u-blox announced the ALEX-R5, a miniature cellular module that integrates low-power wide-area (LPWA) connectivity and GNSS technology into an ultra-small system-in-package (SiP) form factor. Comprising hardware components designed fully in-house, ALEX-R5 is based on the secure UBX-R5 LTE-M / NB-IoT chipset platform with out-of-the-box Secure Cloud functionality and the u-blox M8 GNSS chip for location accuracy.
ALEX-R5’s 14×14 mm footprint, achieved by an SiP design, reduces its size compared to the functionally equivalent u-blox SARA-R5 module by half. This suits it for size-constrained applications.
The SiP features 23 dBm cellular transmission power so that end devices operate effectively in all signal conditions, even at cell edges, underground, or in other challenging scenarios, according to the company. A dedicated GNSS antenna interface enables fully independent, simultaneous operation of the u-blox M8 GNSS chip, matching the performance of a stand-alone u-blox M8 module. u-blox IoT Location-as-a-Service with CellLocate and AssistNow (online, offline, and autonomous) further enhance positioning performance.
ALEX-R5 is optimized for power-sensitive and battery-dependent applications, for applications such as wearables and connected medical devices. It achieves this by leveraging the lower power modes of the u-blox UBX-R5 and UBX-M8 chipsets and giving users options to further balance power consumption and performance using GNSS Super-E mode.
Its rugged SiP construction suit it for harsh environments, where moisture or vibration would be a concern for conventional modules. ALEX-R5 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 states that 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 specifically designed for LPWA devices.
ALEX-R5 future-proofs IoT devices and solutions by enabling customers to 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 in Q1 2021.