Simplifying antenna integration in a healthcare device with Virtual Antenna® Technology
Antenna integration can be a complex and challenging process, especially when dealing with small form factors and multiple frequency bands. However, with the advancements in Virtual Antenna® technology, the process of antenna integration has been greatly simplified. In this blog post, we will explore how Virtual Antenna® technology can make antenna integration easier and more efficient. We will also dive deeper into the specific challenges faced in designing a blood pressure monitor for Withings and how these challenges were overcome using Ignion’s Antenna Intelligence Cloud™ and Virtual Antenna® technology.
What are the challenges of antenna integration
When designing a device, one of the key considerations is meeting the performance requirements, particularly in terms of cellular connectivity. In the case of the Withings blood pressure monitor, there were a number of challenges. Withings was taking an existing product design, the BPM Connect which has a small, elegant design, and needed to add cellular to address a new use case for professional health providers and their patients who did not necessarily have access to a smartphone to use the Withings app. The small PCB size posed limitations on antenna performance, especially for cellular while the proximity of the antenna to the body caused signal degradation. These challenges needed to be addressed to ensure optimal antenna efficiency and a fast development schedule.
Overcoming challenges with Virtual Antenna® technology
Virtual Antenna® technology offers a solution to simplify antenna integration and optimize performance. By utilizing Ignion’s online digital twin design tool Antenna Intelligence Cloud™, engineers can input the frequency range of operation and PCB size to receive antenna recommendations, matching network requirements, and performance data. This tool allows engineers to evaluate antenna performance before starting the design process, saving time and effort and removing risk.
Simplified IoT design journey with Ignion
In the case of the Withings blood pressure monitor, the feasibility step involved using the Antenna Intelligence Cloud™ to assess antenna performance. The initial results indicated that the efficiency was relatively low due to the small PCB size. To address this, it was recommended that the PCB size be increased and employ an active circuit topology, where the various LTE bands could be tuned to be narrowed to peak efficiency.
Moving to the design step, Withings’ engineers worked on their PCB design and integrated the antenna into the enclosure. Simulation of the complete design revealed a slight detuning of the frequency and a drop in efficiency as this took into account their enclosure plus their impact on the body. The matching network was adjusted to retune the frequency and optimize performance. This process just took a week by just adjusting the matching network thanks to Virtual Antenna(R) technology while it could take several weeks with other antenna solutions.
Once satisfied with the simulated performance, the engineers proceeded to build the first prototype hardware. Physical tuning and optimization were performed using a body phantom hand in the Ignion lab in Barcelona to simulate real-world conditions. Minor detuning was observed, but with the flexibility of the matching network, the frequency was easily adjusted to achieve optimal performance.
After the necessary optimizations, the Withings blood pressure monitor successfully achieved certifications and was ready for the market. The design journey demonstrated how Virtual Antenna® technology, combined with the Antenna Intelligence Cloud™ digital twin, simplified the antenna integration process. The use of Virtual Antenna® component allowed for easy integration into the small form factor and provided broadband and multi-band capabilities. This approach ensured consistent results and saved time throughout the design process. In fact, the product from concept to final design was done in under a year.
Virtual Antenna® technology offers a streamlined approach to antenna integration, enabling engineers to optimize performance and meet design requirements. The Antenna Intelligence Cloud™ serves as a valuable resource in assessing antenna performance early in the design process. By utilizing Virtual Antenna® technology and following a structured design journey, engineers can simplify the integration process and achieve optimal antenna efficiency.
By leveraging the power of Virtual Antenna® technology and embracing a customer-centric design journey, companies can simplify their antenna integration processes, save time, and deliver high-performance IoT products to the market.