Cellular IoT development board simplifies prototyping of space-constrained IoT products for makers and hobbyists
Circuit Dojo’s Feather platform employs Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP to offer low power LTE-M/NB-IoT cellular IoT and GPS for global operation
Nordic Semiconductor today announces that Circuit Dojo, a Branford, CT-based electronic design company, has selected Nordic’s nRF9160 low power System-in-Package (SiP) with integrated LTE-M/NB-IoT modem and GPS to power its open source ‘nRF9160 Feather’ development board. The development board is designed to simplify prototyping and speed time to market for makers, hobbyists, and developers of cellular IoT-based solutions.
Functional and compact
The nRF9160 Feather is supplied in a miniaturized 50.8 by 22.8mm form factor and incorporates much of the functionality of Nordic’s nRF9160 DK (Development Kit) but in a more compact size. The product enables users to start development using Nordic’s nRF Connect SDK (Software Development Kit) which includes application layer protocols, application examples, and LTE modem firmware offered as precertified and precompiled downloads. The SDK also incorporates the Zephyr real time operating system (RTOS) for constrained, energy-limited and secure IoT products.
The fact that the nRF9160’s processor and radio are combined into a relatively small package is a huge win – Jared Wolff, Circuit Dojo
Development with nRF Connect SDK and nRF9160 Feather allows makers, hobbyists and hackers to build highly reliable, efficient, multi-threaded cellular IoT applications. The Zephyr RTOS is designed to enable from very simple applications with one or two threads in a very compact build, occupying a small memory footprint, right up to applications running hundreds of threads, safely and securely.
The nRF9160 Feather’s integrated nRF9160 SiP and an included Hologram Hyper SIM enables global ‘out-of-the-box’ LTE-M and NB-IoT cellular IoT operation using pre-compiled firmware examples. The prototyping product is also pin-compatible with many Adafruit Featherwing accessory boards, for example the ‘Air Quality Wing’ all-in-one air quality sensor, and features additional peripherals including a low power real time counter (RTC) and additional Flash memory.
The nRF9160 SiP is optimized for low power operation, supporting PSM and eDRX power saving modes. For example, in PSM mode, uploading 1kB every 12 hours, the average current is 5.5µA. When in sleep mode the average current is ~2µA. The development board provides both USB and Li-Poly power options.
Global cellular IoT certification
The nRF9160 SiP is certified for global cellular IoT applications and comprises a multimode LTE-M/NB-IoT modem with integrated RF front end (RFFE), GPS, and power management in a compact package. The 64MHz processor includes 1MB Flash and 256kB RAM, a range of analog and digital peripherals, automated power and clock management, Arm TrustZone™ for trusted execution, and Arm CryptoCell 310 for application layer security. The processor communicates with the LTE modem through a BSD secure sockets API and supports the application layer protocol (for example CoAP, MQTT or LWM2M) and the application itself. The nRF9160 SiP’s LTE modem supports both SIM and eSIM, offers 700 to 2200MHz LTE band support, 23dBm output power, and single pin 50 Ω antenna- and UICC-interfaces. The LTE stack layers L1-L3, IPv4/IPv6, TCP/UDP, TLS/DTLS are part of the modem firmware.
Target applications for the nRF9160 SiP include asset tracking, smart city, smart agriculture, industrial, smart metering, wearables, and medical solutions.
“LTE-M and NB-IoT is the future, you won’t get better support or more widely adopted networks than using cellular,” says Jared Wolff, owner and founder, Circuit Dojo.
“The fact that the nRF9160’s processor and radio are combined into a relatively small package is a huge win. And Zephyr is a good choice of OS because it’s fairly easy to get started with. Nordic provides plenty of examples and documentation to help developers get up and running and the support on the company’s DevZone has also been great.