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Ceva Upgrades NB-IoT Platform

July 10, 2018

Author: Tom R. Halfhill

New ways of enabling machines to wirelessly talk with each other are propagating as fast as blockchain startups. Ceva is staying abreast by introducing Dragonfly NB2, its second-generation platform for Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) communications on cellular networks. Whereas the first-generation Dragonfly NB1 supported the Cat-NB1 specification in 3GPP Release 13, the new product supports the enhanced Cat-NB2 spec in Release 14. In fact, it appears to be the world’s first implementation of this protocol.

Dragonfly NB2 is an alternative to other low-power wireless technologies for IoT devices on wide-area networks (WANs), such as Cat-M1, Cat-M2, LoRa, Sigfox, and proprietary solutions. (NB-IoT doesn’t compete with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for short-range links.) All these technologies make various tradeoffs in speed, cost, and power. Ceva is pitching Dragonfly NB2 for low-bandwidth, low-cost IoT devices that need the higher reliability and lower latency of a cellular network versus the uncertain connectivity in unlicensed RF spectrum. Examples include industrial machines, smart meters, asset trackers, environmental monitors, urban infrastructure, and smart farms.

Like the product it replaces, Dragonfly NB2 is a hardware/software package of licensable intellectual property (IP). The synthesizable hardware comprises a custom Ceva-X1 CPU/DSP core, digital front ends (DFEs) for NB-IoT and global-positioning radios, a dual-mode radio-frequency (RF) transceiver, an embedded flash-memory controller, a power manager, an always-on sleep-mode controller, and various I/O interfaces. The software includes a real-time operating system (RTOS), an NB-IoT protocol stack, the Layer 1 physical-control firmware, device drivers, and low-level DSP and NB-IoT libraries. Customers add their own Internet Protocol stack and application software. Ceva is licensing Dragonfly NB2 now and offers an evaluation/development board with a reference-design chip that fully implements the IP.

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