needing greater range than short-range, low-power protocols, but not the huge range of WAN technologies. Closer inspection reveals Wi-Fi has some considerable drawbacks for IoT applications. The first challenge is power consumption. Wi-Fi was designed for high throughput with little regard for power consumption. In contrast, IoT wireless technologies typically try to limit on-air time to extend battery life and hence minimize maintenance. Second, Wi-Fi struggles in dense deployment scenarios like busy malls and libraries. For Industrial networks comprising hundreds of sensors, reliability is important.
Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax), addresses the shortcomings that have hampered the technology’s widespread adoption for the IoT. Approved by the Wi-Fi Alliance in early 2021, Wi-Fi 6 was designed to meet the requirements of dense deployments, both public and industrial. The new orthogonal frequency-division, multiple-access (OFDMA) feature allows devices to use less than one channel bandwidth, sharing the bandwidth with other devices on the network, also enabling faster response to and from connected units. Where previous versions of Wi-Fi struggled to cope with more than a few sensors, Wi-Fi 6 can comfortably manage large sensor networks comprising hundreds of devices.
Wi-Fi 6 also brings a key technical enhancement for smart-home and -industry applications. Target wake time (TWT) is another technical enhancement to power-saving efforts of prior generations of Wi-Fi. When using TWT, client devices negotiate wake-up times with access points (APs). Therefore, the clients don't need to stay awake to maintain the wireless connection. The benefits are more efficient, contention-free channel access, and significant client-device power savings up to 80%.
Matter, the unified application layer standard for connected things at home, aims to make it easy for developers to create a secure and reliable solution. If you need your products to be interoperable with the major smart home ecosystems, Matter is the way to go. These solutions will be integrated with assistants like Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and Amazon’s Alexa.
Wireless Matter devices will use Thread or Wi-Fi for transport and Bluetooth LE for commissioning. These devices need to run Bluetooth LE concurrently to enable adding new devices to a network. While Thread is the most efficient solution for low-power Matter devices, high-throughput applications like smart speakers will require Wi-Fi. Nordic is actively involved and heavily contributing to Matter. We are also a main contributor to the OpenThread stack. This, combined with our knowledge and experience in Bluetooth Low Energy, Thread, and more recently Wi-Fi makes us the ideal partner to start developing your applications.
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