In this article, we will provide an overview of the Nordic Semiconductor nRF9160 Development Kit and the Soracom Connectivity Starter Kit, along with a step-by-step guide on how to get started on using the tech, as well as a list of resources to further your learning about developing IoT applications.
The Nordic Semiconductor nRF9160 Development Kit is a powerful and versatile platform that supports multiple wireless protocols, including near field communication (NFC) connectivity, Zigbee, Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth LE), Nordic Semiconductor's proprietary 2.4 GHz wireless protocol, and Thread. It is an ideal platform for developing low-power wireless devices like IoT sensors and wearables.
The kit includes a development board, software, documentation, and hardware and is user-friendly and easy to set up. The development board features a Nordic Semiconductor System-on-Chip (SoC), onboard debugger, and peripherals like push-buttons switches and LEDs. Developers will use NB-IoT or LTE-M, the cellular IoT protocols for their application, making it a valuable tool for testing and prototyping wireless applications on various networks.
The Nordic Developer Academy (add link) is an online learning platform enabling you to gain the skills to start various IoT projects. It focuses on equipping developers with the technical information and the know-how to build tomorrow’s cutting-edge wireless products using Nordic Semiconductor solutions.
The nRF Connect SDK Fundamentals course is a self-paced, hands-on online course focusing on learning the essentials of firmware development using the highly extensible and feature-rich nRF Connect SDK.
The nRF Connect Software Development Kit contains a highly configurable real-time operating system called the Zephyr RTOS and a wide range of samples, application protocols, protocol stacks, libraries, and hardware drivers.
By the end of this course, you will have a solid understanding of nRF Connect SDK, its structure, and its content. You will learn how to develop portable RTOS-based applications running on any Nordic Semiconductor device (nRF52, nRF53, nRF70, or nRF91 Series). In addition, you will gain substantial practical experience in interfacing with common peripherals/system blocks and external sensors, which will give you the confidence to apply the knowledge and know-how to your project.
This self-paced, hands-on online course teaches cellular IoT application development essentials using the highly extensible and feature-rich nRF Connect SDK.
In this course, you will study the cellular technologies LTE-M and NB-IoT and examine the software architecture of a cellular IoT application using Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF91 Series cellular hardware. The hands-on exercises in this course will teach you step-by-step how to configure the nRF9160 SiP to establish a cellular link using different technology configurations and connect to the cloud through communication protocols, including MQTT and COAP.
In addition to that, we will practice using the GNSS receiver inside the nRF91 hardware to obtain geographic coordinates in different schemes. By the end of this course, you will learn how to develop firmware for cellular IoT prototypes and build a GPS tracker using the nRF9160 DK.
Get started with the Nordic Semiconductor development board by following these basic steps:
Unbox the kit to familiarize yourself with the various components, including the nRF9160 DK, Soracom SIM card, micro USB cable, and the quick start guide.
Step 2: Insert the SIM card into the SIM slot on the DK and power on by connecting the micro USB cable to the DK and your computer. For Soracom SIM users, visit the Soracom SIM documentation webpage to download your country's Soracom network coverage spreadsheet and check whether LTE-M and NB-IoT are supported in your region.
Install the nRF Connect for Desktop, available for free download on the Nordic Semiconductor website. Upon successful installation and launch of nRF Desktop Connect, it is recommended to install two additional apps, namely Programmer and LTE Link Monitor.
For more details or a step-by-step guide on Installing nRF Connect for Desktop, visit the Nordic Semiconductor website. Next install the nRF Command Line Tools. From the installed nRF Connect for desktop you can now install the Toolchain Manager. The Toolchain Manager is needed to install the development tools (nRF Connect SDK). The installation procedure can be followed on the DevAcademy: https://academy.nordicsemi.com/topic/exercise-1-1/. Or you can follow the instructions online. Make sure to install Microsoft Visual Studio Code before opening nRF Connect SDK from the Toolchain manager. You must start nRF Connect SDK from the Toolchain manager the first time to install the needed plug-ins and check dependencies.
Step 4: After installing the required software, update the DK firmware, the application firmware, and the modem firmware. This process is crucial in ensuring a seamless and efficient development experience. The latest firmware and pre-compiled applications can be download from the nRF9160-DK product page.
Before starting to build your own application you can try out the following applications:
The pre-compiled code is found in the directory “img_app_bl” of the nRF9160-DK download package. The firmware/application can be programmed using the programmer tool found in the nRF Connect For Desktop.
Utilizing the Nordic nRF Cloud solution gives you access to a robust platform for connecting your IoT devices, viewing and analyzing message data from these devices, and prototyping novel ideas that leverage the company's chips and other related capabilities.
To test the board, use software like device drivers to build a sample application that enables the interaction between applications and hardware on the board. For example, we can use the General-Purpose Input/Output (GPIO) hardware peripheral and driver to control or blink light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and read the status of buttons using polling and interrupting methods.
Refer to the respective boards and SDK documentation for guidance on using the board’s features and functionalities in building an LED blink application.
To gain further knowledge on working with the nRF9160 Development Kit, a suite of videos is available. Also check out the Cellular IoT guides this will help you understand developing a cellular IoT application.
Soracom is a cloud-based cellular connectivity service that provides connectivity solutions for IoT devices. Soracom is a Telecom call network in software that offers direct integration with AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, 75% less plastic than a regular SIM card , and pay-as-you-go pricing connectivity for developers and organizations.
Soracom offers a wide range of cloud-based services, such as analytics and data visualization for IoT and M2M connectivity, as well as the management and security of IoT devices. Soracom key services include analytics and data visualization via Soracom Lagoon, protocol conversion from Soracom Beam, private connection to your cloud of choice through Soracom Canal and Soracom Funnel, and so much more. \the Soracom Air connectivity service, for instance uses cellular and SIGFOX technologies to connect IoT and M2M devices securely.
There are five key steps to getting started with the Soracom platform
1. Register the IoT SIM Card with Soracom: After obtaining the Soracom subscriber Identity module, or Soracom SIM card, your device can harness the full potential of Soracom's platform through cellular connectivity. However, the next crucial step is registering your Soracom IoT SIM card via the Soracom user console to unlock the platform's vast capabilities. https://youtube.com/watch?v=OcbEOI1f4GQ&feature=shares
2. Activate the IoT SIM Card in Your Device: To start, locate your device's SIM card slot and adjust your SIM to fit. Then, access the Soracom user console to activate your SIM card. Within the console, navigate to your SIM management dashboard and confirm that your status reads "ready," indicating successful registration. Select the desired SIM and choose "activate" from the drop-down menu.
To activate multiple SIMs, select them together before changing the activation status. An active subscription permits data usage and incurs associated fees. Your status will show whether your device is online or offline, indicating whether it has created a data session. Configure your device's Access Point Name (APN) settings with the information displayed on the console to switch offline to online. https://youtube.com/watch?v=f4Hat8jqU9Y&feature=shares
3. Check Connection and Session Logs of Your Soracom IoT SIM: Session logs contain records of your device's events, such as the date, time, and location of the cellular tower network, mobile operator, and connectivity type. To access your SIM details, log in to your user console account and go to the SIM management dashboard, where you can see a list of registered SIMs and their IMSI numbers, subscription, module type, and speed cross. To view session logs, select the desired SIM and click on "details," then navigate to the session detail tab. You can view up to 32 days of past logs, and if you require more time, contact Soracom to request a SIM change. Additionally, checking your device's data usage is crucial for factors like battery usage and billing.
4. Check the Data Usage of the Soracom IoT SIM: To monitor the data usage of your Soracom-connected devices, log in to the user console and navigate to the SIM management dashboard. From there, select the desired SIM and access the details section. Click on the historical chats tab to access two data usage formats: monthly cumulative total and data usage dating. The monthly cumulative total displays the daily total usage for the current month, while the data usage graph allows you to select a period to view data usage by month, day, or hour. With this information at your fingertips, you can easily track the data usage of your Soracom devices. https://youtube.com/watch?v=rxY7uz9Felc&feature=shares
5. Send a PING Command to Your Soracom IoT SIM: Pinging is a commonly used networking technique that enables quick connectivity verification between two devices. It involves sending a ping request from one device to another, typically from your device to a network resource such as a website or server. However, when direct access to your device is impossible, sending the ping in the opposite direction may be necessary - from the network to your device. To make this work, your device must support ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol) and be configured to respond to ICMP requests. ICMP is a critical component of network communication and is essential for troubleshooting network issues. https://youtube.com/watch?v=bDzmNi2Oq1E&feature=shares
The Nordic Developer Academy provides an interactive online learning resource for those wanting to better acquaint themselves with Nordic Semiconductor solutions. For help with your project, contact Nordic's Tech Support Team at DevZone, where more than 40 engineers are working full-time to find solutions to your questions. The average response time is less than 24 hours. For help with Soracom head to their Getting Started page.
Once you have started your project, we’d love to hear about your progress, challenges and results! Updating your submission will provide the jury with more information to be able to favorable judge your project.
1. Vailshery L. Number of IoT-connected devices worldwide 2019-2021, with forecasts to 2030. [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Apr 27]. Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1183457/iot-connected-devices-worldwide/
2. Soracom. Introducing a super-charged SIM card that offers way more than just IoT connectivity [Internet]. [cited 2023 Apr 27]. Available from: https://www.soracom.io/store/soracom-iot-sim-card