IoT Performance Influences Antenna Technologies
As IoT ecosystems move to support high-density, low latency networks, and continue to incorporate various new features into radios and overall system layouts, there is an even greater premium put on antenna system design.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is helping to create smart environments by linking interconnected devices that can transmit and share data over wireless networks. Machine to machine (M2M) communications use low-powered networks such as UWB, WLAN, Zigbee, or Bluetooth to transmit data among IoT technologies and the advent of LPWAN’s like NB-IoT, LTE Cat-M, and 5G high efficiency transmission has fueled even greater development of IoT solutions for every market, from smart agriculture that monitors growing conditions to maximize production to efficient municipal systems for utility metering, street lighting, energy, and other operations.
These IoT developments build upon the strength of other technologies. Fiber optic cable paved the way by allowing multiple wireless channels to run data over high-speed 5G networks, creating greater bandwidth. Cloud-based technologies are applied to both radio access and core networks. For example, C-RAN, the fast-growing global cloud radio access network, is focused on BBU pooling and the adoption of cloud technologies. Antennas are critical to transmitting and receiving radio frequencies (RF) and, along with filter and power amplifiers, must work with fiber optic and cloud-based technologies. They must also enable near limitless wireless connectivity between devices and databases, while at the same time handle high-power signals and operate within stringent thermal conditions.
Antennas are integral to the IoT
The complexities of antenna system design and the availability of more frequency bands afforded by 5G have made choosing an antenna for a smart device that much more challenging. System designs cannot rely on “plug and play” options but instead require more sophisticated planning and a holistic assessment of all connectivity requirements. In a variety of IoT applications, it is likely that an antenna solution will need to be customized and include two to 12 antenna products inside a device the size of a mobile phone. These antennas must manage different redundancies and services while working clearly and independently from one another – a physical trick of isolating antennas within a system design.
Active Antenna Systems (AAS) are commonly adopted to increase the capacity and coverage of radio streams. They also feature a tighter integration of radio frequency (RF) electronics with a massive-element antenna to enable miniaturization and boost efficiency.
Advanced Antenna Systems (another AAS) are also gaining popularity. These systems comprise an array of antennas closely integrated with hardware and software components to handle increased system complexities. This includes greater steerability for adapting antenna radiation patterns to rapidly time-varying traffic and multi-path radio transmission conditions. Simply put, more antennas translate into faster data transfer – the lifeblood of the IoT.
There is another critical issue to consider in designing an antenna system: they must be designed to operate on secure networks. While there are a range of antennas that can be used for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS applications, an increasing reliance on cellular antennas offers the critical features needed for IoT success. The exponential growth of wireless traffic is causing more and more interference, making spectral efficiency key. As a result, antennas must also be able to handle this bandwidth issue. Cellular antennas effectively meet this requirement.
IoT Antenna Requirements
- High efficiency: clean transmission, and optimized battery life
- High quality transmission: signal interruption against interference/noise
- Harsh environment durability: robust design in dry and moisture prone areas
- Compact design (miniaturization)
- Multiple frequencies operations: need for more bandwidth and compatibility with global cellular networks
- Shorter development cycles: reduce cost
Cellular antennas also address critical certification and regulatory standards required in the marketplace. This includes meeting the specifications of various cellular carriers operating around the world and the standards set by the GSM Association (GSMA) and the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP). It also means passing multiple rounds of testing to obtain regulatory approval from authorities such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the U.S., or the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and Radio Equipment Directive (RED) in the EU.
Together, these various technical and marketplace demands make clear that innovative and secure antenna systems are needed for IoT applications. The engineers who design these systems must also fully understand how antennas operate in a wide variety of technical and governing circumstances. Regardless of the situation, however, a wealth of powerful new antenna options are available. Supplier partners can help identify the best choice for every type of system.
By TE Connectivity and Heilind Electronics
Learn more about TE Connectivity’s antenna solutions for IoT applications at Heilind Electronics.