Developing an effective antenna for IoT applications

October 03, 2019 //By Matt McWhinney, Molex
Developing an effective antenna for IoT applications
Access to the internet is no longer restricted to devices intended for people; things that we may never interact with directly now account for billions of connections and that number is only going up. As vehicles become more connected, we will see increased demand for V2X, the rollout of 5G services will allow even more connectivity, while location-based services are increasing demand for GPS and GNSS functionality. All of these applications rely on wireless communications and, in many cases, they will be hidden from sight, located deep within large machines, vehicles or even structures like bridges.

The data that these things produce is increasingly mission-critical and so developing robust devices able to maintain a connection under sometimes difficult conditions is even more important. With an increasing number of System-on-Chip (SoC) and System-in-Package (SiP) devices available with fully integrated RF interfaces, accessing wireless connectivity is now simpler than ever, however there is one aspect that still needs special consideration to achieve optimum performance; the antenna.

Link budgets are critical in delivering reliable communications and perhaps the single most important part of developing an RF interface. The antenna selection and, more crucially, the way it is designed into the system will have a major influence on the link budget. Because of this, understanding and following well established RF antenna guidelines forms an important part of the overall design process.

Figure 1: RF is now used in more applications, driving the development of protocols to meet the needs of specific application types

The basics of antenna theory

We now experience many forms of wireless connectivity in our digital lives, with little consideration for the antenna used, but they are clearly the single most influential component in an RF system.

In theory, any conductive wire can be an antenna, as it will be capable of radiating and receiving RF energy through the air. However, in order to do this reliably it is necessary to take this theory and apply engineering know-how. The challenge many design engineers face today is how to achieve this optimal design without the benefit of a full understanding of the nuances of RF design.

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