Simplification and scalability of IoT reference design

 Simplification and scalability of IoT reference design

  Internet of Things: For fast-movers, this is a market with huge potential

The Internet of Things (IoT) market provides developers, reference designers, module manufacturers, and system manufacturers with huge development potential, enabling them to lead the industry partners without fear of the fragmentation and complexity of the IoT business .

The real value created by IoT applications is not at the edge of the network, but in the cloud. Data generated by IoT devices can be analyzed and processed in the cloud. However, in order to transmit data to the cloud, IoT devices need an antenna that can efficiently transmit according to their application scenarios. However, there are countless and diverse application scenarios. It can be a utility meter located deep in a building or underground, a tracker in a container during international transportation, or even an installation on the ears of livestock in rural wilderness. tracking device.

With the unlimited increase in the number of application scenarios, when it comes to connection issues, the IoT industry has a lot of alternative connection technologies.

LTE-M, Cat-1, NB-IoT, LoRa, Sigfox, Wi-Fi, Wi-SUN, 3G, 4G, and public and private 5G technologies; as they move forward, these technologies are applying the Internet of Things From the local area network (Local Area Network, LAN) to the wide area network (Wide Area Network, WAN) environment, there is more demand for lower latency and higher performance connections.

The driving demand behind this growth can be seen everywhere-not only in the deployment of more smart devices, but more and more devices are becoming smart. According to data from ABI Research, as of the end of 2020, there are an estimated 6.6 billion Internet of Things devices connected to the network and active worldwide, of which about 840 million devices use cellular networks, accounting for less than 8% of the total.

The research organization ABI predicts that in the next six years, the number of IoT devices using cellular networks will increase nearly 7 times, and the total number of global cellular network IoT devices will reach 5.7 billion by 2026.

  Quickly bring the reference design to the market

However, it is difficult to develop hardware based on a global perspective and to promote and apply it on a global scale. Among them, Non Recurring Engineering (NRE), which is the one-time cost of research, design, development and testing of new products or enhancements, not only determines whether the product is commercially viable, but also determines the product’s launch speed.

This is especially true for antenna elements. For IoT application developers, if the antenna factor is not considered from the beginning, then it will definitely become a problem at some point, usually after a lot of hard work has been done on the design of the device. Before companies such as Ignion launch standardized, chip-based antennas, and can use the Fast Track tool to complete the antenna design on their website, designing, making, and testing antennas for IoT products is always a difficult task.

However, the chipset and module reference design can now integrate an antenna, which provides end-to-end connectivity in a way that can be easily transferred to mass production. This is a model that has not been widely used before, because antennas must either be custom designed or ready-made solutions; they are not flexible in terms of shape, size and tuning, so they cannot be reused in many practical applications. Antenna components.

Historically, this has been a considerable challenge for reference designers. Petter Myhre, director of product marketing at Nordic semiconductor, said: When providing microcontrollers, we have always taken the approach of making it as easy as possible for developers to build products.

“We have been producing Bluetooth low energy microcontrollers for ten years. We have been committed to making it easier for developers to use Bluetooth low energy microcontrollers by providing software, tools, reference designs and wiring diagrams. Make it easy to build products and bring products to the mass market. We want to provide scalable solutions so that developers can easily build products.” Petter Myhre said.


Simplification and scalability of IoT reference design

“Then, when we started to launch cellular network products, we tried the same approach; but in the cellular network field, there are traditionally only a few large reference design companies and a small number of customers, and their products have sold billions of units. . Therefore, they don’t actually need to allow customers to build products easily, because reference designers can guide them hand-in-hand throughout the process and customize everything for them in terms of hardware.”

However, the Internet of Things is putting forward different demands on the cellular network industry, and the “all customization” approach runs counter to the openness represented by the Internet of Things. This also runs counter to module manufacturers and reference designers trying their best to reduce entry barriers and open the Internet of Things market to achieve greater innovation goals.

Petter Myhre, director of product marketing at Nordic Semiconductor, said: “We hope that small companies can also build IoT products based on cellular networks. This is why we have integrated the Thingy:91 prototyping platform so that it is convenient for anyone. Use. There are sensors and batteries, and there is an antenna that can work on many different frequency bands around the world. We need a very flexible solution. We have developed a very small antenna in cooperation with Ignion, which is flexible enough to Work in many different frequency bands, so you can truly build a globally usable product.”

  Create truly globally available IoT products

With the deepening of the transition to wide area network connection and the increasing demand for cellular IoT functions, mobile network authentication has become a problem to be considered, because any device with poor design or poor connection impedance will be rejected by operators The reason for certification is that these devices will cause network inefficiency and have a bad impact on operators.

The global availability of 3G, 4G and 5G frequency bands also means that if manufacturers do not know exactly where their equipment will be used, they need to cover a wide range of potential frequency bands. Historically, this has meant designing a series of antenna elements, which usually undermines the business model.

According to Ashish Syal, chief engineer of Sierra Wireless, founder and architect of mangOH, “The problem we face is that many of our customers want to try IoT projects. They will have an idea but find it difficult to move forward. Many people will Within a few months, they gave up this idea because they were unable to make it economically effective, and as a result, they were unable to obtain financial support for it.”

Sierra Wireless has also taken some methods to simplify the development of final IoT applications as much as possible to ensure that they can cover global connections from the start.


Simplification and scalability of IoT reference design

“For the mangOH development platform, our focus is to include an antenna that can be applied to a series of technologies such as 2G, 3G or 4G. Ignion eliminates the need for users to deploy multiple different antennas, thus making our work easier. We All of this can be achieved in a small antenna.” Ashish Syal added.

Syal explained the benefits of turning antenna design into RF circuit design, because it brings the dark art of antenna design and RF engineering to the public, significantly reducing the complexity of Electronic engineering.


Simplification and scalability of IoT reference design

  Ignion: Virtual Antenna technology adapted to different applications

Taking into account the complexity and various challenges of RF design and antenna development, Ignion has completed all the arduous tasks by using a multi-band and multi-protocol solution; the solution can be integrated into any product design from the beginning , And can be easily redeployed on a different radio frequency technology or frequency.

Because the Ignion antenna hardware is very small in size, it is very attractive for IoT applications. Moreover, the antenna is non-resonant, and it can achieve complete multi-band operation for any wireless protocol through a simple circuit design. This makes antenna integration a simpler “electronic system design as usual” process that does not require specific antenna expertise.

The key innovation is that Ignion turns the printed circuit board (PCB) into the only radiating component. This reduces the size of the antenna beyond traditional limits, while the system benefits from the radiation performance of much larger components. This is a brand-new working principle, which benefits from a brand-new chip antenna element, which is technically called “antenna unit (Booster)”.

As Syal of Sierra Wireless said: “Thanks to the work done by Ignion, developers don’t need to worry about the physical size and complexity involved in building IoT products. This allows companies building devices to focus on their core expertise. That is the capture of data.”

Meet the need for speed

Ignion’s development environment also helps IoT reference designers, developers and final manufacturers shorten their design cycles. With the help of Ignion’s technology, the process of finding suitable options from thousands of potentially available and mutually different antennas has been reduced to choosing from only a few; and, regardless of the protocol or radio frequency technology, these antennas can be used. Meet all application scenarios.

Hardware developers do not need to wait until the end of the design cycle to start testing antennas, and then choose an antenna for demonstration. Ignion’s development environment enables developers to run simulations from the beginning. This can help developers better understand other aspects of their design and understand “this is an antenna that can be used in production” and “this is the expected field performance.”

Sebastien Falgayrettes, senior product director and project manager of Sequans, said that this is very important, because IoT products are likely to enter a truly global market, and the number of frequency bands will naturally increase sharply.


Simplification and scalability of IoT reference design

“In fact, we have done some projects before, during which we have to adjust the antenna ourselves, so we know the complexity of doing this and know that it is not an easy task. We also know that you can’t just Success is achieved in one debugging. Normally, you need to make multiple measurements, modify, and then adjust again, which takes a lot of time. Now, we provide customers with a set of practical evaluation kits, and the feedback is very great Good.” Falgayrettes said.

Now, using Ignion’s technology and products, Sequans and its customers can speed up the speed of each debugging by adjusting the matching circuit on the circuit board, which is particularly important for its customers. A key benefit is that these same advantages can also be transferred to production, because the antenna elements in the reference design remain unchanged in the final device. The antenna in the design no longer exists for demonstration. This solves another problem for the manufacturer. The antenna elements are consistent from the design cycle to the production, and the final equipment procurement, logistics and manufacturing process are simplified.

Since the antenna and matching network circuits provided by Ignion are already production-grade, scalability has been taken into consideration. A product built as a reference design can be reused in production around the world with only a few small adjustments to adapt to different frequencies.

“We hope that our customers can build products that can be used in the global market, so they don’t need to have a version for China, a version for Germany, and a version for the United States.” Nordic Semiconductor’s Myhre said “It’s too expensive to do so, because you have too many different products to maintain and transport. By embedding a complete reference design including the antenna, we can reduce the obstacles as much as possible so that we can achieve a truly cellular-based Internet of Things solution for the network.”


Simplification and scalability of IoT reference design

Cavli Wireless’s mission is to enable the next 1 billion IoT devices to intelligently connect to all the basic building blocks of IoT connection management, including connection hardware, network access, cloud management, etc., through its unique value combination. It is integrated into a unified solution, thus bringing the world’s first “Connectivity as a Service (CaaS)” solution to the market in the form of zero-cost bundled IoT hardware. Therefore, customers can receive industrial-grade IoT modules pre-loaded with global connectivity functions, and then only need to pay the connection fee to use.

According to the description of Cavli Wireless Chief Operating Officer Tarun Thomas, Cavli’s C-series smart module evaluation kit product line uses Ignion’s TRIO mXTENDTM antennas because of their excellent multi-band performance and small size. The TRIO mXTENDTM antenna has high efficiency on all GSM/LTE frequency bands in the world, and supports our users to seamlessly integrate in multiple applications and scenarios around the world. Cavli also has a series of intelligent connection computing modules, which are also supported by TRIO mXTENDTM antennas, which are designed to help IoT product manufacturers quickly achieve prototype design and product launch.

  Simplify complex things and make the Internet of Things truly scalable

Wienke Giezeman, CEO of The Things Industries said: The Things Industries has integrated Ignion’s chip antenna elements into its LoRa-based common node. He said: “Hardware is an important part of the total cost of IoT business use cases. Since engineering costs are related to multiple RF debugging, R&D activities may be very risky.”


Simplification and scalability of IoT reference design

Giezeman continued: “The Internet of Things is not a closed system. It is a network connection system composed of components provided by many partners. Each component is part of the bill of materials (BOM). Because of this, you can easily ‘Because of small loss of big’, because you bought a cheaper component, such as an antenna, to reduce your bill of materials. But if the power efficiency of the antenna is lower, it will consume battery power faster, you need someone to change Replace it quickly. Therefore, although you reduce your bill of materials, you increase maintenance costs.”

Ignion’s Virtual Antenna™ technology eliminates the complexity of embedded design by adapting the antenna to the customer’s design, rather than doing the opposite, allowing the customer’s design to adapt to the antenna. The hardware consists of very tiny, off-the-shelf antenna units. It is a surface mount component that can be seamlessly mounted on the electronic printed circuit board using the same standard pick and place technology as any other electronic component. At the design stage, put the final antenna options into the bill of materials.


Simplification and scalability of IoT reference design

 Quickly bring the reference design to the market and put it into production faster

Finally, Ignion’s easy-to-use simulation tools help developers to implement a multi-purpose reference design, and the reference design can be easily adjusted or reused to quickly bring the product to the market.

Falgayrettes of Sequans explained this, pointing out that developers need a feature-rich and easy-to-use evaluation kit. He said: “It is very complicated and difficult to debug the antenna. This is an iterative process that takes a lot of time.”

“But what I want to say is that customers want to get the kit in less than a minute and be able to achieve a complete end-to-end connection because they want to focus on their added value instead of wasting in creating connections Time. We also need the kit to be versatile-it can be used in the laboratory, and it can also demonstrate the performance of IoT devices in field trials, so you can see the impact on battery life.”

Falgayrettes added: “Now, we have provided customers with a practical evaluation kit, and the feedback is very good, so I am sure that we will expand the cooperation with Ignion, the two sides will cooperate in more platforms and solutions.”

For Sierra Wireless, eliminating or reducing repetitive processes not only simplifies product development, but also allows the company to realize the business value of the Internet of Things faster. “When a company develops a product, it is improving my investment because it speeds up the time from development to final purchase of the product,” Syal said. “But in addition to shortening the time to market, it also supports end customers to deploy the Internet of Things in a variety of new situations.” He added.

All of these have driven more demand, but the impact of the epidemic has shown that if there is a supply shortage of a certain component, the supply chain is prone to problems and may have catastrophic consequences for the manufacturing industry. However, Ignion is a company headquartered in Europe, and the hardware design is also done in Europe.


Simplification and scalability of IoT reference design

Ignion’s antenna production uses pre-printed circuit kits that can be manufactured by suppliers from all over the world (including Vietnam and South Korea), so its component supply chain is resistant to shortages and has proven its ability to resist shortages.

This is a key consideration in the development and production of IoT devices. Shortening the lead time from design to production is a key factor for real success in the field of Internet of Things. A reliable reference design can give developers a strong voice in a highly competitive market.

Success in the IoT ecosystem is to eliminate bottlenecks. Ignion is helping reference design developers to quickly solve the problem from 0 to 1, so that their customers can easily and confidently solve the problem from 1 to 1000, while shortening the development time. Time to profit.

In order to help developers speed up the time to market, Ignion has provided its Fast Track development tool for free, which can be tried on its Chinese website. Using the Fast Track tool, developers can add optimized embedded antennas to their final IoT product design in just 24 hours.

Using the Fast Track tool on the Ignion English or Chinese website, after inputting its design information, developers will receive an antenna selection; Virtual Antenna? component options, which are specifically selected for equipment and applications; and will be provided on bare PCB Choose the best antenna location in the, and other design suggestions; there are also setting suggestions including matching network topology, reflection coefficient and estimated efficiency.

This provides predictability throughout the design process and accelerates the process of converting the reference design into the final product. By combining off-the-shelf chip antennas with Fast Track optimization tools, customers can benefit from “off-the-shelf standardized high-performance antenna elements.”

The Links:   7MBR50U4P120-50 B141XG08-V1

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