Bluetooth 5 ready SoC from Nordic redefines scope for smart home, IoT, and wearables by delivering 4x range, 2x bandwidth, and best-in-class security

The single-chip Bluetooth low energy nRF52840 SoC delivers a ‘superset’ of performance and feature improvements to Nordic’s high-end nRF52 Series SoC lineup, plus an on-chip ARM Cryptocell cryptographic co-processor. Capabilities include support for the new long range, high throughput features of the soon-to-be-released Bluetooth 5 specification, plus radio support for IEEE 802.15.4, more extensive Flash and RAM memory availability, and a new radio hardware architecture with increased output power and link budget

Nordic Semiconductor today announces the launch of its Bluetooth 5 ready nRF52840 SoC with features and capabilities that redefine the performance envelope of single-chip Bluetooth® low energy applications: especially in smart home and advanced wearables – including wearables for payments and medical – as well as industrial sensors and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The nRF52840 is designed to support the latest Bluetooth wireless technology Core Specification, Bluetooth 5, that will shortly be officially adopted by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). 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 (+8dBm), 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 previous Bluetooth low energy implementation of Bluetooth 4.2.

In addition to Bluetooth 5 support, the nRF52840 SoC includes an IEEE 802.15.4 wireless technology capability. IEEE 802.15.4 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 IEEE 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.

The nRF52840 SoC has been engineered to build 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 nRF52840 SoC employs the proven 64MHz, 32-bit ARM® Cortex™ M4F processor employed on Nordic’s existing 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 the nRF52832 SoC include a new radio architecture with output power increased to a maximum of +8dBm to boost the link budget to >110dB; a doubling of Flash memory to 1MB and quadrupling of RAM memory to 256kB; support for Bluetooth 5, IEEE 802.15.4, ANT, and proprietary 2.4GHz wireless technologies; a full speed (12Mbps) USB 2.0 controller; and a host of new peripherals (many with EasyDMA) including a quad SPI interface. This nRF52840 SoC can also operate from power supplies above 5V such as re-chargeable battery power sources.

Designed to address the inherent security challenges faced in IoT applications, the nRF52840 SoC incorporates an ARM CryptoCell-310 co-processor offering best-in-class security for Cortex-M based SoCs. Nordic says 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 Nordic Semiconductor S140 SoftDevice, the company’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 throughput features of Bluetooth 5.

“The nRF52840 SoC builds on the success of the nRF52 Series but will enable wireless product developers to embark on even more ambitious single-chip smart home, wearables, and IoT applications,” says John Leonard, Tactical Marketing Manager at Nordic Semiconductor. “The scope of these application areas is developing quickly; wearables, for example, are moving towards payment and identification devices. The new Bluetooth 5 long range features make Bluetooth wireless technology a genuine contender for smart home device communication and the nRF52840 is designed to meet and exceed developer’s expectations. Security cannot be an afterthought in today’s connected products, the consequences can prove disastrous.”

Leonard adds: “With ARM Cryptocell hardware on-chip we are equipping developers with the very best-in-class hardware and software security options to build secure products. The Nordic Semiconductor nRF52840 SoC with its hardware enhancements, Bluetooth 5 range and bandwidth improvements, and IEEE 802.15.4 support, is the latest embodiment of that intention.”

Nordic will release the S140 SoftDevice and associated nRF5 SDK with support for Bluetooth 5 longer range and high throughput modes upon ratification of the Bluetooth 5 standard by the Bluetooth SIG in early December. Samples and development kits will be available to order from Nordic’s global distribution network from December 6th.

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