Simplification and Scalability of IoT Reference Designs

The real value created by IoT applications is not at the edge of the network, but in the cloud, where data generated by IoT devices can be analyzed and processed. However, in order to transmit data to the cloud, an IoT device needs an antenna that can transmit efficiently according to its application scenario. However, the application scenarios are numerous and varied, ranging from utility meters deep in buildings or underground, to trackers in shipping containers during international shipments, or even to the ears of livestock in rural wilderness. tracking device.

Instant global connectivity

IoT: A market with huge potential for fast movers

The Internet of Things (IoT) market offers great potential for developers, reference designers, module manufacturers, and system manufacturers to lead the way with their constituent industry partners, despite the fragmentation and complexity of the IoT landscape .

The real value created by IoT applications is not at the edge of the network, but in the cloud, where data generated by IoT devices can be analyzed and processed. However, in order to transmit data to the cloud, an IoT device needs an antenna that can transmit efficiently according to its application scenario. However, the application scenarios are numerous and varied, ranging from utility meters deep in buildings or underground, to trackers in shipping containers during international shipments, or even to the ears of livestock in rural wilderness. tracking device.

With an infinite number of application scenarios, the IoT industry has a plethora of options for connectivity when it comes to connectivity.

Technologies such as LTE-M, Cat-1, NB-IoT, LoRa, Sigfox, Wi-Fi, Wi-SUN, 3G, 4G, and 5G, both public and private; these technologies are bringing IoT applications as they move forward The expansion from Local Area Network (LAN) to Wide Area Network (WAN) environments has created more demands for lower latency, higher performance connections.

The driving demand behind this growth can be seen everywhere – not only in the fact that more smart devices are being deployed, but more and more devices are becoming smart. According to ABI Research, by the end of 2020, there were an estimated 6.6 billion IoT devices connected and active globally, of which about 840 million were using cellular networks, or less than 8% of the total.

Research firm ABI predicts that over the next six years, the number of IoT devices using cellular networks will grow nearly seven-fold, reaching 5.7 billion IoT devices worldwide by 2026.

Get reference designs to market quickly

However, it is difficult to develop hardware based on a global perspective and to popularize it on a global scale. Among them, Non Recurring Engineering (NRE), which is the one-time cost of researching, designing, developing and testing a new product or enhancement, not only determines whether the product is commercially viable, but also determines whether the product is marketed speed.

This is especially true of antenna elements. For IoT application developers, if the antenna factor is not considered from the start, it will definitely become an issue at some point, usually after a lot of hard work has been done on the design of the device. Before companies like Ignion introduced standardized, chip-on-a-chip antennas that could be designed with the Fast Track tool right on their website, designing, building and testing antennas for IoT products was not always easy.

However, chipset and module reference designs can now integrate an antenna that provides end-to-end connectivity in a manner that can be easily moved into production. This is a mode that has not been widely used before because antennas either have to be custom designed or are off-the-shelf solutions; they are not very flexible in terms of form factor, size and tuning, so they cannot be reused in many practical applications Antenna parts.

Historically, this has been a considerable challenge for reference designers. Petter Myhre, director of product marketing at Nordic semiconductor, said: “When we offer microcontrollers, what we’ve always done is to make it as easy as possible for developers to build products.

“We’ve been producing Bluetooth low energy microcontrollers for ten years, and we’ve been working to make it easier for developers to use Bluetooth low energy microcontrollers by providing software, tools, reference designs, and wiring diagrams that Make it easy to build products and bring products to the mass market. We want to provide scalable solutions so developers can easily build products,” said Petter Myhre.

“Then, when we started rolling out cellular products, we tried the same approach; but in cellular, there have traditionally been just a few large reference design companies and a small number of customers with products that have sold billions of units So they don’t really need to make it easy for the customer to build the product themselves, because the reference designers can walk them hand-in-hand through the process and custom-design everything for them in terms of hardware.”

However, IoT is placing different demands on the cellular network industry, and the “everything to order” approach runs counter to the openness that IoT represents. It also runs counter to module manufacturers and reference designers trying to lower barriers to entry and open up the IoT market to greater innovation goals.

Petter Myhre, director of product marketing at Nordic Semiconductor, said: “We want smaller companies to build cellular-based IoT products. That’s why we’ve put together the Thingy:91 prototyping platform so that it’s easily accessible to anyone. Use. There are sensors and batteries, and an antenna that works on many different frequency bands around the world. We needed a very flexible solution, and we worked with Ignion to develop a very small antenna that was flexible enough to Working in many different frequency bands, so you can really build a globally usable product.”

Create truly globally available IoT products

As the shift to WAN connectivity deepens and more demands are placed on cellular IoT capabilities, mobile network certification becomes an issue to consider, as any poorly designed or poorly connected device will be rejected by carriers The reason for certification is that these devices can cause network inefficiencies and have a bad impact on operators.

The global availability of 3G, 4G and 5G bands also means that manufacturers need to cover a wide range of potential bands if they don’t know exactly where their devices will be used. Historically, this has meant designing an array of antenna elements, which often disrupts business models.

According to Ashish Syal, principal engineer at Sierra Wireless and founder and architect of mangOH: “The problem we face is that a lot of our customers want to try out IoT projects. They will come up with an idea, but find it difficult to move forward, and many will The idea was abandoned within a few months because they couldn’t make it economically and as a result couldn’t get funding for it.”

Sierra Wireless has also taken a few steps to make the final IoT application development as easy as possible to ensure they have global connectivity from the start.

“For the mangOH development platform, our focus was to include an antenna that could be used across a range of technologies such as 2G, 3G or 4G. Ignion makes our job easier by eliminating the need for users to deploy multiple different antennas, and we All of this can be achieved in a small antenna,” adds Ashish Syal.

Syal explains the benefits of translating antenna design into RF circuit design, as it brings the dark arts of antenna design and RF engineering to the masses, significantly reducing the complexity of Electronic engineering.

Ignion: Virtual Antenna™ Technology for Different Applications

Given the complexity and challenges of RF design and antenna development, Ignion does all the hard work by using a multi-band, multi-protocol solution that can be integrated into any product design from the start , and can be easily redeployed on a different RF technology or frequency.

Ignion antenna hardware is very attractive for IoT applications due to its very small form factor. And the antenna is non-resonant, which enables full multi-band operation for any wireless protocol with a simple circuit design. This makes antenna integration a simpler “as-usual electronic system design” process that does not require specific antenna expertise.

The key innovation is that Ignion turns the printed circuit board (PCB) into the only radiating component. This reduces the size of the antenna beyond traditional limits, while the system benefits from the radiation performance of far larger components. This is a completely new working principle, thanks to a new chip antenna element, technically called a “Booster”.

As Sierra Wireless’ Syal said: “Thanks to the work Ignion does, developers don’t need to worry about the physical size and complexity involved in building IoT products. This allows companies building devices to focus on their core expertise, The capture of data.”

Meet the need for speed

Ignion’s development environment also helps IoT reference designers, developers and end manufacturers shorten their design cycles. With Ignion’s technology, the process of finding a suitable option from among the thousands of potentially available antennas that differ from one another is reduced to choosing from just a few; and, regardless of protocol or RF technology, these antennas can Meet all application scenarios.

Rather than waiting until the end of the design cycle to start testing antennas and then select an antenna for demonstration, hardware developers don’t need to wait until the end of the design cycle, and Ignion’s development environment enables developers to run simulations right from the start. This can help developers better understand other aspects of their design, as well as understanding “this is a production-ready antenna” and “this is the expected field performance.”

Sebastien Falgayrettes, senior director of product and program manager at Sequans, said this is critical because IoT products have the potential to enter a truly global market, where the number of frequency bands will naturally increase dramatically.

“Actually, we’ve done projects before where we had to adjust the antenna ourselves, so we know the complexity of doing it, and we know it’s not going to be easy. We also know that you can’t just Success in one commissioning. Often you need to make multiple measurements, modify, and then adjust again, which takes a lot of time. Now, we have a real-world evaluation kit available to customers, and the feedback is very good Good,” Falgayrettes said.

Now, with Ignion’s technology and products, Sequans and its customers can speed up each debug by adjusting the matching circuits on the board, which is especially important for their customers. A key benefit is that these same advantages also translate to production, as the antenna elements in the reference design remain the same in the final device. Antennas in design no longer exist for demonstration purposes, which solves another problem for manufacturers, keeping antenna elements consistent from the design cycle into production, and simplifying the procurement, logistics and manufacturing process of the final device.

Since the antenna and matching network circuits provided by Ignion are already production grade, scalability has been taken into account. Products built as reference designs can be reused in production worldwide with minor adjustments to accommodate different frequencies.

“We want our customers to be able to build products for the global market, so they don’t need to have a version for China, a version for Germany, and a version for the U.S.,” said Nordic Semiconductor’s Myhre. , “It’s just too expensive to do because you have so many different products to maintain and ship. By embedding a complete reference design including the antenna, we can reduce the barriers as much as possible so that we can achieve a true cellular-based Internet of Things solutions for the network.”

Cavli Wireless’ mission is to enable the next billion IoT devices to intelligently connect to all the fundamental building blocks of IoT connectivity management, including connecting hardware, network access, managing the cloud, etc., through its unique value portfolio, all of which are integrated into a unified solution, bringing the world’s first “Connectivity as a Service (CaaS)” solution to market as a zero-cost bundle of IoT hardware. As a result, customers receive industrial-grade IoT modules pre-loaded with global connectivity, and then simply pay for the connectivity to use.

According to Tarun Thomas, COO of Cavli Wireless, Cavli’s C-Series smart module evaluation kit product line uses Ignion’s TRIO mXTENDTM antennas because of their superior multi-band performance and small form factor. TRIO mXTENDTM antennas are highly efficient on all GSM/LTE frequency bands worldwide, allowing our users to seamlessly integrate across multiple applications and scenarios around the world. Cavli also has a range of smart connected computing modules, also powered by TRIO mXTENDTM antennas, designed to help IoT product manufacturers quickly prototype and go to market.

Simplify the complex and make the Internet of Things truly scalable

Wienke Giezeman, CEO of The Things Industries, said: “The Things Industries has integrated Ignion’s chip antenna elements into its LoRa-based general-purpose nodes. “Hardware is a significant part of the total cost of IoT business use cases,” he said. “R&D activities can be very risky due to engineering costs associated with multiple RF commissioning.”

Giezeman continued: “The Internet of Things is not a closed system, it is a networked connected system of components provided by many partners, each of which is part of a bill of materials (BOM). Because of this, you can easily ‘Little loses big’ because you buy a cheaper component, such as an antenna, to reduce your bill of materials. But if that antenna is less power efficient, it drains the battery faster, and someone needs to do more Replace it quickly. So you reduce your bill of materials, but you increase your maintenance costs.”

Ignion’s Virtual Antenna™ technology removes the complexity of embedded designs by adapting the antenna to the customer’s design rather than the other way around. The hardware consists of a very tiny, off-the-shelf antenna unit, a surface mount component that can be seamlessly mounted into an electronic printed circuit board using the same standard pick and place techniques as any other electronic component, and is described in reference The final antenna options to be used are included in the bill of materials during the design phase.

Get reference designs to market faster and into production faster

Finally, Ignion’s easy-to-use simulation tools help developers implement a versatile reference design that can be easily adapted or reused to bring products to market quickly.

Sequans’ Falgayrettes explained this, noting that developers need a feature-rich and easy-to-use evaluation kit. “Debugging the antenna is very complex and difficult, it’s an iterative process that takes a lot of time,” he said.

“But what I would say is that customers want to get the kit in less than a minute and be able to have a full end-to-end connection because they want to focus on their added value and not waste on creating the connection Time. We also needed the kit to be versatile – both for use in the lab and to demonstrate how IoT devices perform in field trials, so you can see the impact on battery life.”

Falgayrettes added: “Now that we’ve delivered an actual evaluation kit to our customers, and the feedback has been very good, I’m sure we’ll expand our collaboration with Ignion on more platforms and solutions.”

For Sierra Wireless, eliminating or reducing repetitive processes not only streamlines product development, but also allows the company to realize IoT business value faster. “When a company develops a product, it’s improving my investment because it speeds up the time between development and final product purchase,” Syal said. “But in addition to reducing time-to-market, it also enables end customers to deploy IoT in a variety of new situations,” he added.

All of this has driven more demand, but the impact of the pandemic has shown that if a component is in short supply, supply chains are prone to problems, with potentially catastrophic consequences for manufacturing. However, Ignion is a Europe-based company, and hardware design is also done in Europe.

Ignion’s antenna production uses pre-printed circuit kits that can be manufactured by suppliers around the world, including Vietnam and South Korea, so its component supply chain is and has proven to be shortage resistant.

This is a key consideration for IoT device development and production. Shortening the lead time from design to production is a key factor for true success in the IoT space, and a solid reference design can give developers a strong voice in a competitive market.

Success in the IoT ecosystem lies in removing bottlenecks, and Ignion is helping reference design developers solve problems from 0 to 1 quickly so their customers can easily and confidently solve problems from 1 to 1000, while shortening the time from development to time to profit.

To help developers speed up time to market, Ignion has made its Fast Track development tool available for free on its Chinese website. Using the Fast Track tool, developers can incorporate optimized embedded antennas into their final IoT product designs in as little as 24 hours.

Using the Fast Track tool on the Ignion English or Chinese website, after entering their design information, the developer will receive an antenna selection; Virtual Antenna™ component selection, which is selected for the device and application; Choose the best antenna location from the Grid, and other design recommendations; there are also setup recommendations including matching network topology, reflection coefficients, and estimated efficiency.

This provides predictability throughout the design process and accelerates the process of turning reference designs into final products. By combining off-the-shelf chip antennas and Fast Track optimization tools, customers benefit from “off-the-shelf standardized high-performance antenna elements.”

The Links:   FF450R17ME4_B11 PG640400RA4-3