NXP Tacks On Near-field Communication to Two New Bluetooth MCUs

January 29, 2020 by Gary Elinoff

The QN9090 and QN9030 are Bluetooth low-energy (BLE) devices that integrate Arm Cortex-M4 CPUs.

NXP has added two new additions to its QN series of BLE microcontrollers (MCUs): QN9030 and QN9090.

These two Bluetooth 5 SoCs offer Arm Cortex-M4s running at 48 MHz and feature a range of digital and analog peripherals, including an 8-channel, 12-bit ADC. NXP claims that the devices offer safe over-the-air (OTA) updates and support multiple serial communication interfaces.


High-level block diagram for QN9030 and QN9090 MCUs

High-level block diagram for QN9030 and QN9090 MCUs. Image used courtesy of NXP


The two new devices offer optional support for near field communications (NFC). When users tap a product built with one of the new devices, the NFC reader, such as a smartphone, can quickly establish a BLE connection.

The QN9090 and QN9030 can operate from supply voltages ranging from 1.9 V to 3.6 V. It can tolerate junction temperatures in the range of  -40ºC to 125ºC. 

The units are available in an HVQFN40 plastic quad flat package, sized 6 mm x 6 mm x 0.85 mm.


Memory, RF Performance, and Power 

The QN9090 incorporates 640 KB of RAM and 152 KB of SRAM, while the QN9030 incorporates 320 KB of RAM and 88 KB of SRAM.

Devices designated as either QN9090T or QN9039T also include the NFC tags.

Receiver sensitivity is -97 dBm, and with a 3-volt power supply, the receiver requires 4.4 mA.

Transmitter output power can be up to 11 dBm. At 0 dBm, the transmitter will require 7.4 mA, while at 10 dBM, 20.5 mA is consumed by the transmitter.



An advanced encryption standard (AES) engine supports AES-128 to 256. Supported protocols include:

  • ECB (Electronic Code Book)
  • CBC (Cipher Block Chaining)
  • CFB (Cipher Feedback)
  • OFB (Output Feedback)
  • CTR (Counter)

The hash function can be used to determine if data has been corrupted. SHA-1 and SHA-2-256 are supported.


Block diagram for QN9030 and QN9090 MCUs

Block diagram for QN9030 and QN9090 MCUs. Image used courtesy of NXP

Each device includes a factory-programmed 7-byte unique identifier (UID).


Analog and Digital Interfaces

The QN9090 and QN9030 each incorporate two UART, I2C, and SPI interfaces. They also include an ISO7816 interface for the secure-access module.

The MCUs also feature analog comparators, a digital microphone interface, and audio event detection capability.


Timers and Clocks

The devices include low- and high-frequency internal clocks. External 32 MHz and 32.768 kHz crystals can be supported for extra accuracy if needed.

They also offer a watchdog timer, which can cause a chip reset. This usually occurs only with an unexpected system lock-up.

NXP also states that these two MCUs have four general-purpose timers and a 32 K sleep timer. 

The RTC is often tasked to wake the device up from a reduced power state. The RTC is composed of two parts: a 32-bit up-counter counts seconds and a secondary timer counts with an approximate resolution of a millisecond. 


Device Applications

The new BLE MCU’s are targeted at a wide range of applications including:

  • Medical fields for wireless insulin pumps, activity monitors, wellness monitors, and wireless occupancy sensors
  • Smart homes, including smart connected appliances and smart toys
  • Industrial applications, particularly smart logistics


Application diagram of a battery-powered solution

Application diagram of a battery-powered solution. Image used courtesy of NXP

Support Tools

The QN9090DK is a development platform for these two SoCs. Complete with an integrated programmer and debugger, it also includes a complete software development kit. 


The QN9090 development platform

The QN9090 development platform. Image used courtesy of NXP


Around The Industry

ST’s dual-core STM32WB microcontrollers incorporate an Arm Cortex‐M4 core at 64 MHz as an application processor and an Arm Cortex‐M0+ core running at 32 MHz for network processing. The units support Bluetooth 5.0 as well as IEEE 802.15.4 wireless standards, including Openthread and ZigBee.

The CYW20819 and CYW20820 MCUs from Cypress Semiconductor provide simultaneous Bluetooth 5.0 audio and BLE connections. The devices are also based on the Arm Cortex-M4 core.