TZero, a State College, PA-based technology company, has selected Nordic’s nRF9160 low power System-in-Package (SiP) with integrated LTE-M/NB-IoT modem and GPS to provide the wireless connectivity and processing power for its ‘MachineMailbox’ machine connectivity tool. The solution is ready out-of-the-box to help industrial customers with remote compliance, equipment diagnostics and maintenance, and process optimization. It converts any product into a connected Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensor/machine-based solution with “zero configuration,” the company claims.
TZeros offers their customers a simple way to collect data from their industrial processes. Heart of the solution is the Nordic nRF9160 with its application processor and the nRF Connect SDK based on Zephyr RTOS. Many layers from common IoT Protocols (e.g. CoAP, LWM2M, MQTT) over security protocols to power management are uniquely integrated and publicly documented.
For example, the solution can be deployed to enable fermentation monitoring in a brewery environment where critical level and temperature data would previously have to be collected manually. Using MachineMailbox, sensors in the brewer’s tanks collect data that is relayed to the TZero gateway, and in turn to the Cloud using the LTE-M/NB-IoT cellular network enabled by the nRF9160 connectivity. The company favors cellular IoT connectivity over Wi-Fi, for example, because the industrial-grade service offering needs to provide reliable wireless connectivity to transfer sensor data to the Cloud with no digital security limitations and minimal local configuration complexity for the end user.
“For MachineMailbox the key hardware feature of Nordic’s nRF9160 SiP was the integration of the Arm Cortex-M33 application processor with the cellular modem in a single package rather than [a separate processor] being coupled to an external modem,” says Eli Hughes, CTO of TZero Research and Development.
“As much as possible we leveraged Nordic’s nRF Connect SDK based on Zephyr RTOS, which provided immediate benefits in the level of information we could access from the modem component compared to other solutions and accelerates our future projects. The nRF9160 SiP plus Zephyr RTOS combination provides a good balance between simple application development and access to lower-level facilities. Plus, Nordic sets the standard for providing documentation and reference designs.”
Learn more about the technology behind MachineMailbox in this Nordic Semiconductor blog.