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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