New Industry Products

Secure Modules with LTE-M and NB-IoT for Low-Power Wide-Area IoT Devices

July 16, 2019 by Scott McMahan

u‑blox announced the SARA‑R5 series of LTE‑M and NB‑IoT modules for low-power wide-area (LPWA) IoT applications. The company boasts that the SARA‑R5 series is its most advanced, secure, and highly integrated cellular product.

The module, built with the u‑blox UBX‑R5 cellular chipset and the u‑blox M8 GNSS receiver chip, offers excellent end‑to‑end security and long product availability, making it suitable for IoT applications that have long‑term device deployments.

"SARA‑R5 sets a new benchmark for IoT connectivity," says Andreas Thiel, Head of Product Centers at u‑blox. "By integrating a hardware‑based Root of Trust in a discrete secure element within the UBX‑R5 chipset, we are paving the way for robust secure communication from the chip all the way to the cloud. The secure element is compliant with EAL5+ High common criteria certification, which makes SARA‑R5 ideally suited to protect sensitive assets and communications."

Related: Low-Power Power Switching Regulator with 60nA IQ Extends Battery Life in IoT Designs

The SARA‑R5 series modules support a comprehensive set of 3GPP Rel. 14 features that are relevant for IoT applications including improvements in power consumption, coverage, data rate, mobility, and positioning.

A lightweight and low power pre‑shared key (PSK) management system is tailored to meet the needs of IoT applications. A comprehensive set of security features is included. Security features include secure chip-to-chip communication, data encryption and decryption, zero-touch provisioning, and anti-cloning.

They are suitable for devices that transmit critical and confidential information since technology ownership of the entire value chain ensures the implementation of a unique and unclonable hardware root-of-trust that offers foundational security.

"Kudelski and u‑blox are making IoT simple and secure for anyone that adopts SARA‑R5," said Jean‑Michel Puiatti, SVP IoT Security at Kudelski Group. "By establishing an immutable identity in every module, we lay the foundations for robust protection of the device, data, decisions, commands, and actions. This ensures that companies achieve their IoT business objectives and long‑term return on investment with confidence."

Compatibility with 5G

With mobile network operators planning to roll out 5G networks, 5G readiness is a critical factor in selecting cellular communication modules. NB‑IoT and LTE‑M are forward‑compatible with 5G networks, and by implementing fundamental LTE‑M and NB‑IoT features from 3GPP Release 14, SARA‑R5 gives customers a smooth transition towards 5G via software upgrades to already deployed devices.

The SARA‑R5 series builds on the company's new UBX‑R5 LTE chipset and its M8 GNSS chip, which means that production and product lifetime do not depend on third-party chipmakers. For customers, using the company's own chips translates into long‑term availability, roadmap stability. So the company can provide technical support down to the silicon level. Core technology ownership permits new features, relevant for timing, positioning, security, and connectivity.

SARA‑R5 comes in two product variants. With a built‑in u‑blox M8 GNSS receiver, SARA‑R511M targets mobile applications in the tracking, automotive, fleet management, and telematics sectors.

A dedicated GNSS antenna interface is included as part of the GNSS receiver's chip‑down design. The GNSS receiver can run in parallel with the cellular connection. This ensures maximum design flexibility and preserves overall system power consumption. SARA-R511M is pre-integrated with the u-blox M8 GNSS receiver and separate GNSS antenna interface, which provides highly reliable, accurate positioning data in parallel to LTE communication.

With unique hybrid positioning, the GNSS position is enhanced with u-blox CellLocate® data, providing location always and everywhere.

u-blox optimized the second product variant, SARA‑R510M to deliver the lowest achievable power consumption. In power-saving mode, SARA‑R510M draws less than 1µA, making it suitable for smart city, metering, remote monitoring, connected health, security and surveillance, and other battery‑powered applications.

"The SARA‑R5 is the first module in our portfolio designed to enable value‑added services and features that can be remotely activated at any time on already deployed devices," says Andreas Thiel. "The modules are also u‑blox's first with integrated eSIM capability, offering SIM activation and subscription management options to our customers."

Features of SARA‑R5 Series

  • Designed to last an IoT lifetime: 5G-ready with the u-blox UBX-R5 chipset
  • Built-in end-to-end security with hardware-based Root of Trust inside discrete Secure Element
  • Accurate and reliable positioning, always and everywhere, with u-blox M8 GNSS receiver
  • Optimized ultra-low power consumption
  • Critical firmware updates delivered and services enabled via uFOTA
  • Simplified multi-regional deployments with each hardware variant

Samples of the SARA‑R5 series will be available in Q4 2019.