Virtual Antenna® technology: Discover the secret used by thousands of IoT product engineers

Assorted Virtual Antenna® components displayed on a dark background, symbolizing the innovation in IoT engineering.

The antenna is at the heart of the communication era where we are immersed. It is the core of every single wireless device. Without a high-performing antenna, an IoT device simply cannot function. It directly impacts crucial factors such as connectivity, data transmission and reception, battery life, and coverage. Any device that can be imagined can be connected, and an antenna is required for enabling these connections.

That’s precisely why the antenna design industry has seen rapid evolution in recent decades. Starting with external antennas, only present in mobile phones in the early 90’s supporting only limited cellular communication, up to internal antennas now seen in the myriad of devices in the market today. These antennas cater to a variety of communication standards including cellular, GNSS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LPWAN, Zigbee, Z-Wave and more, all designed for different applications and use cases in different segments like asset tracking, telematics, healthcare, and others. The challenges faced in antenna design are huge and they will continue to grow.

Virtual Antenna® technology was conceived precisely to become a game changer in this ecosystem. Our vision is a unique antenna solution that works for any device, any frequency with a seamless integration process that enhances, simplifies, and accelerates IoT designs. Any RF/antenna engineer, any IoT designer, can benefit from the advantages of having a custom antenna solution in an off-the-shelf chip with a friction-free and reliable integration process.

Virtual Antenna® technology milestones

The antenna design industry has reached several significant milestones throughout history, with Ignion playing a key role in these advancements. Ignion’s contributions include innovative solutions for integrating external antennas within wireless devices without sacrificing performance. They have evolved antenna technology from single band to multiband operation, addressing the complex challenges of having multiple antennas in a single device. These antennas operate across various frequency bands and communication standards, all while adhering to the stringent size and form factor limitations of vast array of modern wireless devices.

In the coming years, we see these and other antenna design challenges continuing to grow. In the world of IoT devices, there are many differences to consider: size, communication standard,  target audiences, markets, and use cases. This makes the market quite fragmented and complex. With the IoT industry to grow significantly with over 25 billion devices projected by 2025, there’s an urgent need for a standard antenna component that can easily meet the requirements of IoT designers. Additionally, there’s a need for a standard integration process that is simple, reliable, fast, efficient, and cost-effective. It is this big challenge ahead that Virtual Antenna® technology wants to overcome to ensure the success of every single wireless connection in this IoT longtail.

What Makes Virtual Antenna® technology different?

Virtual Antenna® technology removes the pain points found in other custom antenna designs and integration processes by providing a miniature and standard antenna component capable of being integrated inside any wireless device without requiring the customization of the antenna part. The antenna part remains the same and can be easily tuned to the operating frequency bands through the matching network circuit to accommodate the antenna performance to the requirements. We can say that through a fully circuit-based antenna design, Virtual Antenna® technology provides custom performance in an off-the-shelf chip.

Virtual Antenna® technology is ideal for any wireless device and any wireless communication protocol. There is no need to change the design every time a new operating frequency needs to be supported by the device, or every time the solution needs to be deployed in a different market. The heart of the design can be re-used and Virtual Antenna® technology can easily adapt to the new requirements through the adjustment of its tuning circuit.

Beyond the technological advantages, there are also procurement advantages, as the same antenna part number can be used in many different designs for covering different wireless services, thus getting the financial benefits of economy of scale.

In addition, these surface mount chip components can be assembled in production using conventional pick-and-place machinery, saving production costs, and increasing quality and reliability to the final device.

Virtual Antenna® technology for all RF/antenna engineers

Why spend time and resources in custom antenna solutions with expensive NREs or other SMD resonant antenna components which may not leverage the maximum radiation properties of your device, and/or not scale or be usable in other designs, or markets?

Imagine a design house facing multiple antenna/RF challenges for multiple different IoT devices with different operating and/or market requirements. Instead of having to invest time and resources in every single new design, the RF/Antenna engineers just need to include the requirements of each design in Ignion’s Antenna Intelligence CloudTM and in a matter of minutes, they will get an estimation of the performance with a complete design file including recommended antenna parts, PCB layout (antenna location, recommended clearance area, recommended antenna and matching network footprint and bill of materials), altogether with design recommendations to integrate the rest of the components (housing, batteries, shielding…). This first step makes building the prototype and testing it, risk-free.

 In another example, imagine a utility company that wants to deploy its next-generation smart meter in multiple countries or geographic areas, with Virtual Antenna® technology there is no need to change the design every time they want to open access to a different new market. They can leverage the same design and just tune the matching network components to easily accommodate the antenna performance to the new market’s operating frequency needs, saving time and money.

The advantages of using Virtual Antenna® technology and the Antenna Intelligence Cloud™ integration tool for IoT designs are time-saving, cost-saving and have simplicity at the core of the solution. Ignion’s expertise and laser focus on the need for innovation in this fast-growing complex IoT space make Virtual Antenna® the choice for over 30M deployments. Join us in this revolution.

the author

Dr. Aurora Andújar Linares

Dr. Aurora Andújar is co-founder and VP of Engineering at Ignion. She has more than 17 years of experience in the antenna design industry, supporting customers worldwide in the design…

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Ignion at Hardware Pioneers 2024

28 May 2024 Events

Ignion will be a part of the UK’s largest exhibition and conference dedicated to cutting-edge technologies, solutions and tools for innovation-driven engineering teams. Join us for the latest in electronics, IoT, and embedded systems.

  • When? 28-29 May 2024 – Central London.
  • Where? Business Design Centre. 52 Upper Street, London, N1 0QH.
  • How? Visit our booth #E8.

Ignion at Embedded World Nuremberg

09 Apr 2024 Events

Join us at Embedded World 2024.

Ignion will be a part of Embedded World 2024, the premier event in the world of embedded systems.

  • When? 9-12 April, 2024.
  • Where? Booth number: 4A-302 at the Nuremberg exhibition center.

Embedded World Exhibition&Conference is the ultimate gathering for the embedded community, showcasing the latest innovations and advancements in hardware, software, services, and tools. It’s an unparalleled opportunity to explore the cutting-edge technology shaping the future of embedded systems.

Safer journey awaits: Igniting road safety with Virtual Antenna® technology

Bruno Cunha
13 Feb 2024 Blog
Hand placing a glowing V16 beacon on car roof during twilight for improved road safety, powered by Virtual Antenna®

The roads are set to become significantly safer, thanks to the revolutionary integration of IoT in road safety measures. While car manufacturers are leveraging technology to make cars safer, one of the fastest ways smart connectivity is being deployed is in after-market safety devices.  Among these innovations, the standout is the new V16 emergency beacon accelerated to market by Ignion’s Virtual Antenna® solution.

Virtual Antenna®: The heart of safer roadways

Ignion’s Virtual Antenna® technology is the connectivity cornerstone of the new V16 emergency beacons, which are replacing the outdated road safety reflective triangles. In fact, Spain is leading the charge mandating that all cars must have the new device onboard by January 2026. The unique challenges for connectivity in the car environment required a unique solution. The V16 device itself boasts both NB-IoT and GNSS connectivity, the form factor is small and round and has a lot of metal parts including the all-important reflector and the powerful magnet used to keep it positioned on the roof of the car. Metal is like kryptonite to radios, however, multiple radios in a small form factor device were instantly modeled in Ignion’s Antenna Intelligence Cloud™, and a design was realized with Virtual Antenna® technology, robust to the metallic environment. This ensured the V16 manufacturer that the broadcast of the positioning signal met the certification requirements of their diverse carriers.

Battery life in this device is essential. In a perfect world, the V16 emergency beacon rests in the glovebox forever, but when an emergency occurs, it needs to be switched on and ready for action. Battery life is optimized both by using low-power NB-IoT and by ensuring optimized antenna performance through the integration of Virtual Antenna® components.

High efficiency in a space constrained and metallic environment is made possible by the non-resonant Virtual Antenna® technology leveraging the full ground plane of the device. Another big advantage is the fast time to market enabled by the Virtual Antenna® technology due to the ability to retune the antenna using the matching network, rather than having to replace the antenna whose performance might not measure up after the device is completed. The ability to satisfy multiple product designs with a single Virtual Antenna® solution makes the economy of scale as well as the savings on individual product development substantial. This cost-conscious approach ensures roll-out and adoption even before Spain’s government mandate goes into effect in January 2026.

Safety in a flash: The V16 emergency beacon

Imagine a stranded motorist in need. With the V16 beacon, they no longer must venture into hazardous roadside conditions to set up a warning triangle behind the car. Instead, they can safely roll down the window and attach this IoT-enabled beacon to their car roof without getting out of the vehicle and putting themselves in harm’s way.

The beacon doesn’t just alert other drivers in the case of a breakdown or accident, but using the built-in geo-location feature can also be used to reroute traffic, when necessary, as the Directorate-General for Traffic (DGT) in Spain is implementing. By detouring traffic away from the trouble area safety can be improved by reducing congestion and the additional fender benders and serious accidents that might result. As with all IoT devices, connectivity is key, and in the case of these V16 flashlights that connectivity can be lifesaving. Between 2019 and 2020, 28 people were killed on Spain’s roads after leaving their vehicles to position the analog reflectors on the road when they had a breakdown. (European Commission for Mobility & Transport)

Background: A dire need for change

Globally, road traffic accidents claim 1.4 million lives annually, with vulnerable road users like pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists being the most affected (European Commission for Mobility & Transport). The economic and human toll of these accidents is staggering. The European Union, aiming to halve road deaths and serious injuries by 2030, has adopted Vision Zero, a testament to the critical role of technology in enhancing road safety.

The IoT Impact: Beyond the beacon

The V16 flashlight beacon reliably connected with Ignion’s Virtual Antenna® component is a tangible representation of how IoT is safeguarding lives. But it’s not alone. The IoT landscape in road safety extends to car features and city infrastructure, all geared towards creating a smarter, safer journey for everyone. Ignion remains with a strong focus to make these critical innovations easy to bring to life.

the author

Bruno Cunha

Bruno Cunha, Head of Sales EMEA at Ignion, is at the forefront of revolutionizing IoT connectivity, spearheading the sales of cutting-edge multiband chip antennas vital for various applications such as…

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Ignion at MWC Barcelona 2024

26 Feb 2024 Events

Ignion will be at the Mobile World Congress Barcelona 2024!

Join us at the largest and most influential event for the connectivity ecosystem, where tens of thousands of senior executives, global companies, governments, and trailblazing tech businesses converge to shape the future.

  • When? 26-29 February, 2024.
  • Where? West Hall: 8.1 Booth No: 8.1A20.

Book a meeting with us at info@ignion.io

 

*Co-funded by the European Union.

Ignion unveils expanded new office in Shenzhen

07 Feb 2024 News

New Year, New Opportunities for Growth

Sant Cugat del Vallès, Barcelona 7 February 2024 – Ignion, a leader in innovative antenna solutions, is excited to announce the grand opening of its new office located on Yuhei Street in Shenzhen, the heart of China’s technology hub. This expansion comes at an auspicious time as we celebrate the Lunar New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dragon, a symbol of power, strength, and good fortune.

The new office boasts a significantly increased floor space, specifically designed to enhance our laboratory capabilities and provide superior support to our valued customers. Situated among tech giants such as Tencent, Alibaba, Baidu, and ZTE, Ignion’s state-of-the-art facility is poised to foster collaboration and innovation in one of the most vibrant tech ecosystems in the world.

“Our new Shenzhen office is a testament to Ignion’s commitment to growth and our dedication to serving our customers more effectively,” said Jeff Chen, Ignion’s country manager in China. “With the Year of the Dragon inspiring progress and prosperity, we are thrilled to embark on this new chapter in an environment that is at the forefront of technological advancement.”

The new lab facilities will expand local customer support to ensure fast turn-around and reliable performance on their Virtual Antenna® technology projects. The new offices cap off a year of on-site training by the engineering team in Spain and the addition of engineering support staff required to support the rapid growth in the China market.

Ignion invites its partners, customers, and members of the tech community to visit the new office and explore opportunities for collaboration and growth.

Check the video of our new office in China here.