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Nordic Semiconductor nRF9160 Development Kit for Cellular IoT & GPS Enhancements

August 18, 2019 by Sam Holland

The nRF9160 DK (Development Kit), by Nordic Semiconductor, is a versatile hardware development platform for cellular IoT development with a multimode modem and GPS capability.

This single-board development kit is for the design and development of application firmware on the Cat-NB1 SiP (system in package) and the nRF9160 LTE-M (Long Term Evolution for Machines) user equipment category with a single receiver antenna. 

The technology is based on the nRF9160 SiP, which integrates a GPS receiver, a multimode LTE-M/NB-IoT (narrowband internet of things) modem, and an Arm Cortex-M33 host processor in a 10 x 16 x 1.2 mm package.


nRF9160 Development Kit: Features

Alongside the said LTE-M/NB-IoT modem, the RF9160 SiP also features a dedicated application processor. The multimode modem supports extended discontinuous reception and power saving mode (eDRX and PSM) and has built-in GPS to facilitate global navigation: the GPS receiver supports GPS L1C/A reception. 

The corresponding Arm Cortex-M33 processor is exclusively for user application software and has a 32-bit instruction set to maximise code density and performance. It also includes several features that facilitate energy-efficient arithmetic and high-performance signal processing.

The processor also features Arm TrustZone (for trusted execution), and Arm CryptoCell security technology for application-layer security.



The nRF9160 SiP also features an LTE modem that supports a range of bands, namely EU/APAC (B28, B20, B8, and B3) and U.S. (B13, B12, B5, B4, and B2). 

The nRF9160 LTE modem supports both plug-in and soldered SIM and consists of baseband processing and radiofrequency (RF) parts, which together, make it versatile. The RF front end supports the LTE band—from 700 MHz to 2.2 GHz—while the LTE modem supports the universal integrated circuit card (UICC) interface.



The board has a nRF52840 SoC (system on chip) for Bluetooth Low Energy and other 2.4 GHz protocols. Besides acting as a Bluetooth network processor, the nRF52840 controls analogue switches on the kit, and it also has Segger J-Link OB program and debug support, for which a microcontroller-based USB connection is the primary interface.

All interfaces—SPI, UART, and I²C (I²C essentially meaning Two Wire Interface)—and general-purpose input/outputs are available using connectors, and the kit is compatible with the Arduino Uno Revision 3 standard, which means it can be interfaced with compatible external device shields.

This single-board platform is supported by a full suite of development software and tools, which are all free to download. Users also have the choice to complement this device with the nRF Connect for Cloud. This cloud service, designed for Nordic technology, will let you monitor data that is sent to and from your devices.


nRF9160 Development Kit: Applications

The kit is meant to provide a wireless connectivity solution for rapid prototyping and is designed for low-power cellular internet of things (CIoT): it leverages the energy-efficient possibilities associated with LTE-M and NB-IoT, such as highly responsive virtual reality.


The Nordic Semiconductor nRF9160 development kit. Image courtesy of Mouser.


Alongside this, the nRF9160 development kit (pictured above) has multiple other applications, such as:

  • Smart agriculture

  • Smart industry

  • Smart infrastructure 

  • Smart city

  • Smart metering

  • Logistics and asset tracking

  • Wearable technology

To get started with the technology, you will need the nRF Connect SDK software, which is hosted on GitHub.


All in all, Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF9160 Development Kit offers several analogue and digital functionalities that enable the single-chip implementation of a wide range of cellular IoT applications.

The kit reflects Nordic’s commitment to ultra-low-power wireless technology: the technology is altogether in line with the company’s goal of making LTE technology accessible to a wide range of applications and developers.

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