“The latest addition to Nordic’s Thingy range combines the company’s flagship dual-core SoC, Power Management IC, PA/LNA range extender, and multiple sensors, with embedded machine learning firmware for the shortest route to advanced wireless proofs-of-concept.
Nordic Semiconductor today announces the introduction of its ‘Nordic Thingy:53’ (“Thingy:53”), a multisensor prototyping platform with multiprotocol short range wireless connectivity and support for embedded machine learning (ML). The product is the ideal platform for building advanced wireless proofs-of-concept and prototypes with ML capabilities on the shortest development schedules.
Thingy:53 is based on Nordic’s nRF5340 dual-core Arm® Cortex® M-33 advanced multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC) and incorporates the company’s nPM1100 Power Management IC (PMIC) and nRF21540 Front End Module (FEM), a power amplifier/low noise amplifier (PA/LNA) range extender. The prototyping platform is equipped with a rechargeable 1350 mAh Li-poly battery and multiple motion and environmental sensors. It supports Bluetooth® Low Energy (Bluetooth LE), Thread, Matter, Zigbee, IEEE 802.15.4, NFC, and Bluetooth mesh RF protocols, and comes with preinstalled firmware for embedded ML directly on the Thingy:53.
The nRF5340 SoC at the heart of the Thingy:53 features a dedicated application processor and a network processor. The Arm Cortex-M33 application processor is clocked at 128 MHz and ensures the prototyping platform can handle advanced algorithms and the complex computational tasks associated with embedded ML. 1 MB Flash and 512 KB RAM ensure plenty of memory for even the most complex applications. The network processor is designed for power-efficient operation and features its own computational resources, thus ensuring robust wireless connectivity without compromising application software execution.
Ready for ML models
Resulting from a close collaboration between Nordic and Edge Impulse, a U.S.-based ‘tinyML’ specialist, the Thingy:53 is supplied with Edge Impulse firmware and the nRF Edge Impulse mobile app. The firmware collects training and test data from the sensors on the Thingy:53 and forwards the data over-the-air using Bluetooth LE to the mobile app. The mobile app then forwards the data to Edge Impulse Studio (a Cloud-based development platform for ML) where it is used to build and test an embedded ML model. The ML model can then be deployed to the Thingy:53 over-the-air using the same mobile app. The mobile app will also show inferencing results directly in the app. The firmware and the app enable developers to rapidly collect data and test ML models without connecting any cables to the Thingy:53.
The nRF Programmer app supplied with the Thingy:53 significantly simplifies prototyping by allowing the developer to select from pre-made firmware and then update the Thingy:53’s firmware directly over-the-air from an iOS or Android device. This capability means new firmware can be deployed at anytime, anywhere, without needing a desktop computer. Thingy:53 is also compatible with Nordic’s mobile apps, nRF Mesh, nRF Connect, nRF Toolbox, and nRF Blinky.
The Thingy:53 includes a six-axis inertial measurement unit and an additional low power accelerometer. The environmental sensors include temperature, humidity, air-quality and -pressure. The product also incorporates color and light sensors, a buzzer and a Pulse Density Modulation (PDM) microphone. The embedded ML functionality enables developers to use the Thingy:53’s sensors in applications such as voice recognition or movement pattern detection. The accelerometer and the PDM microphone can also be used to wake the nRF5340 SoC from sleep when triggered by motion or sound events. This is useful for creating low power embedded ML applications because Thingy:53 can remain in sleep mode (extending battery life) when there are no external stimuli.
A proven prototype platform
The product also features a USB-C charge-and-data port, and a Qwiic, Stemma and Grove-compatible four-pin JST connector. Every Thingy:53 is delivered with a debug and current measurement board, which provides access to relevant pins that would otherwise be unavailable, for troubleshooting application code and monitoring power consumption with additional debug tools.
“Nordic’s ‘Thingy’ family has already proven itself with the developer community as the fastest route to prototype and develop innovative short range wireless and cellular IoT applications. Now with the addition of Thingy:53, we enhance the range with the introduction of a prototyping platform using our most powerful and capable multiprotocol SoC,” says Pär Håkansson, Nordic’s Product Manager for the Thingy:53.
“But the new Thingy is much more than just the nRF5340; it also incorporates Nordic’s PMIC and range extender for excellent battery performance and link budget, and multiple advanced sensors. And, for the first time, developers who are not experienced in machine learning can easily leverage the technology through Thingy:53’s pre-programmed Edge Impulse firmware and the nRF Edge Impulse mobile app. Machine learning is the key to tomorrow’s advanced IoT edge processing.””