u-blox NINA-B4 Bluetooth 5.1 Module Enables Mesh Networking for IoT Applications

By Tiera Oliver

Associate Editor

Embedded Computing Design

May 18, 2021


u-blox NINA-B4 Bluetooth 5.1 Module Enables Mesh Networking for IoT Applications

u-blox has specified Nordic’s nRF52833 Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) System-on-Chip (SoC) to power its NINA-B4 stand-alone Bluetooth 5.1 modules.

The 10 by 15 by 2.2 mm Bluetooth LE/Bluetooth 5.1 MCU modules with open CPU architecture are optimized for, and can be supplied preinstalled with, Wirepas Massive (previously Wirepas Mesh), a decentralized large-scale mesh networking solution. Wirepas Massive has been developed by global software connectivity company, Wirepas, and is designed for an array of Internet of Things (IoT) applications. 

The u-blox NINA-B4 series includes the NINA-B406, which comes with an internal PCB antenna (providing a robust low-profile solution with high performance and extensive range), and NINA-B400, which integrates a U.FL connector for use with an external antenna of the developer’s choice. The NINA-B4 series also comes with u-blox’s u-connect software, supporting a variety of use cases and providing an easy-to-use interface to configure the connectivity required from an external application host.

The NINA-B4 module is suitable for running Wirepas Massive, an updated version of Wirepas’s proprietary mesh connectivity software. (The module is also able to run third-party device applications alongside the Wirepas protocol.) Wirepas claims the software is the only solution to combine sensing, monitoring, control, positioning, and large-scale inventory in a single technology. According to Wirepas, networks built with its technology are optimized by local decision-making to reach unlimited scalability, coverage, and density whilst using the available radio spectrum as efficiently as possible. The company says the network is immune to frequency interference, making it ideal for use in harsh industrial environments. 

Wirepas Massive can be deployed in smart tracking, smart logistics, smart building, smart industry, and smart metering applications, or whenever there is a need for large-scale industrial-grade network deployments. Per the company, Wirepas Massive introduces 2 times higher throughput, reduced power consumption, a dynamic provisioning algorithm that automatically authorizes new nodes in an existing network and enables roaming for logistics use cases, open source gateway software, a simpler protocol node-node system that doesn’t require any back-end link, high-density ultra-fast inventory (thousands of devices in less than one minute, for example in warehouses), directed advertising mode for reliable ultra-low power light switches, and advertising space extended to 32-bit to support ultra-large networks. 

The NINA-B4 module also supports Bluetooth 5.1—including direction finding—and can operate at an extended temperature range up to 105 °C – which, together with its long range capability, makes it ideal for deployment in harsh environments. Designed to act as both a transmitter and receiver (using angle-of-arrival (AoA) and angle-of-departure (AoD) direction finding), the NINA-B4 modules bring the benefits of high-precision positioning to indoor applications. The integrated nRF52833 SoC’s multiprotocol radio is capable of all direction-finding features for AoA and AoD applications. The SoC’s memory allocation enables integration of advanced embedded customer applications.

Nordic’s nRF52833 multiprotocol SoC supports the large-scale, low power Wirepas Massive mesh connectivity software. For example, a network of anchor nodes and up to hundreds of thousands of end-devices could be placed throughout a location and wirelessly linked using the Wirepas Massive connectivity integrated in the Nordic SoCs. Collected sensor data and analytics could then be relayed via Wirepas Massive to a u-blox NINA-B4 module-equipped gateway, which in turn sends the data to the cloud. 

Nordic’s nRF52833 advanced multiprotocol SoC combines a 64 MHz, 32-bit Arm Cortex M4 processor with floating point unit (FPU), with a 2.4 GHz multiprotocol radio (supporting 2.4 GHz RF protocol software in addition to Bluetooth 5.2, Bluetooth mesh, Bluetooth Direction Finding, 2 Mbps throughput, and long range plus Thread, Zigbee, and IEEE 802.15.4 software), featuring +8 dBm maximum TX power and -95 dBm RX sensitivity. The SoC incorporates Flash (512 kB) and RAM (128 kB) memory, and analog and digital interfaces such as NFC-A, ADC, high-speed 32 MHz SPI, UART/SPI/TWI, PWM, I2S, and PDM. The SoC has been engineered to minimize power consumption. In addition to support for Thread, Zigbee and Bluetooth through the nRF Connect SDK, the SoC is also supported by the S113, 122, or S140 SoftDevices, Nordic’s Bluetooth RF protocol stacks.

For more information, visit: https://www.u-blox.com/en/product/nina-b40-series-open-cpu

Tiera Oliver, Associate Editor for Embedded Computing Design, is responsible for web content edits, product news, and constructing stories. She also assists with newsletter updates as well as contributing and editing content for ECD podcasts and the ECD YouTube channel. Before working at ECD, Tiera graduated from Northern Arizona University where she received her B.S. in journalism and political science and worked as a news reporter for the university’s student led newspaper, The Lumberjack.

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