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Virtual Antenna® technology is the connectivity cornerstone of the new V16 emergency beacons, which are replacing the outdated road safety reflective triangles.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.

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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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