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First Wi-Fi chip, the dual-band Wi-Fi 6 nRF7002

nRF7002 QFN48 6x6 on PCB_1_web

Techmezine speaks with Bjørn “Bob” Brandal,VP of Sales & Marketing APAC,Nordic Semiconductor on Nordic’s products and activities around Internet of Things (IoT) .

Could you please introduce Nordic Semiconductor?

Nordic Semiconductor is a fabless semiconductor company specializing in ultra low power and low power wireless communication in the license-free 1.9, 2.4 and 5-GHz Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM) bands, and commercial LTE telecommunications bands targeting the IoT. Nordic is a Norwegian public company listed on the Oslo stock exchange.

Nordic’s low power wireless solutions enable its customers to build wireless connectivity into everything from mainstream consumer PC peripherals, sports & fitness devices, toys and RF remote controls through to the most advanced and innovative wireless devices such as beacons, health monitors, home automation, asset tracking and other IoT applications.

The company is the world’s leading vendor of Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) Systems-on-Chip (SoCs). (Bluetooth LE is a power-optimized, hallmark element of Bluetooth wireless technology introduced as part of Bluetooth 4.0 in 2010 and featuring a lightweight protocol “stack”.) The company offers the largest family of Bluetooth LE SoCs

In 2016, Nordic invested significant resources in a highly-talented and experienced group of cellular R&D engineers (formerly employed by the Finnish arms of Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola and Broadcom) and a facility in Finland to develop a family of products for low power LTE-M/NB-IoT technology targeting cellular IoT. Low power cellular IoT suits applications such as smart utility metering, asset tracking, building security, healthcare and medical monitoring, indoor and outdoor GPS navigation, smart home technology and industrial automation.

In 2020, Nordic added Wi-Fi to its technology portfolio through the acquisition of the Ensigma Wi-Fi development team and Wi-Fi IP tech assets from Imagination Technologies. Wi-Fi is a globally-established, standards-based RF technology which provides a vital gateway between wireless networks and the Cloud, perfectly complementing Nordic’s existing technologies. Nordic’s first dual-band Wi-Fi 6 chip, the nRF7002 Companion IC was launched in August 2022.

Nordic also manufactures the nRF21540 RF front end module range extender, and the nPM1100 and nPM6001 power management ICs (PMICs).

Nordic is an associate member of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) and has contributed core expertise to the Bluetooth LE specification. The company is a sponsor member of the Thread Group and is helping to develop Thread, an IPv6 low power wireless connectivity standard. Nordic is also a member of the ANT+ Alliance and has successfully collaborated with ANT Wireless of Cochrane, Canada, since 2005. ANT+ (built on the ANT protocol) facilitates interoperability between ANT+ Alliance member devices and the collection, automatic transfer and tracking of sensor data. Nordic is also a member of the Connectivity Standards Alliance, Zephyr Project, Fair Standards Alliance and Responsible Business Alliance.

Nordic has recently launched the first Wi-Fi chip(nRF7002). What are its features?

Recently, Nordic announced its entry into the Wi-Fi IoT market with the introduction of the nRF7002 Companion IC. This innovative Wi-Fi product brings low power, advanced security and seamless coexistence to IoT applications.

The nRF7002 is a companion IC, providing seamless Wi-Fi connectivity and Wi-Fi-based locationing (SSID sniffing of local Wi-Fi hubs). It is designed to be used alongside Nordic’s existing nRF52® and nRF53® Series Bluetooth Systems-on-Chip (SoCs), and nRF91® Series cellular IoT Systems-in-Package (SiPs). The nRF7002 can also be used in conjunction with non-Nordic host devices.

The nRF7002 is the first device in our portfolio of unique Wi-Fi products that will combine seamlessly with Nordic’s existing ultra-low power technologies. Nordic brings their decades of ultra-low-power wireless IoT and silicon design expertise to Wi-Fi. With Wi-Fi 6 we bring added benefits to IoT applications including further efficiency gains that support long-life, battery-powered Wi-Fi operation.

With Wi-Fi 6 we will support all wireless protocols used in Matter, Bluetooth LE for commissioning, Thread for low power mesh, and Wi-Fi for high-throughput. Matter is a protocol championed by Apple, Amazon, Google, Nordic Semiconductor, Samsung, and hundreds of other companies in consumer IoT.

Company’s business, products, and activities around Internet of Things (IoT).  

At Nordic Semiconductor, we design radio chips that enable all the battery powered, wireless products we use every day to connect and communicate with each other. For over 20 years, Nordic has been focused on giving battery operated applications the best possible performance while preserving batterylife.

Our customers use our low-power chips to build wireless connectivity into everything from mainstream consumer PC peripherals, sports & fitness devices, toys and RF remote controls through to the most advanced and innovative wireless devices such as beacons, health monitors, home automation, asset tracking and other IoT applications.

From a product developer´s perspective, Nordic provides the software, protocols, and hardware for the world´s most popular wireless standards, from Bluetooth LE to Wi-Fi and cellular IoT. As an expert in wireless communication, Nordic also contributes actively the working groups and alliances responsible for Thread, Zigbee, and the new ecosystem standard called Matter. A typical challenge is ensuring that firmware and software is compatible and interoperable for systems built with more than one wireless technology. Nordic therefore provides hardware platforms that support devices found across a smart home such as lights, thermostats, air quality monitors and security devices that came from different vendors, so that they now are able to talk to each other and make life more convenient for the end-users.

In addition to the company´s core Bluetooth and multiprotocol hardware products, the nRF52 Series and the nRF53 Series, Nordic has pioneered the low-power and size for the emerging cellular IoT market. The nRF91 Series is a LTE-M/NB-IoT low power cellular System-in-Package (SiP). Because Nordic owns all the technology in the product, this is the best out of the box experience for companies targeting global reach – all they need is a battery, antenna and SIM/eSIM, and they have access to 10 years of operation across the whole world. Nordic is also embracing DECT NR+ because it introduces an opportunity using the new 5G standard for mMTC. In partnership with Wirepas, Nordic is developing a DECT NR+ solution based on its nRF91 Series architecture.

The latest addition to our low power portfolio is our Wi-Fi products, the nRF70 series. These go in tandem with our multiprotocol devices like the nRF5340 and provides both BLE and Wi-Fi 6 capability, while still being powered by coin cell batteries. Supporting our wireless hardware is the nRF Cloud services, which lays on top of all the hardware and gives the developer access to device management and location services.

With a product base covering short- and long range communication, Nordic has continued its strong growth in Asia. We see a continued growth, and we believe this will continue to increase and plan for further expansion in both sales resources and technical support in Asia throughout 2023.

For the region, we see that new and innovative companies turned the pandemic into new opportunities, and that governments also adjusted and adopted to the new every day. Many countries started investing and rolling out new infrastructure, and India´s massive 5G roll-out is an example where Nordic´s cellular IoT will plug into this and enable new applications. Nordic intends to position itself to support this new wave of innovation and legislation, which will see engineers using our technology in many new ways.

Key wireless markets in the region include:

  • Smart infrastructure for utilities (electricity, gas & water).
  • Asset tracking and smart logistics
  • Healthcare, including remote monitoring of patients and constant glucose monitoring
  • Cellular IoT connected devices
  • Bluetooth LE Audio for hearing aids, audio sharing and broadcasting
  • Smart home growth with Matter enabled products

 

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