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The Key Role of Antenna Optimization In IoT Devices

As the M2M has evolved into the internet of things, the rapidly growing market is driving transformation and creating value in virtually every segment of the consumer, enterprise and industrial markets. Previously static objects are being connected to networks of all sort–2G, 3G, LTE, Wi-Fi, NB-IoT and soon 5G–and products are coming to market in myriad form factors ranging from watches that monitor health metrics to telematics units that give fleet managers a new level of insight into operations.

To support this huge addressable market, IoT antenna specialist Taoglas is rapidly evolving its product portfolio to give customers the flexibility needed to innovate and go-to-market with the agility needed to capture nascent opportunities. During Mobile World Congress Americas in Los Angeles, company leaders launched a number of new products and shared their perspective on the IoT opportunity.

Ronan Quinlan, co-founder and co-CEO, said he and fellow Irishman Dermot O’Shea founded the company in Taiwan in 2003. The initial focus was on GPS antennas but, “We followed the growth of what was then called M2M into cellular technologies, Wi-Fi, and today, with the growth of IoT, we continue that. Since getting its start, Taoglas has grown from the two founders to employing some 350 employees not only in Ireland and Taiwan, but also in China, Germany and the United States.

Quinlan highlighted how, despite region, a successful IoT solution has to be commercialized quickly. He gave the example of the electric scooters, unlocked and paid for via app by the user and tracked and managed via GPS by the owner, which are popping up on the streets and sidewalks of major metros all over the country. “The U.S. is leading worldwide in new solutions and applications,” he said. “That [e-scooter] business wasn’t around a year ago” and hasn’t reached Europe and Asia yet. By the same token, China moved early on deploying NB-IoT networks to support low-mobility use cases like utility metering. “There’s a big backing from the government thereto roll this out, which we haven’t seen in other markets.”

As it relates to form factor for IoT devices, the current trend, as it is with many other electronic devices, is toward smaller sizes. While this is clear benefit for the user, it creates embedded design challenges for device makers. Jeff Shamblin, vice president of engineering, explained, “New products come to market in the NB-IoT and M2M space and device size keeps getting smaller. Really the difficulty always is maintaining or increasing antennas performance.”

Taoglas took on this challenge with its new Taoglas Boost product, which increases the antenna power level while still integrating with common PCBs. “If you have a small device, we can make that device look electrically larger,” Shamblin said, noting an increase in antenna efficiency of 1 to 2 dB, which translates to 20 to 40%. Effectively we can now bring back up to 40% of that efficiency that was lost because we took an internal antenna and integrated it into a device that’s quite small.”

For cellular-connected user equipment, trends demonstrate rapidly increasing demand for mobile broadband. In an era of HD video streaming, it’s no longer good enough to provide adequate, wide-area coverage. Operators need to provide a user-centric experience robust enough to keep up with user appetite. To do this, carriers are deploying technology that allow an antenna to track a particular UE and focus RF signal where it’s needed.

To address this demand, Taoglas developed its Shift smart antenna, an active beamsteering solution for LTE, which also support multiple-input, multiple-output. Field Applications Engineer Thaddeus Gulden explained that Shift, as the name implies, “can shift the gain pattern of the antenna to lock into a base station and increase throughput for the user. You’re always pointed toward the basestation, you’re always getting the maximum throughput possible.” – Enterprise IoT Insights


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