Nordic Semiconductor Shows Development Kit and Other Solutions for Bluetooth 5 Implementation

March 28 2017, 18:10
Following the announcement at CES 2017 of its Bluetooth 5-compatible nRF52 Series SoCs (nRF52832 and nRF52840 devices), Nordic Semiconductor is showing new development tools for Bluetooth 5 at Bluetooth World, the official event of Bluetooth SIG, taking place at Santa Clara Convention Center, 28-29 March, 2017. Demonstrations include the new Preview Development Kit (nRF52840-PDK) and its first Thread networking SDK.

Nordic Semiconductor's Bluetooth 5 developer solution for its nRF52840 SoC comprises the Nordic S140 v5.0 multi-role, concurrent protocol stack that brings Bluetooth 5’s long range and high throughput modes for immediate use to developers on the Nordic nRF52840 SoC. The Nordic nRF5 SDK offers application examples that implement this new long range and high throughput functionality. The existing Nordic nRF52832 SoC is also complemented with a Bluetooth 5 protocol stack.

Bluetooth 5’s high throughput mode offers not only new use cases for wearables and other applications, but will also significantly improve the user-experience with Bluetooth products. Time on air will be reduced, typically leading to faster more robust communication as well as reduced overall power consumption. Also with 2Mbps, the prospect of audio over Bluetooth low energy begins to beckon, and whilst at this time not a part of the specification it is a very exciting prospect to be able to introduce real time audio using Bluetooth low energy into products.

The new Preview Development Kit (nRF52840-PDK) is a versatile, single-board development tool for Bluetooth 5, Bluetooth low energy, ANT, 802.15.4m, and 2.4GHz proprietary applications using the nRF52840 SoC (System on Chip). The kit is hardware compatible with the Arduino Uno Revision 3 standard, making it possible to use 3rd-party compatible shields. An NFC antenna can be connected to enable NFC tag functionality. The kit gives access to all I/O and interfaces via connectors and has 4 LEDs and 4 buttons which are user-programmable. It supports the standard Nordic Software Development Tool-chain using Keil, IAR and GCC. Program/Debug options on the kit is Segger J-Link OB.

Thread Networking Solution
Nordic Semiconductor also recently announced its first Thread networking solution with the release of its nRF5 SDK for Thread that is designed to utilize the IEEE 802.15.4 PHY support introduced on Nordic’s latest nRF52840 multi-protocol Bluetooth low energy System-on-Chip (SoC). In addition, the Nordic nRF5 SDK for Thread also adds a unique Device-Firmware-Update (DFU)-over-Thread network feature like the Over-The-Air (OTA) DFU feature employed in other existing Nordic SDKs and chips.

The Nordic Semiconductor ‘nRF5 Software Development Kit (SDK) for Thread’ is a complete smart home/home IoT-targeted solution based on OpenThread – the only open-source implementation of the Thread networking protocol, released by Nest Labs – to which Nordic Semiconductor is actively contributing R&D expertise.

The Nordic Semiconductor nRF52840’s class-leading amounts of RAM (256kB) and Flash (1MB) memory also enable the SoC to run both the Thread and Bluetooth low energy protocol stacks from the same single chip. Not only this, the nRF52840 is able to run the Thread protocol at accelerated processing speeds by using its built-in ARM CryptoCell-310 cryptographic accelerator – which offers best-in-class security for Cortex-M based Bluetooth low energy SoCs – to run the Thread security algorithms.

Thread was designed to create the best way to connect and control products where people live and work. This includes robust security (smartphone-grade authentication and AES encryption), low power battery-friendly operation, and scalable reliability. This is all built around a developer-friendly IP-based (IPv6 with 6LoWPAN) mesh network. Prime ‘home Internet of Things (IoT)’ target applications for Thread include: home automation, appliances, access control, climate control, safety, lighting, healthcare, and security systems.

“We see Thread as one of the leading wireless technologies currently emerging in the home IoT space,” comments Geir Langeland, Nordic Semiconductor's Director of Sales & Marketing. “This is why we have decided to strategically invest our world-leading R&D ultra-low power wireless expertise into contributing towards the ongoing development and evolution of the OpenThread software stack.”

The nRF52832 SoC
The nRF52832 SoC combines a 64MHz, 32-bit ARM Cortex M4F processor with a 2.4GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting Bluetooth 5, ANT and proprietary 2.4GHz RF software) featuring -96dB RX sensitivity, with 512kB Flash memory, 64kB RAM, and an NFC-A tag for “Touch-to-Pair” operations. When launched, the SoC was the world’s highest performance single-chip Bluetooth low energy solution, delivering up to 60 percent more generic processing power, offering 10 times the Floating Point performance, and twice the DSP performance compared to competing solutions.

The nRF52832 SoC has been engineered to minimize power consumption with features such as the 2.4GHz radio’s 5.5mA peak RX/TX currents and a fully-automatic power management system that reduces power consumption by up to 80 percent compared with Nordic’s nRF51 Series SoCs. The result is a Bluetooth low energy solution which offers 58 CoreMark/mA, up to twice as power efficient as competing devices.

The nRF52840 SoC
The nRF52840 is an advanced multi-protocol SoC ideally suited for ultra low-power wireless applications. The nRF52840 SoC is built around a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4F CPU with 1MB flash and 256kB RAM on chip. The embedded 2.4GHz transceiver supports Bluetooth low energy (Bluetooth 5), 802.15.4, ANT and proprietary 2.4GHz protocols. It is on-air compatible with existing nRF52 Series, nRF51 Series, and nRF24 Series products from Nordic Semiconductor.    

The nRF52840 has hardware support on-chip for Bluetooth 5. This includes long range, high throughput and advertising extensions. It supports all Bluetooth low energy physical layer bit rates and modulation schemes. The nRF52840 incorporates a powerful Cortex-M4F processor running at 64 MHz enabling the most demanding applications with complex arithmetic requirements to be realized in a single chip solution. This CPU configuration supports DSP instructions, HW accelerated Floating Point Unit (FPU) calculations, single-cycle multiply and accumulate, and hardware divide for energy-efficient processing complex operations.

The 2.4GHz radio supports multiple protocols including Bluetooth low energy, ANT, 802.15.4 and 2.4GHz proprietary. It supports Bluetooth low energy 2Mbs and 1Mbs and Bluetooth 5 long range (500kbs and 125kbs). The radio supports high resolution RSSI measurement and automated functions to reduce CPU load, including EasyDMA for direct memory access for packet data and assembly. Nordic provides protocol stacks for Bluetooth low energy. ANT protocol stacks are available from ANT.

The nRF52840 SoC employs power and resource management to maximize application energy efficiency and battery life. The supply range between 1.7V and 5.5V supports primary and secondary cell battery technologies and direct USB supply without the need for external regulators. All peripherals have independent and automated clock and power management to ensure they are powered down when not required for task operation to keep power consumption to a minimum without the application having to implement and test complex power management schemes.

The nRF52840 has a comprehensive system of automated and adaptive power management features. These features are built into all aspects of device operation from power supply switching, to peripheral bus/EasyDMA memory management, and automated shut down of all but the absolute essential peripherals required to perform a task. Other features include ARM Cryptocell-310 on-chip cryptographic co-processor, on-chip NFC tag with NFC Type 2 and Type 4 tag emulation protocol stacks, and on-chip USB 2.0 (Full speed) support and on-chip VBUS regulation allowing for direct connection to USB hosts for data transfer and direct USB power for hosted applications.

The nRF52840 is available in 7x7mm 73pin AQFN package with 48 available GPIO. The Nordic nRF5 SDK for Thread is now available in Alpha release with full production scheduled for Q4 2017, aligning with the full production of the Nordic nRF52840 SoC.
Bluetooth 5 Wearables Applications
Nordic Semiconductor also recently announced that Tokyo, Japan-based electronic component and wireless module manufacturer, Taiyo Yuden, has selected Nordic’s nRF52832 Bluetooth low energy System-on-Chip (SoC) for its EYSHSNZWZ Bluetooth low energy module. The EYSHSNZWZ is a Bluetooth 5 ready ultra low power module designed for a range of space-constrained applications including mHealth devices, wearables, and smartphone accessories.
Taiyo Yuden's Bluetooth low-energy modules for ultra-compact wearable applications based on Nordic-Semiconductor SoCs.

Designed to help non-expert RF developers of complex wirelessly-connected Bluetooth 5-enabled products reduce time-to-market, the EYSHSNZWZ employs the 3 by 3.2mm wafer level-chip scale package (WL-CSP) variant of Nordic’s nRF52832 SoC, and includes an embedded high performance printed PCB antenna, resulting in an ultra compact 3.25 by 8.55 by 0.9mm form factor.
With a maximum output power of +4dBm and an operating temperature range of -40 to 85⁰ C, the EYSHSNZWZ offers 14 general-purpose input/outputs (GPIOs), SPI, UART, I2C, I2S, PDM and 12bit ADC interfaces, and is also pre-certified to FCC, ISED, and MIC standards.
“Taiyo Yuden now has 11 modules employing either Nordic’s nRF51 or nRF52 SoCs, and the common software architecture has allowed us to easily switch between the two,” says Mikio Aoki, Taiyo Yuden Project Manager. “In this instance, we selected the nRF52832 WL-CSP for its powerful and universal ARM Cortex M4F processor and the large Flash and RAM capacity, as well as the NFC-A tag for Touch-to-Pair applications.

The EYSHSNZWZ Bluetooth low energy module will be available in commercial quantities from May 2017.
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