U-Blox integrates cellular and GNSS in module

  • January 27, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

Swiss firm U-Blox has announced the Alex-R5 cellular module that integrates low power wide area (LPWA) connectivity and GNSS technology into a system-in-package (SiP) form factor.

Comprising hardware components designed in-house, the module is based on the secure UBX-R5 LTE-M and NB-IoT chipset platform with out-of-the-box secure cloud functionality and the firm’s M8 GNSS chip for location accuracy.

The 14 by x14mm footprint is achieved thanks to its SiP design, reducing its size compared with the firm’s functionally equivalent Sara-R5 module by half.

Alex-R5 has 23dBm cellular transmission power to guarantees that end devices operate effectively in all signal conditions, even at cell edges, underground or in other difficult scenarios. And a dedicated GNSS antenna interface enables independent, simultaneous operation of the GNSS chip, matching the performance of a stand-alone U-Blox M8 module.

The company’s IoT location-as-a-service with CellLocate and AssistNow online, offline and autonomous enhance positioning performance.

The module is optimised for power-sensitive and battery-dependent applications, addressing common pain points of size-constrained applications such as wearables and connected medical devices. It achieves this by leveraging the lower power modes of the UBX-R5 and UBX-M8 chipsets and giving users options to balance power consumption and performance using GNSS Super-E mode.

Its rugged SiP construction makes it a fit for harsh environments, where moisture or vibration would be a concern for conventional modules. It is rated at moisture sensitivity level 3 (MSL 3), offering reduced handling and device production complexity.

By bringing all technology building blocks in house and having full hardware and software ownership, U-Blox says it can guarantee long-term device availability and provide lifetime support for the entire platform, down to the chipset level. Secure cloud functionality supporting IoT security-as-a-service based on an internal, hardware-based secure element enables a lightweight pre-shared key management system designed for LPWA devices.

The module future-proofs IoT devices by letting users software upgrade deployed devices for compatibility with 5G networks, offering a seamless transition to the next generation of cellular technology as 5G networks are rolled out by mobile operators.

Engineering samples of the Alex-R5 SiP will be available this quarter.

With headquarters in Thalwil, Switzerland, U-Blox has offices in Europe, Asia and the USA.