Nordic adds NFC to Bluetooth, with ARM M4f core & low power drain

June 18, 2015 // By Graham Prophet
Nordic Semiconductor says its ARM-based, nRF52 Series of devices “redefines single-chip Bluetooth Smart”, by combining performance and power efficiency with on-chip NFC for Touch-to-Pair and with active management of functional blocks for minimum power drain.

nRF52832 is the first of Nordic Semiconductor's nRF52 Series Systems-on-Chip, with a 64 MHz ARM Cortex-M4F processor (the first time this core has been used in this type of chip, Nordic asserts), a high performance, low power 2.4 GHz multi-protocol radio, and fully automatic power optimisation. Achieving a CoreMark score of 215 the nRF52832 delivers up to 60% more generic processing power than competing solutions, Nordic says. With hardware floating point (the ‘F’ in Cortex-M4F) the chip claims 10x floating point and twice the DSP performance of comparable products. At 90 CoreMark/mA the SoC is up to twice as power efficient as competing offerings, Nordic adds.

Nordic has given the single-chip Bluetooth Smart device the added function of integrated NFC tag capability that will allow Touch-to-Pair operation of end-user devices.

"Current single-chip Bluetooth Smart solutions are struggling to keep up with the rate of innovation in Bluetooth Smart - the fastest growing wireless market in history - particularly in applications such as wearables and IoT," says Thomas Embla Bonnerud, Nordic Semiconductor's Director of Product Management. "The main reason being that until now greater performance could only be achieved at the expense of power efficiency. The nRF52 Series uniquely merges barrier-breaking performance and power efficiency together on a Bluetooth Smart single chip for the first time."

As well as the Cortex-M4F processor, the device has 512 kB Flash and 64 kB RAM; its radio is multi-protocol for Bluetooth Smart, ANT, and proprietary 2.4 GHz operation, with -96 dB receiver sensitivity, 5.5 mA peak RX/TX currents, an on-chip RF balun and a fully-automatic power management system. Built on a 55 nm process, the nRF52832 can be delivered in 6 x 6 mm QFN and miniature 3.0 x 3.2 mm CSP packaging options.

The nRF52832 also includes on-chip analogue and digital peripherals for glueless interfacing to external components such as sensors, displays, touch controllers, LEDs, keypads, motors, digital microphones, and audio Codecs. This