The following webinar is now available for On-Demand Viewing:

 

Note: The presenter was under the impression that the nRF9160 SiP was running two ARM Cortex M33 CPUs, one for the modem & one for the application. The nRF9160 SiP is using one ARM Cortex M33 as an application CPU and also has a dedicated modem processor. Answers have been updated to reflect this.

Buy NowBuy Now

 

Bjørn Kvaale, an Applications Engineer, from Nordic Semiconductor recently joined us on the element14 community and gave us a great presentation on the Nordic Thingy:91, a cellular IoT Prototyping Platform.  The Thingy:91 is based on the nRF9160 System-in-Package (SiP), with LTE-M, NB-IoT, and GPS connectivity.  It is ideal for creating proof-of-concept (PoC) projects, demos, and initial prototypes in the cellular IoT development phase. Among the topics covered were the importance of Proof of Concepts (PoC), Cellular IoT with LTE-M and NB-IoT on the Nordic Thingy:91, The nRF9160 SiP for LTE-M/NB-IoT + GPS, an Asset tracker example, and Hybrid applications with cellular IoT and Bluetooth.

 

Following the presentation and product demo was an extended Q&A session. He was very impressed by the quality of the questions and the response to the webinar by our community members. Nordic Semiconductor will be sending 5 Nordic Thing:91s to members who asked the best questions along with free T-Shirts!  Also during the presentation, we also conducted a poll where we asked you which LPWAN technology do you think will be most popular in 10 years. Below are results of the poll and general Q&A questions that most people will find useful.  Due to the volume of questions asked (220+) only the questions that will be useful to most people are answered below.  If you have a specific question we invite you to visit the Nordic Devzone and ask your questions there!

 

Nordic Thingy:91 Poll:

 

 

 

Q&A Session:

 

How long does this last using a 100ma/hr battery when the NBIOT is used. what is the current draw?

 

I have measured current draw in Power Saving Mode to 7 uA (micro amps). When sending data, you're peaking at roughly using a few hundred mA for a short period of time. However, this is highly dependent on how often you send data & how often you sleep (i.e. the Power Saving Mode sleep interval). We will have an online power profiler available soon for the nRF91 series, similar to our Bluetooth Low Energy Power Profiler: https://devzone.nordicsemi.com/nordic/power/  See this link too for more info: https://devzone.nordicsemi.com/nordic/cellular-iot-guides/b/hardware-design/posts/measuring-psm-idle-current-on-the-nrf9…

 

How long will the thingy:91 operate on the 1400mAh battery?

 

That very much depends on the usage, how often you want to use the GPS, etc. The FW out of the box is more optimized for user experience, and not as much for power saving. You are sending data quite frequently to the cloud. However, you can naturally change the asset tracker source code yourself to optimize the Thingy:91 for even more power saving.

 

Does the thingy:91 work with other cloud services or only the Nordic Cloud?

 

Yes, we have a blog post running on Google Cloud for example: https://devzone.nordicsemi.com/nordic/nordic-blog/b/blog/posts/how-to-connect-nrf91-to-google-cloud You can also use other cloud services if you wish to do so.

 

Is the Thingy 91 tied to the nRF Connect for Cloud or can I pair it with other cloud providers like Cayenne, GCloud, AWS ?

 

Yes, you can pair it to other clouds, like GCloud. See this link for more info: https://devzone.nordicsemi.com/nordic/nordic-blog/b/blog/posts/how-to-connect-nrf91-to-google-cloud

 

I have a Symbisa (which has some similarities with the Nordic Thingy, as it has sensors and sends its data periodically to the cloud via 2G cellular). How would you differentiate the Nordic Thingy from the Symbisa?

 

I am not familiar with the Symbisa, but I believe the main difference is the newer LTE-M1/nB connection. From my experience, we're talking many amps when sending data on 2G. On the nRF91, we're talking a few hundred mAs. For sleep current, we're between 3-7 uA in power saving modes PSM or eDRX (that's micro amps!). On average I would guestimate roughly 1000 times lower power consumption. Also, both the modem & app processor are in one SiP, which helps with lower current consumption. Last, but not least, we're running one ARM Cortex M33 & a dedicated modem processor, which lets you run quite complex applications..

 

What are the uses of the Cellular IoT devices?

 

Main uses are asset tracking (e.g. cargo or cattle), sensor networks, tracking of valuables such as expensive bikes & smart meters, among other uses.

 

Does it work with other Thingy for mesh network?

 

This will be explained during the webinar. This does not work out of box, but you can setup this Thingy:91 to work with other Thingy:52s in a mesh network via the nRF52840 on the Thingy:91.

 

Since losing my house in California last year to a wild-fire, I've wanted to develop an early warning system. Would the Thingy:91 be suitable for building an early-warning system using the gas-sensor?

 

Yes, you could potentially use the Thingy:91 as an early warning system using the Volatile Organic Compounds sensor onboard. I would of course double check the datasheet for the gas sensor first to make sure it is feasible or not.

 

Is there only Bluetooth LE supported? What about BT 5.0 support? Will that one be integrated and supported in the future?

 

Bluetooth 5.0 is part of Bluetooth LE. All of our nRF52 series devices support Bluetooth 5.0, hence the onboard nRF52840 supports all Bluetooth 5.0 features.

 

How to select between LTE and NB-IoT?

 

https://infocenter.nordicsemi.com/topic/ref_at_commands/REF/at_commands/mob_termination_ctrl_status/xsystemmode.html?cp=2_1_3_29.

 

What language is used to program applications on Nordic Thingy:91?

 

We use C.

 

Are there any packages or framework which can be used in other languages such as Python, JS, C++, C?

 

Not as far as I am aware of yet. Espruino have Javascript framework which can be used on a nRF52832 based device: https://www.espruino.com/Puck.js

 

Will the API of the Thingy:91, nRF9160 part, allow other mobile operators?

 

Yes, you can choose which mobile operator you want to use by switching SIM cards. The iBasis Sim card may or may not have contract agreements with all of the different mobile operators in your country.

 

Are you planning to release a multi-core version of the nRF9160 SiP e.g. with several Cortex-M33 cores or with an additional energy-saving CM0%2B or CM23 core?

 

We are already running one ARM Cortex M33 with a dedicated modem processor, which lets you run quite complex applications. I cannot say anything regarding future plans for the next version of the nRF9160 SiP.

 

Does the thingy:91 asset tracking demo software come with a sleep/wakeup feature using the onboard accelerometer?

 

As of now, I believe this is not the case. However, you could easily program this yourself!

 

What are differences of a Low-power and High-g accelerometer?

 

The low power accelerometer uses less power, but is less accurate. The high-g accelerometer uses more power, but is also more accurate.

 

Will eSim from iBasis work in my country?

 

See this link: https://ibasis.com/solutions/iot-connectivity/network-coverage/

 

Can we attach external antennas?

 

Yes, you can attach an external GPS and/or LTE antenna.

 

How can we programmers benefit from Arm TrustZone and CryptoCell?

 

To put it simply: added security. By having secure & non-secure domains, it makes it more difficult for hackers to access sensitive data.

 

Can we replace the on board antennas of LTE-M, NB-IoT and GPS with our own custom antennas?

 

Yes, this is possible if you wish to do so.

 

What is the minimum current consumed by the nRF9160 in deep sleep mode?

 

3 uA for Power Saving Mode and 7 uA for eDRX mode.

 

Can you add custom sensors? i2c or uart?

 

Most of the GPIOs are already being used on the Thingy:91, however it seems there are still a few unused ones. See this link for more info: https://devzone.nordicsemi.com/f/nordic-q-a/51355/inputs-via-gpio-on-the-thingy-91

 

How simple is it to implement over the air updates with nrf?

 

Pretty simple! Take a look at this application for more info:  https://github.com/NordicPlayground/fw-nrfconnect-nrf/tree/master/samples/nrf9160/http_application_update

 

What is the peak current draw for Tx in the various RF modes and GPS (Is there Gallileo support)?

 

A full speed downlink on LTE-M uses 150 mA on average. In PSM mode, with an uplink of 1 KB every 12 hours, that should take on average 5.5 uA. A GPS fix and uplink of location data every 2.7 minutes in DRX modem should take roughly 0.75 mA. There is only GPS support.

 

Can the Nordic Thingy serve as a gateway using UART to another processor?

 

Yes, that is possible.

 

Does the Nordic Thingy 91 allow users to connect other sensors or actuators via its GPIOs, or maybe a screen? This would be useful for testing so that you don’t waste your cellular data allowance.

 

Most of the GPIOs are already being used on the Thingy:91, however it seems there are still a few unused ones. See this link for more info: https://devzone.nordicsemi.com/f/nordic-q-a/51355/inputs-via-gpio-on-the-thingy-91 . You can hook up a USB cable from a computer to the Thingy:91 to get extra debugging information over a COM port so as not to waste your cellular data allowance. Take a look at the nRF Connect for Desktop Link Monitor app for more info.

 

Is the Thingy 91 tied to the nRF Connect for Cloud or can I pair it with other cloud providers like Cayenne, GCloud, AWS ?

 

Yes, you can pair it to other clouds, like GCloud. See this link for more info: https://devzone.nordicsemi.com/nordic/nordic-blog/b/blog/posts/how-to-connect-nrf91-to-google-cloud

 

Would you recommend using Zephyr or Nordic SDK?

 

The nRF91 series only works on nRF Connect SDK, which is based on Zephyr. The nRF5 SDK cannot be used on the nRF91 series.

 

Can it support LTEM1 and NB-IOT concurrently? how to select LTE-M1 or NB-IOT ? what some NB-IOT not Suitable for HTTP(TCP) application?

 

You will need to switch between LTE-M1 & nB via an AT command: https://infocenter.nordicsemi.com/topic/ref_at_commands/REF/at_commands/mob_termination_ctrl_status/xsystemmode.html . I believe this (I guess you mean MQTT, not HTTP) is a carrier issue. It seems some carriers do support this.

 

Can this device act as a Zigbee hub? Can I implement it ? Also is it possibile to add external sensors?

 

Yes, you could use this as a Zigbee hub. You’d need to use the nRF52840 to act as a Zigbee device and then transfer data to the nRF91. Yes, there are a few GPIOs available for use: https://devzone.nordicsemi.com/f/nordic-q-a/51355/inputs-via-gpio-on-the-thingy-91

 

Can you dynamically switch between bands? LTE-M/NB

 

You can do a bandlock command to lock to a certain band. However, if bandlock is not chosen, the modem decides based on a few parameters which band to choose. Don't quote me on this, but I believe only one band can be chosen at a time.

 

How is the communication with nrf52840 done? I loved the softdevice AT-free easy concept from Nordic

 

via UART. Yes, we do use AT commands here. However, the idea is quite similar on the nRF91 to keep the modem side like a black box (similar to how it is done on Bluetooth on the Softdevice).

 

You can do a bandlock command to lock to a certain band. However, if bandlock is not chosen, the modem decides based on a few parameters which band to choose. Don't quote me on this, but I believe only one band can be chosen at a time.

 

Do you have any antenna placement recommendations for the pcb for having both fractus and a BLE antenna for nrf52840?

 

Check out this Fractus antenna app note: https://www.fractusantennas.com/files/AN_FR01-S4-210_Thingy91.pdf

 

Will OTA updates to the software be possible?

 

Yes, we provide FOTA of both app & delta images of modem FW. See this example for more info: https://github.com/NordicPlayground/fw-nrfconnect-nrf/tree/master/samples/nrf9160/http_application_update

 

If you buy an Thingy91, will it come preconfigured with the Asset Tracker example for the country in which you buy it, or might you have to reprogram it first?

 

It comes preconfigured with the asset tracker example on LTE-M1. If your country does not have M1 connection, you may need to reprogram with a hex file found on our website. You can reprogram the Thingy:91 using a USB cable using nRF Programmer app on nRF Connect for Desktop.

 

Is there some kind of security (secure bootloader) to make sure there are no unauthorized firmware updates on the thingy:91 without having to program it using a J-Link?

 

Yes, there is a Secure Partition Manager application that comes precompiled with the asset tracker application that is provided on the Thingy:91 out of the box.

 

Can you tell battery life for a typical use case like for containers? Can it last a whole shipping journey?

 

Some customers are using 16000 mAh batteries, so yes this should most likely last the whole shipping journey. Depending of course how often you want to take GPS fixes & how often you want to send sensor data. We also have assisted GPS coming out soon, which should help.

 

Will there be future 5G capability?

 

LTE-M1 and nB-IoT are already part of the 5G standard!

 

Some customers are using 16000 mAh batteries, so yes this should most likely last the whole shipping journey. Depending of course how often you want to take GPS fixes & how often you want to send sensor data. We also have assisted GPS coming out soon, which should help.

 

Can you change the reporting period while the device is asleep (i.e. interrupt it and wake it up)?

 

Yes, this is possible via AT commands. It may depend on the network operator which values are allowed.

 

Can we use SIM cards from different providers with this or is it locked to specific providers?

 

Yes, you can use SIM cards from different providers. Make sure that the provider you want to use has coverage in your area.

 

Is all the source code for the reference design available and license free?

 

The source code is available here: https://github.com/NordicPlayground/fw-nrfconnect-nrf/tree/master/applications/asset_tracker

 

See this link for more info regarding licensing: https://developer.nordicsemi.com/nRF_Connect_SDK/doc/latest/nrf/ug_dev_model.html

 

Can the asset tracker be used for indoor tracking?

 

Nope, the GPS will not work well indoor. If you want to use indoor tracking, I would take a look at AoA/AoD: https://www.nordicsemi.com/Products/Low-power-short-range-wireless/Direction-finding

 

With regards to nRF Connect for Cloud, is there any ongoing cost to use the service and are there any commitments with regards to how long the service will be available for? Will the Thingy:91 continue to work independently of the Nordic cloud offering even if nRF Connect for Cloud is discontinued?

 

There is no cost to use the service at this moment in time. If the nRF Connect for Cloud were to be discontinued (which I highly doubt), you could still connect the Thingy:91 to another cloud service, such as Google Cloud.

 

Both the Thingy91 and the 9160SDK has an 52840. Does the 9160 has enough free flash / ram to be used as a standalone processor if Bluetooth is not required? Also, I have an 52840DK, can I use that to program or debug the 9160? If not possible now, that would be a nice feature later

 

Yep. You cannot use the nRF52840 DK to program/debug the nRF9160 because the JLINK on the nRF52840 DK does not support the ARM Cortex M33 application processor. However, you can update the Thingy:91 FW directly via USB using the MCUBoot functionality: https://devzone.nordicsemi.com/nordic/cellular-iot-guides/b/getting-started-cellular/posts/thingy91_2d00_fw_2d00_update_…