Bluetooth 5.4: Pioneering Innovations in Connectivity and Security

nRF54H20 BLE microcontroller from Nordic Semiconductor

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has introduced the groundbreaking Bluetooth 5.4 Core Specification, bringing energy-efficient, bi-directional communication, and state-of-the-art security features to a wide range of applications. In this article, we’ll delve into the innovative features of Bluetooth 5.4, exploring their potential use cases and benefits. In addition, we will discuss the recent announcement of Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF54H20, a fourth-generation multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC) designed to support these advanced features.

Periodic Advertising with Responses (PAwR)

Bluetooth 5.4’s PAwR provides a way to perform energy-efficient, bi-directional communication in a large-scale one-to-many topology, with support for up to 32,640 devices. By allowing devices to be allocated into groups, they can listen exclusively to their group’s transmissions, reducing interference and enhancing overall communication efficiency.

Use Case 1: In a smart building, PAwR could group devices by floor or room, ensuring they only receive relevant information. This feature facilitates seamless and efficient communication between multiple devices, such as lighting systems, HVAC, and access control within the building, creating a more intelligent and connected environment.

Use Case 2: Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL) in retail environments can benefit from PAwR by creating groups based on product categories or aisles. This enables efficient communication between a central system and the ESLs, allowing for real-time price updates, inventory management, and targeted promotions. The large-scale network capabilities of PAwR ensure that even the biggest retail stores can maintain an organized and dynamic pricing system.

Encrypted Advertising Data (EAD)

EAD offers a standardized approach to the secure broadcasting of data in advertising packets. This new feature enables encryption of data shared over periodic advertisements with responses, enhancing the security and privacy of Bluetooth communications.

Use Case: EAD can be particularly useful in scenarios such as medical devices transmitting sensitive patient data or smart locks exchanging access codes with authorized users. By ensuring secure communication, EAD helps maintain privacy and protect against unauthorized access or data breaches.

LE GATT Security Levels Characteristic

The LE GATT Security Levels Characteristic in Bluetooth 5.4 allows devices to indicate the security mode and level required for all their GATT functionality. This enhancement provides flexibility in selecting the appropriate security level for different applications and use cases.

Use Case: A smart home device may use the LE GATT Security Levels Characteristic to ensure that only authenticated users can control it, while a fitness tracker might use a lower security level to share non-sensitive data with other devices. This feature enables tailored security settings, safeguarding sensitive information while allowing for efficient data sharing.

Advertising Coding Selection

Bluetooth 5.4 introduces the Advertising Coding Selection feature, enabling hosts to choose between two long-range coding options (S=2 or S=8) for LE extended advertising. This flexibility allows for balancing error correction data, Bluetooth range, and protocol data rates according to the specific requirements of each application.

Use Case: A remote sensor in a large industrial facility may use the S=8 option for increased range, while a device in a smaller area with higher data rates might opt for the S=2 setting. The Advertising Coding Selection feature supports diverse connectivity needs, optimizing performance for a wide range of applications.

Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF54H20: A Game-Changer in IoT Connectivity

Key features

  • Multiple Arm Cortex-M33 processors, clocked up to 320 MHz
  • Multiple RISC-V coprocessors
  • 2 MB non-volatile memory
  • 1 MB RAM
  • Bluetooth Low Energy, LE Audio, Bluetooth mesh, Thread, and Matter
  • New peripherals: High-speed USB (480 Mbps), CAN FD controller, 2 x I3C and 14-bit ADC
  • Designed for PSA Certified Level 3 IoT security standard
  • Physical security

Nordic Semiconductor has recently announced its first fourth-generation multiprotocol System-on-Chip (SoC), the nRF54H20, designed for disruptive IoT applications requiring high processing power, energy efficiency, and advanced security. The nRF54H20 is part of the nRF54 Series, following the success of the nRF51, nRF52, and nRF53 Series. The SoC is compatible with Bluetooth 5.4 and future specifications, LE Audio, Bluetooth mesh, Thread, Matter, and more.

  • Reduces design size: Replace multiple components with a highly integrated SoC requiring minimal external components.
  • Prolongs battery life or reduces battery size: Efficient processing, ultra-low power radio, and minimal sleep currents.
  • Provides long range: Best-in-class multiprotocol radio with 10 dBm TX power, -100 dBm RX sensitivity for Bluetooth LE and -104 dBm for 802.15.4.
  • Protects against security threats: State-of-the-art security with secure boot, secure firmware update, secure storage, and protection against physical attacks.

The nRF54H20 features multiple Arm Cortex-M33 processors, multiple RISC-V coprocessors, 2 MB non-volatile memory, and 1MB of RAM. It is highly integrated, allowing developers to create smaller designs by replacing multiple components with a single, compact device. With state-of-the-art security designed for PSA Certified Level 3, the nRF54H20 is one of the most secure low-power, multiprotocol SoCs available. It supports services like Secure Boot, Secure Firmware Update, and Secure Storage, and includes tamper sensors and hardened cryptographic accelerators.

Conclusion

Bluetooth 5.4 introduces groundbreaking features that have the potential to revolutionize the way we use wireless technology. From enhanced connectivity in large-scale networks to state-of-the-art security features, this latest update paves the way for a new era of innovative and efficient IoT solutions. As we continue to witness the rapid evolution of Bluetooth technology, there’s no doubt that Bluetooth 5.4 will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of connected devices and IoT applications. With Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF54H20 leading the charge, we can expect to see even more advanced, secure, and energy-efficient IoT devices hitting the market, transforming industries and improving our everyday lives.

Trevor Attema

Trevor Attema

Creating exceptional IoT products and advanced technologies to simplify the IoT experience🌟IoT product research, innovation and design✨. Find me on LinkedIn
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