u-blox announces Bluetooth low energy module featuring direction finding, long range, and operation up to 105 °C

u‑blox announced Wednesday its u‑blox NINA‑B4 Bluetooth low energy module series. Based on Nordic Semiconductor’s recently announced nRF52833 chip, NINA‑B4 enables a number of Bluetooth features including Bluetooth long range, Bluetooth mesh, and Bluetooth direction finding. The module is fully tailored to the needs of applications in the connected industry, smart homes, buildings, and cities, asset tracking, and eHealth.

The main highlight of the NINA‑B4 series is Bluetooth’s new direction finding feature, a key component of the Bluetooth v5.1 specification that brings the benefits of high precision positioning to indoor applications. NINA‑B4 is a u‑blox module designed to act as both a transmitter and a receiver in angle of arrival (AoA) and angle of departure (AoD) direction finding and indoor positioning applications.

In AoA‑based implementations, stationary beacons equipped with multi‑antenna arrays determine the angle of arrival of signals emitted by a tracking device to pinpoint the tracker’s location with sub‑meter level accuracy. When AoD is used, the tracking device triangulates its position by calculating the angle of departure of signals from the stationary Bluetooth beacons’ multi‑antenna arrays. 

The u‑blox NINA‑B4 enables wireless mesh networks, which offer robust communication between large numbers of connected devices, extending the reach of messages by relaying them from node to node until they reach their destination. By simplifying the control of groups of devices, mesh networks are well suited for applications such as smart lighting systems in cities and buildings, which further benefit from the module’s enhanced operating temperature range (up to 105 °C). 

The NINA-B40 series are small, stand-alone Bluetooth low energy wireless microcontroller unit (MCU) modules that comply with the Bluetooth 5.1 specification. The module is built on the Nordic nRF52833 chip and comes as an open CPU where customer applications run on the built-in Arm Cortex-M4 with FPU. NINA-B40 modules integrate ash and RAM memory, and the application runs on top of the embedded Bluetooth low energy stack. Bluetooth low energy services such as serial port communication, GATT, beacons, and mesh are also supported. 

For location applications, NINA-B40 supports the direction finding features such as Angle-of-Arrival and Angle-of- Departure from the Bluetooth 5.1 speci cation. These methods determine the direction from which a signal is transmitted. This improves location accuracy as compared to the received signal strength (RSSI). 

NINA-B40 can act both as a transmitter and receiver in a direction nding application. NINA-B40 provides an extended communication range or a more reliable connection using the Bluetooth 5 long range feature. Additionally, the modules support NFC and IEEE 802.15.4 with Thread and Zigbee.

A range of wired interfaces (UART, SPI, I2C, I2S, USB, QDEC, PDM, PWM, and ADC) are available. Key market segments are smart cities and buildings, industrial automation, medical and healthcare, and telematics. Specific applications include smart lighting, asset tracking, indoor location, low power sensors, as well as wireless-connected and configurable equipment.
NINA-B406 comes with an internal PCB antenna while NINA-B400 comes with a U.FL connector for use with an external antenna of choice.

The internal PCB antenna provides a robust low pro le solution with high performance and an extensive range. The NINA-B40 series will be globally certified for use with the internal antenna or a range of external
Antennas, reducing time, cost and effort for customers integrating Bluetooth low energy in their designs.

Featuring Bluetooth long range, the NINA‑B4 series is ideal for deployments in harsh environments, e.g. to enable wirelessly connected and configurable equipment. Long range not only increases the distance that Bluetooth signals can travel in undisturbed environments, it also makes communications more robust and reliable in unfavorable ones, common in production plants or on factory floors. 

The NINA‑B4 series comes with the u‑blox u‑connect software, simplifying the integration of Bluetooth into new and existing products by providing an easy‑to‑use interface to configure the connectivity required. 

NINA‑B4 further stands out for its Arm Cortex-M4F MCU with an open CPU architecture, allowing customers to run their own applications right on the module. Supporting Zigbee and Thread, the first members of the NINA‑B4 family come with an internal PCB antenna, or alternatively, with a U.FL connector for an external antenna of choice. 

Samples of the NINA‑B4 will be available in December. 

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