The new nRF Connect SDK, for short-range and cellular IoT applications

By Bjørn Kvaale April 17, 2020

nRF Conneckt SDK

Introducing the nRF Connect SDK for short-range and cellular IoT applications The nRF Connect SDK is a Software Development Kit (SDK) for rapidly developing applications based around the open-source Zephyr Real-Time Operating System (RTOS). It contains the features and protocols necessary to develop both short-range and long-range applications for the nRF5340 SoC and the nRF9160 SiP.

The nRF Connect SDK is part of the nRF Connect "umbrella", our unified platform for developing both short-range and long-range applications. In addition to the nRF Connect SDK, the nRF Connect umbrella also includes nRF Connect for Desktop and nRF Connect for Cloud, as well as mobile apps such as nRF Connect for Mobile.

nRF Connect for Desktop contains tools to quickly test features and enhance debugging capabilities on both our short and long-range products. nRF Connect for Cloud is our cloud platform for evaluating and testing our long-range cellular IoT nRF9160 SiP. Lastly, nRF Connect contains smartphone apps that help evaluate our short-range wireless technology, including Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE) based solutions, and can be used as a starting point for smartphone app development.

Zephyr RTOS

nRF Connect SDK is based around the open-source, low power Zephyr RTOS, driven by the independent Linux Foundation project. Some of the main benefits of an RTOS include abstracting away HW and scheduling complexity, allowing critical processes to finish in a deterministic fashion.

Read more: RTOS: Real-Time Operating Systems for Embedded Developers

As applications increase in complexity, require more processing threads, and multiprotocol solutions become standard, an RTOS can help manage application complexity. It helps speed up application code development, simplifies collaboration between larger teams, and significantly improves code reuse.

Nordic Semiconductor and more than 600 embedded industry experts actively contribute, maintain, and test the Zephyr project, ensuring a robust and efficient solution. Zephyr's security subcommittee ensures that security is prioritized. The open-source MCUBoot also provides a secure bootloader for over-the-air firmware updates and secure booting of application code.

Shorter time to market

One of the main benefits of the nRF Connect SDK is modular programming. Zephyr includes all the main wireless protocols, including but not limited to Bluetooth LE, Bluetooth mesh, CoAP, UDP, MQTT, IPv4, Ipv6, and more. By including these robust protocols, Nordic Semiconductor can focus on other value-adding features, such as modem and application firmware over-the-air updates on our nRF9160 SiP.

Modular programming also means that the developer can ensure high memory efficiency by deciding which modules, libraries, and drivers to support. Consequently, this provides the nRF Connect SDK the flexibility of supporting small, memory-constrained applications as well as sophisticated and richly featured software for advanced applications. The single code base for both our short-range and cellular IoT products allows easy code reuse between multiple applications, minimizing the time investment for customers developing multiple applications based around nRF Connect SDK.

The main goal of the nRF Connect SDK is to simplify the process of bringing a product to market. Customers can use simple sample applications to build a simple proof of concept, then a prototype, and finally, a finished product.

Toolchain manager

A new toolchain manager application in nRF Connect for Desktop allows quick setup of the toolchain and SDK on Windows PCs even without administrator privileges. The SDK is hosted on Github with permissive Nordic 3 and 5-clause BSD and Apache 2.0 licenses. The toolchain includes tools such as git and west for enterprise repository management, as well as free IDE support for Nordic products with Segger Embedded Studio Nordic Edition. West is a Python-based command line tool to build and flash code, as well as keep the nRF Connect SDK repositories up to date. After the nRF Connect SDK is branched, the developer can choose to contribute back to the SDK, but also have private repositories for sensitive intellectual property.

Going forward

nRF Connect SDK development has been ongoing for more than one year and contains support for our short-range nRF5340 SoC, as well as production support for our long-range nRF9160 SiP.

V1.2 of the SDK is already released, and the next version (v1.3) will add support for Nordic's market-leading nRF52 Series. Code and documentation supporting the nRF52 Series are already available in the latest master branch of development. Production quality code for the nRF52 Series and nRF53 Series is arriving soon.

Read more about  nRF Connect SDK

 


Bjørn Kvaale's photo

By: Bjørn Kvaale

Bjørn has a Master of Science degree in Engineering Cybernetics & Robotics from the Norwegian University of Science & Technology. For two years he has been working in the technical support group at Nordic, focusing on Bluetooth mesh and nRF91/nRF Connect SDK. In addition to assisting customers, he enjoys giving technical presentations and helping out at customer trainings. Bjørn is currently working with the product marketing team.

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