18 Dec 2020

NINA-B4: Connecting lights and delivering data

If you think that smart lighting deployments are only about controlling lights, you’re missing half the picture.

Smart lighting is about more than lumens

Across markets, connected lighting systems are picking up steam: Bluetooth SIG and Guidehouse Insights project growth from today’s roughly $4.4 billion to just over $19 billion in 2029. Look around and you will find deployments in factories and warehouses, in commercial and retail buildings, in cities, and even in indoor farms – basically, anywhere where controlling lots and lots of lights matters. And with “lighting” right there in the name, you’d be forgiven for assuming that smart lighting is only about switching on and off luminaires.

But that overlooks a second, at least equally important function. Often rolled out when incandescent lighting installations are upgraded to energy efficient LED lighting, smart lighting deployments offer a connectivity backbone that all kinds of smart city and smart building IoT applications can piggyback on. Building and facility managers are already using their smart lighting installations to gather data on space utilization, increase efficiencies across their operations, and enable new use cases such as indoor wayfinding and high precision positioning. The numbers back this up. Already today, the quantity of connected luminaires and switches shipped for smart lighting installations is roughly matched by that of occupancy and multi-feature sensors.

One module, three mesh protocols

Connectivity is the key enabler of smart lighting networks, and wireless mesh networks are clearly establishing themselves as the connectivity platform of choice. They have several compelling arguments in their favor. The absence of cables makes retrofitting outdated lighting systems quick, cheap, and easy. Because data can flexibly zip across the networks along the most efficient available path, mesh networks are resilient to outages of individual node outages. And because messages propagate from node to node until they reach their destination, mesh networks enhance the range of the short range radio technologies they use to communicate.   

The NINA-B4 Bluetooth 5.1 module, which just entered production, caters to three popular flavors of mesh technology – Bluetooth mesh, Thread, and ZigBee – so that smart lighting manufacturers can meet diverse customer needs using a single product variant. Not only that, by leveraging Bluetooth-based lighting control firmware and stacks such as the one by Silvair or proprietary ones developed, among others, by Casambi, LumenRadio, and Wirepas, it can be used to enable solutions for particularly demanding scenarios characterized by higher deployment densities,  higher throughput demands, and lower latency requirements.

Withstanding operating temperatures up to 105° Celsius, NINA-B4 is designed to take the harsh conditions that often characterize industrial deployments in stride. And offering a variety of antenna options, including an internal PCB antenna and a U.FL connector for more design flexibility, and globally certified out of the box, the NINA-B4 is a perfect fit for smart lighting applications.  

Countless applications

Equipped with a powerful MCU featuring an open CPU architecture for customized applications, the NINA-B4 stand-alone module has enough computing power to run a variety of applications right on the module. These cover lighting control applications as well as standard indoor sensing applications (e.g. temperature, humidity, and ambient light, as well as motion and occupancy sensing). On top of that, NINA-B4 offers access to Bluetooth 5.1 features such as direction finding to enable high precision indoor positioning solutions using angle of arrival (AoA) and angle of departure (AoD) for people and asset tracking, access control, indoor wayfinding, or interactive guiding solutions.

To find out why u blox is the ideal connectivity partner to enable smart lighting solutions or simply to learn more about the u-blox NINA-B4 Bluetooth 5.1 module, head over our product page or get in touch with your nearest sales representative.


Stefan Berggren

Senior Product Marketing Manager, Product Strategy Short Range Radio

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