Nordic Semiconductor expands low-power IoT range with first Wi-Fi chip
Nordic Semiconductor has expanded its low-power IoT hardware portfolio to include Wi-Fi 6 connectivity. The Norwegian outfit has debuted its first Wi-Fi chip, the nRF7002, which it describes as a “companion IC (integrated circuit)’ to go alongside its existing products, in order to add Wi-Fi connectivity and Wi-Fi-based positioning via SSID ‘sniffing’ of local Wi-Fi hotspots.
The launch follows Nordic’s acquisition of Ensigma, the Wi-Fi division of UK-based semiconductor and software design firm Imagination Technologies Group, with a decent line in Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) equipment, also. The 2020 deal covered Ensigma’s development operations, including most of its staff, tech assets, and intellectual property. Nordic Semiconductor said at the time the deal would expand its portfolio into the Wi-Fi arena.
Last year, Nordic Semiconductor established a ‘global Wi-Fi hub’ in India, with 40 R&D staff, a busy recruitment drive, it said, as it diversifies its IoT hardware portfolio following the Ensigma acquisition. The addition of Target Wake Time (TWT) and Wi-Fi Sensing has enabled Wi-Fi based IoT apps to take better advantage of lower-power consumption and sub-centimetre level positioning (RTLS) services.
Expansion into Wi-Fi means Nordic Semiconductor’s IoT range now covers Bluetooth (BLE), cellular IoT (LTE-M and NB-IoT), Thread, and Wi-Fi. Among these, BLE, Thread and Wi-Fi are all used in the new Matter standard, driven by the old Zigbee Alliance (since rebranded as the Connectivity Standards Alliance), for smart home products. Matter is “championed” by the likes of Apple, Amazon, Google, Samsung, noted Nordic Semiconductor.
The nRF7002, supplied in a 6 x 6mm QFN package, is designed to work alongside the firm’s nRF52 and nRF53 series multiprotocol systems-on-chip (SoCs), and its nRF91 series cellular systems-in-package (SiPs). It is available for sampling now. The firm’s purchase of Ensigma’s Wi-Fi business in late 2020 followed a deal to collaborate with chip-maker Qorvo on dual-mode BLE and ultra wideband (UWB) products.
Svein-Egil Nielsen, chief technology officer and executive vice president for R&D and strategy at Nordic Semiconductor, said: “We were able to bring our first Wi-Fi IC to market very quickly as a result of acquiring an extremely capable Wi-Fi team alongside a portfolio of Wi-Fi assets that team had already developed. Nordic has also ensured that developing Nordic-based Wi-Fi 6 applications will be as simple as developing any other Nordic wireless IoT application, including using the same development tools and nRF Connect SDK.”
Mike Davis, Wi-Fi systems and software director at the company, commented: “The new Wi-Fi team’s relentless hard work to enable Nordic to launch its first Wi-Fi product so soon deserves huge recognition. They knew Wi-Fi was the number one missing capability requested by Nordic customers. And they knew Nordic’s customers needed this capability quickly.”
Kjetil Holstad, executive vice president of product management, added: “I am extremely happy that we are finally able to add Wi-Fi to our wireless IoT product portfolio. Our sales force is eager to engage with customers worldwide. The nRF7002 is a great starting point and we are already well ahead in terms of building a portfolio of unique Wi-Fi products that will combine seamlessly with Nordic’s existing ultra-low power wireless technologies.”