Laird Connectivity has announced the new BL653µ Bluetooth 5.1 module series which delivers longer range Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) connectivity for harsh industrial operating environments at a fraction of the size.
With a footprint as small as 6.3 x 5.6 mm, the miniaturized BL653µ specifically targets designs where space is constrained while delivering complete multi-protocol embedded wireless connectivity with exceptional processing capability, Bluetooth 5.1 direction finding with angle of arrival (AoA) and angle of departure (AoD), and an extended temperature range (-40° to +105 °C).
Powered by the Nordic nRF52833 WLCSP silicon, the small form factor BL653µ modules provide secure, robust LE connectivity and a Cortex-M4F CPU for any product design. The BL653µ’s small footprint and programming options for the Nordic SDK or Zephyr RTOS, intuitive AT command set, or Laird Connectivity’s own smartBASIC environment provide maximum development flexibility.
The BL653µ series brings out key nRF52833 hardware features and capabilities including USB access, up to +8 dBm transmit power, and up to 5.5V supply range. In addition to the stand-out Bluetooth 5.1 features, the BL653µ also has the potential to be Bluetooth 5.2 capable and has hardware support for NFC and 802.15.4 (Thread and Zigbee).
The BL653µ brings connectivity to extremely challenging RF environments and wireless industrial IoT applications. With Bluetooth meshing capabilities, OEMs can extend the reach of messages by relaying them from node to node in a large group of connected devices. The additional strengths of Bluetooth 5 long range (Coded PHY support) allow Bluetooth signals to travel further, enabling wireless communication for constrained, hard-to-reach equipment within factory floors and manufacturing plants.
Modular FCC, IC, CE, RCM, MIC, and Bluetooth SIG approvals extend to an OEM’s design with no new testing, enabling faster time to market and reduced development risks.
For more information about the upcoming BL653µ series, visit: www.lairdconnect.com/bl653-micro-series
Laird Connectivity has announced the upcoming Sterling-LWB5+ Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 5.1 module. Powered by CYW4373E silicon from Cypress, an Infineon Technologies company, the Sterling-LWB5+ is purpose-built for industrial Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity through a secure, reliable, and robust feature set.
Laird Connectivity’s new Sterling-LWB5+ was intentionally designed for industrial IoT applications where performance, size, cost, and ruggedness are required to deliver reliable wireless connectivity. Careful design considerations were made to ensure the Sterling-LWB5+ is painless when integrating into host platforms.
The Sterling-LWB5+ has a rich feature-set including 802.11ac Wi-Fi and dual-mode Bluetooth. It includes an industrial temperature specification and a solder-down module form factor that is suitable for industrial devices where vibration and impacts are common. With an integrated PA (Power Amplifier) and LNA (Low Noise Amplifier) and antenna diversity, this new module ensures reliable connectivity in harsh RF environments.
A Linux Backports package ensures compatibility for a broad range of Linux Kernels.
The Sterling-LWB5+ is ideal for harsh industrial IoT application areas including rugged handheld devices, industrial IoT connectivity, industrial IoT sensors, and battery-powered medical devices. It supports the latest WPA3 security standards and will be globally certified to reduce customers’ barrier to entry. Pending certifications include FCC, IC, CE, Giteki, and RCM.
Laird Connectivity has announced the upcoming Sentrius MG100 Micro-Gateway which simplifies bridging Bluetooth sensor data to the cloud. Powered by the Pinnacle 100 cellular modem, the MG100 Micro-Gateway combines long-range Bluetooth 5 (Nordic nRF52840 silicon) and LTE-M/NB-IoT (Sierra HL7800/Altair ALT1250) in a small form factor IoT micro-gateway. This unique wireless combination enables new use cases for long-range Bluetooth sensors to bridge sensor data to the MG100 Micro-Gateway, then up to the cloud, all in a simple and low-cost architecture.
The MG100 Micro-Gateway leverages the power and simplicity of Zephyr RTOS programming on the integrated Cortex-M4F microcontroller, allowing developers to tailor their application to their specific requirements. Flexible product options are also available including a rechargeable backup battery, in the event of a short-term power outage.
To best suit their application environments, customers have the option of using fully integrated antennas or external antennas. The MG100 Micro-Gateway is cloud ready, compatible with cloud services like AWS. Customization is also available including custom branding, packaging, and application development.
For even more flexibility, Laird Connectivity has paired the MG100 with Sentriu BT510 Bluetooth 5 long-range multi-sensor. The MG100 Micro-Gateway & BT510 Starter Kit provides a quick and simple way to start evaluating wireless IoT systems. This starter kit includes one gateway with an installed SIM card, three sensors, and global power supplies – everything the customer needs to test and validate their application, from a single box.
The MG100 Micro-Gateway is ideal for multi-wireless IoT applications where long-range Bluetooth sensors bridge directly to the cellular network without the need to access any local network infrastructure. It simply works in any location with appropriate cellular coverage. Applications include security and building automation, industrial IoT, medical IoT, consumer IoT and smart buildings.
The MG100 Micro-Gateway will be fully end-device certified from a radio regulatory and LTE carrier perspective, eliminating those costs for customer applications. Certifications will include FCC, IC, CE, BT SIG, PTCRB, GCF and end-device certified with AT&T, Verizon and Vodafone.
Laird Connectivity has announced a new flexible multi-wireless gateway for bridging LoRaWAN devices to the cloud. The Sentrius RG191 + LTE Gateway is a LoRaWAN-enabled gateway version that now provides Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and Cellular in one solution.
The RG191 + LTE is an ideal platform for long-range, low-power IoT applications. The gateway leverages Laird Connectivity’s WB50NBT wireless bridge certified module and offers enterprise dual-band Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and now LTE CAT 1 for complete design freedom. The RG1xx + LTE offers a LoRaWAN range up to 10 miles and is pre-loaded with various LoRa Packed Forwarder software, perfect for highly scalable and flexible IoT networks.
The addition of LTE CAT 1 connectivity to the RG191 brings even more range and flexibility to OEMs that need to deliver actionable IoT intelligence in the most challenging IoT settings. LTE connectivity is an ideal option for use cases or physical deployments where no local Ethernet or Wi-Fi network is present to bridge the remote LoRaWAN data to cloud services.
The RG191 + LTE comes equipped with two enclosure options, including an IP67 variant for the harshest environments. Both variants work with Laird Connectivity’s RS1xx sensor series for simple out-of-the-box integration. The intuitive software included on the RG191 + LTE enables hassle-free configuration of all wired and wireless interfaces, as well as simple drop-down presets for leading LoRaWAN network providers such as Senet, the Things Network (TTN), Semtech UDP forwarder, and Chirpstack.
The RG191 + LTE gateway is ideal for many of the most challenging industrial settings and applications, ranging from smart metering to equipment monitoring to municipal asset management and more. Full-scale networks can be used to track assets that are spread across a vast facility. LoRaWAN networks can easily span an entire campus and gather sensor data which can then be sent to the cloud over a cellular network, removing the need for a local internet connection. That data can provide insights needed to maintain efficiency, productivity, and be used to make critical business decisions.
The RG191 + LTE is fully certified for FCC, IC, and PTCRB with carrier support for AT&T and Verizon.
Laird Connectivity has announced the new BL653 embedded Bluetooth 5.1 module series which enables industrial OEMs to implement longer range BLE applications in the harshest industrial operating environments.
The BL653 is a complete multi-protocol embedded wireless offering with exceptional processing capability, Bluetooth 5.1 direction finding with angle of arrival (AoA) and angle of departure (AoD), and extended temperature range ideal for extremely challenging RF environments and wireless industrial IoT applications.
Powered by the Nordic nRF52833 silicon, the small form factor BL653 modules and development kits provide a secure, robust BLE and Cortex-M4F CPU for any OEM’s product design. The BL653 provides maximum development flexibility with programming options for the Nordic SDK or Zephyr RTOS, a simple, intuitive AT command set, or Laird Connectivity’s own smartBASIC environment.
The BL653 series brings out all nRF52833 hardware features and capabilities including USB access, up to +8 dBm transmit power, and up to 5.5V supply range. In addition to the stand-out Bluetooth 5.1 features, the BL653 also has the potential to be Bluetooth 5.2 capable and has hardware support for NFC and 802.15.4 (Thread and Zigbee).
“The BL653 series is the future of wireless industrial Internet of Things devices,” said Jonathan Kaye, Laird Connectivity’s Senior Director of Product Management. “The BL653 enables industrial OEMs to further progress into IoT use cases where the extended temperature range and multi-wireless capabilities offer much needed application flexibility. These modules and DVKs enable OEMs to quickly drive their entire product development with a single, integrated multi-wireless MCU core platform, matched with a large selection of development environments to suit their specific needs.”
The BL653 enables industrial applications that were previously challenged in supporting wireless connectivity. With Bluetooth meshing capabilities, OEMs can create wireless mesh networks, which extend the reach of messages by relaying them from node to node in a large group of connected devices. Mesh networks are well suited for smart lighting and factory automation applications, which also benefit from the BL653’s enhanced operating temperature range (up to 105°C). The additional strengths of Bluetooth 5 long range (Coded PHY support) means that Bluetooth signals can travel further and enable wireless communication for constrained, hard-to-reach equipment within factory floors and manufacturing plants. These enhanced capabilities of the BL653 now open up industrial equipment such as pumps, valves, and drives for wireless connectivity.
The BL653 also boasts robust security, a small footprint, and modular FCC, IC, CE, RCM, MIC, and Bluetooth SIG approvals, which extend to an OEM’s design with no new testing for the fastest route to production.
For more information about the upcoming BL653 series, www.lairdconnect.com/
Laird Connectivity has announced the new BL654 PA (Power Amplified) series which delivers more power and range performance in a single Bluetooth solution than ever before.
Building on the success of the BL654 Series, the BL654 PA provides OEMs with maximum design flexibility and performance. The BL654 PA is a complete multi-protocol embedded wireless offering with exceptional processing capability and extended PA/LNA support ideal for long-range applications or extremely challenging RF environments.
Powered by the Nordic nRF52840 silicon, the small form factor BL654 PA modules and development kits provide a secure, robust BLE and Cortex-M4F CPU for any OEM’s product design. The BL654 PA provides maximum development flexibility with programming options for a simple, intuitive AT command set, as well as Laird Connectivity’s own smartBASIC environment.
smartBASIC is a proven event-driven programming language that makes integration easier for designers, especially those who may be new to Bluetooth wireless technology. The programming language offers built-in functions that replace hundreds of lines of C code and allows designers to leverage Laird Connectivity’s years of Bluetooth expertise. It also acts as a bridge between software and hardware, allowing an application to work on any smartBASIC radio.
The BL654 PA series brings out all the nRF52840 hardware features and capabilities including USB access, up to 5.5V supply considerations, and builds additional TX power capabilities via an integrated Skyworks PA. In addition to the stand-out Bluetooth 5 features of enhanced data rates and LE long-range, the BL654 PA also integrates BLE mesh capabilities in a high TX power platform, NFC, and Thread (802.15.4).
The BL654 PA also boasts robust security, industrial temperature rating, a small footprint, and modular FCC, IC, KC, RCM, and Bluetooth SIG approvals, which extend to an OEM’s design with no new testing for the fastest route to production.
Multiple low-cost development kits will be available to simplify application development and provide everything required for initial evaluation right out of the box.
Laird Connectivity has announced a new multi-wireless modem that combines the benefits of low-power cellular LTE connectivity and Bluetooth 5 technology into one fully-integrated solution. This unique combination enables new use cases using low-cost, long-range Bluetooth sensors all connected to the next generation LTE network in a much simpler and lower cost solution architecture.
The Pinnacle 100 seamlessly incorporates a powerful Cortex M4F controller running a hostless Zephyr RTOS-based software implementation, complete Bluetooth 5 functionality, and LTE CAT- M1/NB-IoT capabilities — all fully certified from a radio regulatory, cellular and network carrier perspective. This intelligent modem additionally provides complete antenna flexibility, including pre-integrated embedded and external options such as Laird’s Revie Flex LTE and NB-IoT antenna.
This unique combination of capabilities simplifies common use cases like using a smartphone to configure and create an LTE connection in a product. It also enables new use cases combining multiple long-range meshed Bluetooth sensors connected to the Cloud over the evolving global low-power LTE network. Bridging Bluetooth sensors to a single intelligent LTE device allows customers to optimize sensor coverage and manage cellular data with a simple, low-cost architecture, not to mention decrease time-to-market and deliver real-time insights.
The Pinnacle 100 will be the only embedded multi-wireless solution on the market to have a pre-integrated, low-cost embedded antenna option. Yet, Laird still offers the flexibility for external antennas, including Laird’s Revie Flex LTE & NB-IoT and FlexPIFA antennas. The ReviFlex is a highly-efficient PCB antenna that is a great option for companies that need an embedded antenna with a combination of flexibility, an omnidirectional pattern and multiple frequency bands. It integrates seamlessly with your design and provides world-class efficiency in the broadest variety of wireless IoT environments.
Multiple low-cost development kits will be available to simplify application development and provide everything required for initial evaluation right out of the box including a standalone Bluetooth 5 environmental sensor, a SIM card with free data, a companion smartphone app for provisioning, and a complete end-to-end demo to see your Bluetooth sensor data in the cloud in minutes.
Laird Connectivity has announced Gar and Barracuda, two new low profile, MIMO vehicular antennas with multiband operation and GNSS navigation, providing increased reliability, throughput and capacity. Gar (VFP69383B22JN) has five ports and comes configured for 2-port MIMO operation over the 3G/4G/ISM/CBRS bands, and 2-port MIMO operation over the low/high-frequency Wi-Fi bands. The additional 5th port provides an active antenna for enabling GNSS global navigation services. Barracuda (VFH69383B23JW) has the same form factor and capabilities as Gar but adds a 3rd port for MIMO operation over the low/high-frequency Wi-Fi bands, with the 6th port providing GNSS services.
Laird Connectivity’s new Gar and Barracuda antennas are configured for FirstNet MIMO operation, allow for single-hole mounting, and are ideal for today’s hi-tech public safety and fleet environments. First responders are increasingly relying on networks like FirstNet, which is developing a national, interoperable LTE public safety broadband network to provide thousands of police officers and firefighters across the nation with advanced communication and collaboration technologies to help them do their jobs safely and efficiently, and better protect the public. Likewise, public works, urban transportation, and commercial and industrial fleets also depend on reliable mobile connectivity to better serve the public, improve customer service, and increase operational efficiencies.
Both antennas feature IP67-rated, aerodynamic housing for highly reliable operation, even in the harshest environments. Single-hole mounting reduces the risk of vehicle damage while lowering installation costs.
Laird Performance Materials has developed a hybrid thermal & EMI absorber material that supports 5G handheld device and network infrastructure applications. CoolZorb 5G is specifically designed for the millimeter wave (mmWave) and microwave frequencies that 5G will implement. The multifunctional CoolZorb 5G serves as a heat-mitigating gap filler and EMI-reducing absorber to optimize 5G system performance.
Used like a traditional thermal interface material between heat source, such as an IC and heat sink or other heat transfer device or metal chassis, CoolZorb 5G is an excellent thermal conductor for heat dissipation. CoolZorb 5G functions to suppress unwanted energy coupling, resonances or surface currents causing board level EMI issues. By addressing both EMI and heat challenges, Coolorb 5G enables engineers to shorten the design cycle and move their 5G products to market faster.
The CoolZorb 5G hybrid thermal & EMI absorber material is available in standard sheet sizes of 18” x 18”, in thicknesses ranging from 0.040” – 0.200” (1.0mm- 5.1mm).
It is easy for developers to get tripped up when cramming multiple antennas into the small spaces that characterize IoT applications.
Rich Walters • Brian Petted, Laird Connectivity
Traditionally there has been a wall between industrial design and RF (radio frequency) engineering when companies develop products that have wireless capabilities. The process typically starts with product designers assembling a list of design requirements that determine the look, feel and function of the product. Only with the product development process well under way are RF engineers tasked with squeezing in wireless capabilities. Simply put, the wireless antenna and its performance can be afterthoughts.
The problem, of course, is that wireless products designed this way run the risk of underperforming and being impractical – perhaps forced to use off-the-shelf antennas inappropriate for the constrained location and proximity to perturbational materials. Stick-on antennas, for example, can be detuned by most plastics. Volume constraints introduced by prescribed industrial and mechanical designs often suggest the use of a “chip” antenna. However, many chip antennas require a printed circuit board (PCB) footprint and features that may not comply with the size constraints.
It is remarkable that many manufacturers don’t integrate the RF and industrial design teams to avoid making costly changes late in development. A well-integrated team can define early boundaries for the product that could simplify antenna design later. Moreover, designing the antenna and PCB layout without input or constraints from industrial designers can lead to missed opportunities for optimizing the shape, performance, size, cost, assembly, and desirability of the product.
For example, it may not occur to RF designers operating alone that it could be advantageous to integrate antennas right into the product housing, essentially creating a Molded Interconnect Device (MID) — basically, injection-molded plastic with integrated circuit traces. The MID can be an internal part or integrated into the exterior of the product. There are several ways to produce MIDs and some of them require less tooling than others.
This sort of design thinking takes a team of industrial designers and antenna designers who work side by side, simulating antenna patterns, building prototypes, and testing real physical prototypes. In this scenario, RF engineers make sure industrial designers know about limitations as well as spatial and material challenges for the chosen antennae. They can also factor in spatial and material limitations such as those imposed by adjacent ground and dielectric planes, human body interactions, and resistive loss characteristics of metallization materials and processes.
Products ranging from smartphones to the PlayStation 4 all contain at least one antenna comprised of a printed circuit board trace. A trace antenna has several advantages. Good performance, virtually no additional cost, and small size for frequencies exceeding 900 MHz are some of the reasons trace antennas are popular.
There are several factors helpful to keep in mind when implementing a trace antenna. Standard printed or trace antenna designs that are widely used include various monopoles, dipoles, loops, notches, slots, and PIFAs (planar inverted-F antennas). Standard PIFA-type antennas are the most extensive and offer the best trade-off between size, efficiency, and are reasonably omnidirectional. A meandering trace can be used to compact the PCB area but at the cost of performance.
Of course, the PCB trace length determines the antenna resonant frequency. Each antenna requires a keep-out area around the antenna trace where no copper traces or ground fill can exist on any layer of the PCB. The trace can either be gold flashed or covered with solder mask. The antenna’s electrical performance will be determined by the type of substrate material, its thickness, relative dielectric constant (εR), and metallization resistivity.
Most non-dipole PCB trace antennas must have an image ground plane to be effective. The shape and size of the ground plane relative to the antenna affects the antenna impedance and performance. The ground plane should have vias along the entire edge of the antenna keep-out area to connect ground planes in multi-layer designs.
A mismatched antenna can greatly reduce the total RF link budget and range due to mismatch losses, therefore the addition of a matching network at the antenna feed point is a best practice. Additionally, the final tuning and matching should take place in the actual product enclosure, not in open air. Maximum RF power transfers when the antenna impedance matches the source impedance (usually 50 Ω). Ideally, a return loss below -9 dB or 2.0:1 voltage-standing-wave-ratio (VSWR) is often taken as a figure of merit for a good antenna match, which translates to 12.6% of the incident power reflected due to mismatch. For band-edge frequencies, a degradation of return loss from -9 to -6 dB (25% reflection of incident power) is conventionally accepted.
Plastic enclosures, metal components, and the presence of other components close to the antenna all affect the antenna tuning and radiation pattern. Avoid placing the antenna close to metallic objects, nor enclose the antenna in a metallic or metalized plastic enclosure. Ideally, keep external influences in the antenna far field.
All PCB antennas are on the dimensioning of the lateral and vertical geometries of antenna element patterns as well as the electrical parameters that make up the structure of the specific design. This implies that the simple copying and translation of an existing design probably won’t work well without adjustments. Gain and radiation patterns will vary as the dimensioning and material properties in the surrounding areas change. The length of the antenna will typically require adjustment in response to these variations.
Diversity antenna array placements create a challenge in that one must place and orient independent antennas such that each antenna’s pattern does not couple to the same space as the other (patterns are not correlated to a common phase center). This is true for Selection Diversity (select antenna with best signal) as well as Multiple-Input-Multiple-Output (MIMO) antenna systems.
Typical methods of reducing antenna pattern correlation create space between the elements (up to a quarter wavelength) or create an orthogonal (90°) relative orientation (or both). Compaction of these array placements requires close attention not to degrade the diversity gain performance of the system.
There exist dual-element sub-arrayed antennas to simplify the compaction and placement process. Examples include the world’s first flexible PIFA (planar inverted F antenna) for Wi-Fi MIMO applications (patent pending). The FlexPIFA MIMO is specifically designed for 802.11 a/b/g/n as well as 802.11ac Wi-Fi modules that use MIMO or Wi-Fi Diversity. The Laird FlexPIFA MIMO drastically simplifies the size, cost and technical requirements for implementing the two antennas necessary for 802.11 MIMO because the two integrated antenna elements are oriented and spaced in an optimum way for MIMO radio performance.
Some antennas are purposely designed to be placed in direct contact with particular packaging materials. These antennae usually are slot type or post-loaded dipoles. An example of these types of antennae are the FlexNotch and Mini NanoBlade Flex. Another notable flexible antenna is the Revie Flex for use in LTE CAT M1 and NB-IoT devices. The antenna is optimized for mounting to plastic via a supplied adhesive backing. It operates within the 698 – 875 MHz and 1.71 – 2.5 GHz bands and is ground-plane independent.
Certifications and compliance
Radio regulatory certification is a critical step in every wireless product launch, but obtaining it isn’t always straightforward. Successful navigation of the FCC certification landscape is critical for getting to market quickly. Pre-scans are an effective way to reduce the risk of failing – basically, checking the product for emissions while still in development.
Unfortunately, many teams get to the final stage of development before thinking about regulatory testing. Products can fail regulatory certification on the first test attempt and in light of empirical experience, wireless products with embedded radios are even more likely to exceed regulatory limits, problematic because resolution of these failures typically requires last-minute hardware changes.
The integration of antennas within the packaging dictated by product form and function should be a team effort between RF engineering and Industrial-Mechanical design. Common considerations amongst the co-development team should be harmony with the industrial and mechanical design, while maintaining a firm observation of best-practices for antenna placement and implementation for radio performance and success of regulatory testing and compliance. This effort can be synthesized from raw materials and design know-how or can be implemented with off-the-shelf solutions that reduce design risk and cycle-time.