Use Of SiP For Asset Tracking and Monitoring Through WiFi and GPS

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  • Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF9160 low power System-in-Package (SiP) will be used in Crosby Technologies’ ShipSafe asset tracker for remote monitoring applications
  • The chip features 64 MHz Arm Cortex-M33 processor and provides computational power to run the LTE-M cellular connectivity

Nordic Semiconductor has announced that Crosby Technologies has implemented Nordic’s nRF9160 low power System-in-Package (SiP) with integrated LTE-M/NB-IoT modem and GPS in its ‘ShipSafe’ asset tracker. The device enables users to remotely monitor the location and condition of valuable shipments via a developed and widespread cellular infrastructure.

ShipSafe asset tracker monitors critical items such as ventilators, biomedical equipment, human organs for transplant and high-end industrial equipment. In normal operation, the product remains in a very low power sleep mode until remotely activated by the user from an iOS or Android app. On waking up, it uses Wi-Fi tracking to determine its position within 10 metres and reports that location using the nRF9160 SiP’s LTE-M connectivity, extending the ShipSafe’s battery life to approximately two years on a single charge. 

ShipSafe utilizes Wi-Fi signal triangulation as a primary means of tracking, leveraging the location of over five billion Wi-Fi routers. If the device senses limited Wi-Fi signal strength and is unable to accurately report a location, then it determines its location using traditional GPS functionality. ShipSafe’s software and platform feature better power and latency while delivering a high level of security.

ShipSafe’s additional features include:

  • Built-in accelerometer for detecting and reporting any potential damage to the shipment while on route to its destination.
  • LED which can be remotely triggered to aid with visually locating a package
  • Built-in temperature and humidity sensor for transmitting shipment temperatures with accuracy.

Once logged into the smartphone app, the user can scan a new ShipSafe tracker ID, scan the shipping label, place the tracker in the box with the asset and ship. Then the shipment can be monitored while in transit and, on arrival can be re-scanned and recorded as delivered. ShipSafe is then sent back to the fulfilment centre for re-use. Users can also use the app to track shipment groups that will be arriving on a certain date or those that are destined for a specific region.  

Extended battery life

The device features a built-in, rechargeable 3200 mAh lithium-ion polymer (LiPo) battery. The nRF9160 SiP supports eDRX and eDRX at very low currents for extending battery life to over two years between charges with unlimited location requests. eDRX extends the time for cellular IoT device to spend in a very low power sleep mode – from just a few seconds to up to 40 minutes before waking up, still synchronized with LTE-M’s “paging windows” – the period when data can be transmitted and/or received from the network. The nRF9160 SiP also supports Power Saving Mode (PSM), a second energy-saving functionality.

ShipSafe leverages nRF9160 SiP’s compact dimensions (10 x 16 x 1 mm) to incorporate the SiP, a Wi-Fi chipset, sensors, LED, peripheral components, battery and Wi-Fi and Cellular antennas. The nRF9160 SiP’s 64 MHz Arm Cortex-M33 processor provides computational power to run the LTE-M cellular connectivity and other product functionalities. The 1 MB Flash and 256 KB RAM supports fast response and complex application software.

The nRF9160 SiP is certified for global cellular IoT applications, comprising a dedicated application processor and memory, multimode LTE-M/NB-IoT modem with integrated RF front end (RFFE), GPS and power management capabilities. 

It incorporates:

  •  Arm M33 processor
  • Flash and RAM
  • Analogue and digital peripherals
  • Automated power and clock management
  • Arm TrustZone® for trusted execution
  • Arm CryptoCell™ 310 for application-layer security. 

Cellular connectivity

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 2200 MHz LTE band support, 23 dBm 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.

“It’s the combination of features like the processor and memory, speed of operation and low power consumption that makes the nRF9160 a winning product,” says Jerry Pietroforte, Chairman of Crosby Technologies. “Compared with a competing cellular product we used previously in development, the nRF9160 draws less power by a significant order of magnitude because of the speed at which it performs location data transactions. The SiP is far and away the fastest solution we’ve tested.”

“The Nordic SDK is extensive and it’s easy to build on the feature set that’s included with it,” says Chuck Link, CTO and President of M2MD. “That accelerated our development program because we were able to take the SDK’s asset tracking-features and then just customize the software for our particular use case.”

“When we designed the nRF9160 SiP we knew that in addition to the cellular IoT connectivity, the product’s compact dimensions, power consumption, application processor, memory, and GPS functionality would be important to customers building applications in the logistics segment,” says Geir Langeland Nordic Semiconductor’s Director of Sales and Marketing. “What Crosby Technologies has done with ShipSafe is develop hardware, software, and a business model that makes maximum use of the capabilities of the nRF9160 to develop a compelling asset-tracking solution.”

ShipSafe will be commercially available in November 2020 and will operate on AT&T’s CAT-M1 LTE-M network.


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