The potential synergy between Nordic Semiconductor's low-power wireless heritage and Wi-Fi's latest low-power evolution now enables battery-powered IoT devices. Nordic uses the decades of wireless ultra-low-power expertise and maximize Wi-Fi's low-power potential in applications such as sensor networks, smart speakers, security cameras, home appliances, robot vacuums, and more. The launch makes Nordic Semiconductor one of the few companies in the world to offer all three of the world's most popular wireless IoT technologies: Bluetooth®, Wi-Fi, and cellular IoT.
Wi-Fi appears to be the perfect option for wireless networks needing greater range than short-range, low-power protocols, but not the huge of range of the WAN technologies. Closer inspection reveals Wi-Fi has some considerable drawbacks for IoT applications. The first challenge is power consumption. Wi-Fi was designed for high throughput with little regard for power consumption. In contrast, IoT wireless technologies typically try to limit on-air time to extend battery life and hence minimize maintenance.
Second, Wi-Fi struggles in dense deployment scenarios like busy malls and libraries. For Industrial networks comprising hundreds of sensors, reliability is important.
Orthogonal frequency-division, multiple-access
Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax) addresses the shortcomings that have hampered the technology's widespread adoption for the IoT. Approved by the Wi-Fi Alliance in early 2021, Wi-Fi 6 was designed to meet the requirements of dense deployments, both public and industrial. The new orthogonal frequency-division, multiple-access (OFDMA) feature allows devices to use less than one channel bandwidth, sharing the bandwidth with other devices on the network, also enabling faster response to and from connected units. Where previous versions of Wi-Fi struggled to cope with more than a few sensors, Wi-Fi 6 can comfortably manage large sensor networks comprising hundreds of devices.
Target wake time
Wi-Fi 6 also brings a key technical enhancement for smart-home and -industry applications. Target wake time (TWT) is another technical enhancement to power-saving efforts of prior generations of Wi-Fi. When using TWT, client devices negotiate wake-up times with access points (APs). Therefore, the clients don't need to stay awake to maintain the wireless connection. The benefits are more efficient, contention-free channel access, and significant client-device power savings up to 80%.
The nRF7002 is a companion IC, providing seamless Wi-Fi connectivity and Wi-Fi-based locationing (SSID sniffing of local Wi-Fi hubs). It is designed to be used alongside Nordic's existing nRF52® and nRF53® Series Bluetooth Systems-on-Chip (SoCs), and nRF91® Series cellular IoT Systems-in-Package (SiPs). The nRF7002 can also be used in conjunction with non-Nordic host devices.
The nRF7002 is the first device in Nordic's portfolio of unique Wi-Fi products that will combine seamlessly with Nordic's existing ultra-low power technologies. Nordic brings their decades of ultra-low-power wireless IoT and silicon design expertise to Wi-Fi. With Wi-Fi 6 they bring added benefits to IoT applications including further efficiency gains that support long-life, battery-powered Wi-Fi operation.
With Wi-Fi 6 we will support all wireless protocols used in Matter, Bluetooth LE for commissioning, Thread for low power mesh, and Wi-Fi for high-throughput. Matter is a protocol championed by Apple, Amazon, Google, Nordic Semiconductor, Samsung, and hundreds of other companies in consumer IoT.
The nRF7002 DK is the development kit for the nRF7002 Wi-Fi 6 Companion IC. It contains everything needed to get started developing on a single board and allows for evaluating the nRF7002. The DK features an nRF5340 multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC) as a host processor for the nRF7002. The DK supports the development of low-power Wi-Fi 6 applications and enables applications to use Wi-Fi 6 features like OFDMA, Beamforming, and Target Wake Time. To communicate with the host, SPI or QSPI can be used, and an extra coexistence feature allows for seamless coexistence with other protocols like Bluetooth Low Energy, Thread, or Zigbee. The nRF7002 is integrated and supported in Nordic's nRF Connect SDK.