Virtual Antenna™ for easy design of IoT devices with embedded antennas: Page 2 of 8

September 20, 2019 //By J. Anguera, A. Andújar, C. Puente, Fractus Antennas, Barcelona, Spain
Anechoic chamber for testing Virtual Antenna™
Virtual Antenna™ technology enables one antenna component to cover all IoT frequency bands. This article describes the main features of Virtual Antenna™ technology and shows a simple design flow comprising only three simple steps.

Virtual Antenna™ features

Virtual Antenna™ technology is based on replacing a complex and usually customized antenna designs with an off-the-shelf, miniature and multiband component called an antenna booster (Figure 1). Being surface-mount and chip-like in nature, the antenna booster fits seamlessly in an electronic printed circuit board the same way any other electronic component (an amplifier, filter or switch, to name a few) does. Virtual Antenna™ gets this name from the fact that an antenna booster, when is strategically placed on a device’s PCB (Printed Circuit Board), can boost currents on the ground plane of the PCB to make it an effective radiator [1]-[6]. Consequently, the size of an antenna booster can be very small compared to other conventional multiband antennas (Figure 1). For example, the antenna booster shown in Figure 2 has a size of 12 mm x 3 mm x 2.4 mm which in terms of the wavelength, represents only λ/30 at 824 MHz referred to its longest dimension of 12 mm. This tiny and versatile component has been recently adopted, among other IoT devices, in the open-source hardware platform mangOH™ Yellow, a super sensor for cellular industrial IoT.

Figure 1: Antenna boosters are tiny SMD antenna components featuring small size about 100mm3 and able to operate at any band within the frequency range from 698 MHz to 6 GHz.

Besides its small size, Virtual Antenna™ features multiband operation in the frequency range from 0.698 GHz up to 6 GHz. To achieve either single or multiband operation, a matching network is combined with an antenna booster with a totally passive solution since the matching network comprises lumped components (inductors and capacitors). In some particular devices where the size of the device is small (∼50 mm), architectures using smart matching networks can be combined with Virtual Antenna™ as well [7]. A recent IoT platform adopting this technology is the Thingy:91 by Nordic Semiconductor which is a multi-sensor prototyping kit ideal for kick starting cellular IoT projects.

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