Nordic Semiconductor, the manufacturer of the System on a Chip (SoC) in many beacons, has published the latest online issue of Wireless Quarter Magazine. It showcases the many uses of Nordic SoCs.
The latest issue of the magazine highlights the increasing use of IoT. Nordic Semiconductor has been known for enabling Bluetooth and cellular solutions and with their recent acquisition of Imagination Technologies this now extends to WiFi.
The magazine covers many usecases including:
Bluetooth connected prosthetics
CHIP smart home
There’s also an informative article exploring the usefulness of patents.
You can find the processor chip in the specification section of our beacon descriptions. Most people don’t know what this means or implies. This article will help you make a more informed choice.
There are currently three main chip families from Texas Instruments (CC25xx, CC26xx), Dialog Semiconductor (DAxxxx) and Nordic Semiconductor (nRF51xxx and nRF52xxx). These chip manufacturers publish standard electronic circuits and software SDKs that beacon OEMs use for their beacons. Hence, most beacons, within a chip family, have very similar designs. Small differences in implementation of board layout in areas such as the power supply, grounding, terminations, connectors and the antenna can cause electrical differences that can cause loss of power.
The strength of the beacon radio signal is affected more by the quality of the beacon implementation, particularly the antenna, rather than the choice of chip. This is also evident in real world tests. We have performed RSSI strength and stability tests on the beacons we sell and haven’t yet found any correlation between signal strength and chip family.
The choice of SoC affects battery use. Newer chip families such as the Nordic nRF52 (as opposed to nRF51) and Texas Instruments CC2640 (as opposed to CC2541) are more power efficient.
Most beacon SoCs transmit up to +4dBm output power for a longer range. A few such as the nRF52840 and CC2640RF can be set to higher output power of +8dBm and +5dBM respectively, with a consequent reduction of battery life. If you are looking for longer range, it’s more usual to use a long range beacon with an additional output amplifier chip.
There’s a new video of the Nordic Semiconductor webinar on Everything you need to know about Bluetooth LE advertising. It covers the basics of Bluetooth LE including advertising and data formats. It explains how to use the nRF Connect SDK API and provides a demo. It also shows how to use nRF Sniffer to examine Bluetooth LE data packets.
The video mentions advertising extensions. These are only in Bluetooth 5. Most current devices only support Bluetooth 4.2 legacy advertising. Growth in numbers Bluetooth 5 devices has been limited due to the non-compatibility with the majority of smartphones. It’s for this reason that devices that are Bluetooth 5 usually communicate using, backward compatible, legacy advertising. Extended advertising is also an optional feature of Bluetooth 5.
Nordic, the manufacturer of the System on a Chip (SoC) in many beacons, has published the latest issue of Wireless Quarter Magazine. It showcases the many uses of Nordic SoCs.
This issue has a special feature on how Nordic powered devices are helping the fight against Covid. This includes smart thermometers, smart pulse oximeters, smart soap dispensers, improved cleaning of VR headsets and social distancing/contact tracing solutions. Of social distancing solutions the magazine says:
Technology is needed to enforce social distancing. Bluetooth LE wearables are emerging as one of the most promising workplace solutions
There’s also product news such as Lynxemi’s vibration and temperature sensor platform for predictive maintenance and the Carv Bluetooth LE sensor ski training solution. The magazine also includes an article on ‘STEAM’ (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics) and how the MICRO:BIT is going global.
It’s an electronic component to be used at the SoC output to amplify the signal prior to being sent to the antenna. We expect this to be included in some future long range beacon designs. However, note that it uses more current (115 mA at +20 dBm) so is less suitable for use in coin-cell based battery powered designs.
Our ultra long range beacons already use RF amplifiers but from different component manufacturers. For example the iB003N-PA uses a RFAXIS X2401C chip to achieve up to 300m range. The FSC-BP109 also uses an output amplifier to reach up to 1000m on Android and 4000m on iOS but this beacon requires USB power.
Nordic, the manufacturer of the System on a Chip (SoC) in most beacons, has a new blog post on Five Things You Didn’t Know About Nordic’s Mobile Development Apps. The post mentions less visible features of nRF Connect on iOS and Android. For example, you can get a useful RSSI graph by dragging the screen towards the right from the centre: