Nordic Semiconductor : System-on-chip enables ultra-low-power wireless solutions

Nordic Semiconductor ASA releases the nRF24LE1, a 2.4GHz ULP wireless System-on-Chip solution that enables a single-chip implementation in wireless applications.

ULP wireless SoC solution

The nRF24LE1 integrates a fully-featured nRF24L01+ 2.4GHz transceiver core including Nordic’s proven Enhanced ShockBurst™ hardware link layer. It delivers true ULP operation with peak currents low enough to run on coin cell batteries.

The nRF24LE1 also integrates an enhanced 8051 mixed signal MCU core featuring fewer clock cycles per instruction than legacy 8051 devices. Most instructions need just one or two clock cycles leading to an average performance improvement of 8X using the MIPS (Million Instructions Per Second) benchmark. This high performance combined with 16kbytes of on-chip flash plus 1kbyte of SRAM ensures the processing platform is powerful enough to run both the RF protocol stack and application layer with ease.

A wide range of peripherals and power saving modes support the RF protocol stack. A ULP 32kHz crystal oscillator provides high accuracy timing for low report rate synchronous protocols and a 16MHz RC oscillator provides fast start-up times from idle. The 32kHz oscillator can provide timing accurate enough for higher report rate protocols without requiring an external crystal. A security co-processor supports AES encrypted wireless communication. The nRF24LE1 provides a range of nanoamp and microamp idle modes specifically designed for ULP RF protocol stacks. Further benefits include higher precision protocol timing, lower power consumption, and improved co-existence performance.

For the application layer the nRF24LE1 offers a rich set of interfaces and peripherals including an SPI, 2-wire, UART, 12-bit ADC, PWM and an analog comparator. As such, the nRF24LE1 is the ideal single chip solution for wireless applications including mice, keyboards, remote controls, game controllers, sports/healthcare sensors, toys, and active RFID tags.

Package options

The nRF24LE1 is available in three package options. The tiny 4x4mm 24-pin QFN option is by far the smallest ULP single chip power solution available today and provides 7 programmable generic I/O pins. For applications where more I/O pins are needed the nRF24LE1 is also available in a 5x5mm 32-pin QFN with 15 generic I/O pins, and a 7x7mm 48-pin QFN with 29 generic I/O pins.

Development tools

The nRF24LE1 is supported by a comprehensive set of development tools. This includes being the first part to be compatible with the brand new Nordic Semiconductor nRFgo evaluation and development platform. At the core of this platform is the nRFgo Starter Kit (nRF6700) which provides a generic evaluation and development platform for all Nordic ULP 2.4GHz radios. The nRF24LE1 Development Kit complements the Starter Kit by including radio modules and a complete Software Development Kit (SDK).

To get started with the nRF24LE1 designers need both a Starter Kit and a Development Kit. However, upcoming products from Nordic Semiconductor will also be compatible with the Starter Kit so users will only need to purchase the Development Kit relevant to these products in future.

The nRFgo Starter Kit is an ideal platform for developing ULP applications. It includes two motherboards with standard sockets for Nordic radio modules, plus a rich set of standard interfaces and prototyping facilities. The motherboards also offer built-in support for the Nordic Semiconductor nRFProbe – a high-performance fully-featured hardware debug solution for Nordic radios with built in microcontrollers such as the nRF24LE1. The included nRFgo Studio PC software package also enables quick and easy RF evaluation and testing.

The nRF24LE1 Development Kit comes in three variants, one for each package type. The SDK includes full support for Keil µVision IDE, including a plug-in for the nRFProbe hardware debugger. A library of Hardware Abstraction Layers and complete example applications makes it easy for firmware developers to take advantage of all the nRF24LE1’s advanced features.

“The nRF24LE1 is a truly unique wireless SoC solution,” says Thomas Embla Bonnerud, Product Manager for Ultra Low Power Wireless at Nordic Semiconductor. “Not only is it the first solution enabling single chip implementations of ultra-low power wireless applications, but we have also been able to provide this chip in same 4x4mm package size as our nRF24L01+ standalone transceiver. That is quite incredible considering the fact that in addition to the transceiver the nRF24LE1 includes a fully-featured mixed signal microcontroller, 16kbytes of flash memory and a rich set of analog and digital peripherals. In contrast, competing solutions still employ transceivers with peak currents too high for coin-cell battery operation and come in package sizes of 6x6mm and above.”

“We see the market for ultra-low power wireless quickly maturing and single chip solutions are going to be a key technology for driving innovation and growth,” adds Geir Langeland, Director of Sales and Marketing at Nordic Semiconductor. “We have been working closely with key customers in several different market segments to define and develop the nRF24LE1. The result is a solution that enables our customers to take their products to the next level by simultaneously leveraging the ULP operation, small package size, powerful microcontroller and embedded flash technology of this chip.”

Availability and pricing

Engineering samples of the nRF24LE1 and development tools are widely available today.

The nRF24LE1 is priced very competitively at USD 1.95 in 10K unit shipments..

About Nordic Semiconductor ASA

Nordic Semiconductor is a fabless semiconductor company specializing in ultra-low power (ULP) short-range wireless communication. Nordic is a public company listed on the Norwegian stock exchange.

Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF24xx range of 2.4GHz transceiver and transmitter devices are aimed at applications such as PC peripherals such as wireless keyboards/mice, game controllers, intelligent sports equipment and wireless audio (for example, mp3 and portable CD player headphones and PC speakers). The latest nRF24L01 family, for instance, is targeted at ultra-low cost and power applications such as wireless desktops and intelligent (for example, wristwatch-based) sports equipment.

Nordic is an associate member of the Bluetooth SIG, and has contributed core expertise in ultra-low power RF design to the forthcoming specification for Bluetooth low energy wireless technology (formerly ultra low power Bluetooth). Bluetooth low energy wireless technology is a short range RF communication technology featuring ultra-low power consumption, a lightweight protocol stack and simple integration with Bluetooth® wireless technology chips. Bluetooth low energy wireless technology ushers in the next generation of RF communications by opening up many new opportunities for wireless data links between suitably equipped mobile phones or personal computers (PCs) and coin cell battery-powered devices such as sports and health sensors.

Nordic’s products are all manufactured in ultra modern semiconductor process technologies through strong relationships with world-best manufacturing facilities. Sales are primarily made through a carefully selected worldwide distribution network. The company has offices in Trondheim and Oslo, Norway, the US (west coast), Hong Kong, Korea and Japan, and is listed on the Norwegian Stock Exchange (OSX: NOD). All operations are managed according to the ISO 9001:2000-approved quality assurance system.

Steven Keeping
Nordic Semiconductor ASA
T: +61 (0)2 8901 0230
M: +61 (0)403 810827

Note: The above text is the public part of the press release obtained from the manufacturer (with minor modifications). EETimes Europe cannot be held responsible for the claims and statements made by the manufacturer. The text is intended as a supplement to the new product presentations in EETimes Europe magazine.

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