Using Custom Antennas in IoT

Zabed Iqbal, PhD -
Using Custom Antennas in IoT

Custom antennas are expected to play a central role in achieving seamless connectivity in the future of IoT. With IoT applications growing more specialized and application-oriented, custom/semi-custom antenna solutions are crucial.

Off-the-shelf antennas may fall short of meeting the distinct requirements of individual IoT devices. These downfalls result in the increased importance of custom antennas for superior performance, adapting to diverse form factors, and mechanical constraints. At the same time, they must maintain low costs for manufacturing.

Here, we explore the future of IoT custom antennas, delving into emerging technologies, challenges, and potential solutions for enhanced connectivity.

Innovations in custom antenna design are propelling the future of IoT connectivity forward. Trends such as miniaturization, compact design, multiband support, wide bandwidth, coexistence, and embedded/conformal designs are revolutionary in antenna technology.

These advancements enable low-cost, efficient solutions that seamlessly integrate into IoT devices of varying shapes and sizes. They also cater to the demands of emerging IoT applications across various industries including medical, on-body, handheld, sensors, systems with multiple devices, and security systems. These interconnected infrastructures form the backbone of smart city initiatives, paving the way for improved efficiency, safety, and sustainability.

Challenges of Design

Antenna engineers frequently tackle key challenges in designing custom IoT antennas due to device complexity and application-specific stack-up. Such challenges include frequency bands and bandwidth, radiation patterns, gain, polarization, impedance matching, coexistence, total radiated power (TRP), total isotropic sensitivity (TIS), interference/noise, and mechanical factors related to size, form factor, integration, manufacturability, and cost.

Custom antennas may need to withstand harsh environmental conditions such as temperature extremes, moisture, and mechanical stress. Engineers may need to utilize robust materials and protective coatings to enhance durability and reliability.

Potential Solutions

To address these challenges, engineers should utilize a multidisciplinary approach. Such tactics include involving expertise in antenna engineering, electromagnetics, RF engineering, mechanical engineering, system integration, and materials expertise.

Further, full-wave simulation tools such as CST microwave studio, XFDTD, advanced prototyping tools, i.e., LPKF milling machine, and fully-anechoic chamber testing are typically employed to iterate and refine custom antenna designs until the desired performances are met. Close collaboration between multidisciplinary engineers is key to ensuring seamless design, integration, and optimization of custom antennas within IoT devices.

The Future of Custom IoT Antennas

The future of custom antennas in the IoT industry has immense promise for further innovation. Advances in simulation tools, materials, and numerical method-based optimization will continue to push the boundaries. These will unlock new opportunities for connectivity and high-throughput data transfer in the IoT ecosystem. In environments with a high density of IoT devices, custom antennas capable of handling interference and maximizing spectral efficiency are essential for reliable communication.

As next-generation wireless technologies such as 6G, custom antennas optimized for higher data rates, lower latency, and massive device connectivity will be instrumental in realizing the full potential of future IoT applications. By embracing innovations, addressing challenges, and leveraging scientific advancements, custom antennas will remain at the forefront of enabling high-quality communication and connectivity in our next-generation advanced society.

Zabed Iqbal, PhD - Senior Antenna Engineer, Field Theory Consulting Inc.

Field Theory Consulting Inc.
Field Theory Consulting Inc.
Field Theory is an engineering firm specializing in custom antenna designs and RF solutions for commercial and government sectors..
Field Theory is an engineering firm specializing in custom antenna designs and RF solutions for commercial and government sectors..