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Customer Antenna Stories

Some of the akorIoT team’s successes

Introduction

The simplest IoT antenna designs use a matched chip antenna on the PCB.  However, more often than not there is a need to reduce costs or to solve unique mechanical challenges to the antenna assembly, and these cases require a customised antenna that draws on specialist design skills.

The following applications are examples of designs that the akorIoT team have delivered to satisfied clients.  Our customers’ IoT markets cover a broad application spectrum including smart metering, building technology, agriculture, logistics, tracking and beyond.

Our collective experience has allowed us to deliver effective, low power and low cost designs that could never be achieved with an off-the-shelf chip antenna.  We often come up with innovative ways to model solutions, something you don’t get from reading a supplier spec sheet or application note.

I you’d like to know more about these stories or to learn more about how we can help, please get in touch

GSM / NB-IoT PCB track antenna for Gillette IoT button (Nexolink)

Gillette order button

Gillette IoT button with NB-IoT / GSM PCB antenna

The Gillette IoT button is a consumer product shipped as part of a package including a razor and an initial supply of blades.  The design had therefore to be as low cost as possible.  In addition, the design aesthetic was for a circular device which would not accommodate a rectangular chip antenna.   The akorIoT team replaced the flex PCB antenna with a PCB antenna embedded in the main PCB which therefore had zero cost and performed better than most smartphones.

The PCB has only 2 layers and all surface mount parts are on one side to reduce costs.  Power is provided by 3 standard Alkaline AA cells and the power management ensures that with an active timer and button the energy consumption is only 500 nA and therefore the IoT button will work for 20 years on one set of batteries. The development of the board, the PCB antenna and the application on the MCU were all done by the akorIoT group in Germany. The Gillette IoT button on GSM was the first mass-produced cellular-based IoT order button in DACH distributed via supermarkets and online sales. The whole history of the IoT button’s development is described in detail here
Picture credit: Triptec

GSM, UMTS and LoRAwan PCB track antennas for metal bins (Smartbin Ltd.)

IoT SmartbinThe team from akorIoT Group has developed several PCB antennas for our customer Smartbin Ltd who provide monitored waste management solutions.  These transmit over GSM, UMTS, LoRaWAN, and SIGFOX.  In the case of LoRa/Sigfox we replaced the off-the-shelf Helix antenna with a customised inexpensive PCB track antenna and optimised the PCB layout.  Our PCB antenna solution has much better performance than the stock Helix antenna.  The positioning of the antenna on the PCB was carefully chosen and the track was adapted to the round shape of the enclosure.  The result of ourantenna design work was a significant increase in communication range combined with a lower bill of material cost that more than covered the costs of our services.
Picture credit: Smartbin Ltd

LTE and BLE/Wi-Fi PCB track antenna with coaxial cable for wireless camera (Pikkerton)

Buddyguard CameraThe wireless camera developed by Pikkerton, is designed to be a life saver in an emergency.  It is also a good example of how to design a beautiful housing with no awareness of antennas and radio wave propagation and end up with a design which cannot transmit a radio wave.  The initial design had LTE, Wi-Fi and BLE antennas planned as standard flex PCB antennas.  The camera has a ring of LEDs on the outer edge of the housing and they need a mass layer to function. This mass ring caused a short circuit with every commercial off-the-shelf Flex-PCB antenna.

To solve this challenge, the akorIoT team developed a multi band LTE antenna with coaxial cable and a Wi-Fi/BLE antenna with coaxial cable and placed it in front of the mass ring in the outer edge of the housing. This revised design works perfectly.

A small investment in advice on choosing the antenna and space for the antenna does not cost much and saves you from nasty surprises in the form of project delays and additional costs at the end of development or tool making.

GSM / UMTS PCB track antennas for metal bis (Envicomp)

Envicomp BinEnvicomp member of the Sulu Group, is a technology specialist in waste and logistics.  They needed to install various PCB track antennas for GSM and UMTS with optimised performance in an underground waste bin.  We mastered challenges involving the metal container, the underground installation of the antenna and the uniform housing.
Picture credit: Envicomp

Rigid Flex PCB GSM antenna pet tracker

Pet Tracker PuppyThe waterproof GSM/GPS tracker is very small and the battery is charged by induction. The GSM antenna was designed as a rigid-flex-PCB and a ceramic chip antenna was chosen for GNSS.

In this case the akorIoT team used models of the antenna formed from bent wire to determine the possible construction and to approximate the result.  Functional models like this are much cheaper than software simulations and represent the end design much more accurately.  They can also be changed and remeasured repeatedly with results available in a few minutes.  Simulations may take hours to calculate and do not guarantee a successful practical result. After waiting for the simulation, you still have to construct and test the antenna and may only then find out that the simulation has errors or the antenna cannot deliver the target performance. However, if the customer requests, a simulation can be done.
Picture credit: Pixabay

Flex PCB GSM antenna with coaxial cable for eldery care system (Pikkerton)

GrannyguardPikkerton’s Grannyguard alarm system is installed in the flush-mounted box of a light switch.  The chip antennas the customer initially specified could not do the job.  The akorIoT team designed a GSM antenna as a custom Flex PCB antenna with coaxial cable connected to the motherboard.  To emulate the real conditions the team built a dummy wall.  This is because the wall plus the plastic housing and the ground plane of the PCB forms the antenna system.  Without brickwork, the customised antenna is totally detuned.  This understanding of the real-word applications of a customer’s design is an example of the value of the team’s experience.
Picture credit: Pikkerton

PCB antenna with coaxial cable for 3G tracker (Quantec)

Quantec BoardThe picture of the antenna for Quantec shows a prototype that was produced by the akorIoT team as an interim step after the standard antenna did not work.   We replaced  the standard PCB antenna and cable with a customer-specific PCB antenna.  The customised antenna solved the problem.  The next step was to redesign the PCB into new multi-mode modules with a new cellular antenna at right angles to the motherboard.  The GNSS antenna was designed using a chip antenna.
Picture credit: Triptec

Helical Sigfox / NB-IoT antenna for a bike tracker

BFOMThe customer required a customized helix antenna for SIGFOX and NB-IoT. The challenge in this case was to find a compromise between available installation space and antenna performance. The compromise was achieved after a workshop with the client. Such workshops can be held on site or via Skype. Proper preparation and a feasibility study as a methodology helps to the high follow-up costs of repeated design changes.
Picture credit: Triptec

Globalstar / GNSS PCB track antenna for sheep tracker

Model of a sheepOur customer specialise in livetock tracking solutions.  For their design, the akorIoT team were able to replace the expensive GNSS and Globalstar patch antennas with zero-cost a PCB track antenna.  Since the centre frequencies of Globalstar and GNSS are close together, the two antennas were combined into one with a switch.   The antenna achived 50 Ohm without to use a matching circuit to avoid a loss in the  matching cicuit. Our redesign has much better antenna performance and is far cheaper to manufacture.  In order to test the antenna, the team built a dummy sheep named “akorDolly”

Matching of a LoRa PCB track antenna for LoRaWAN tag (Chip45)

Chip45For Chip45 the LoRaWAN PCB antenna was matched as a piece of contract work.  As a result we provided results and in addition we were able to offer advice on steps that would improve the construction.
Picture credit: Triptec

Real world LTE antenna return loss tests for Ayyeka

shaft measureUnlike our dummy wall for Pikkerton’s Grannyguard, building a sewer shaft for prototyping was too complicated, so in this case we brought our PC-based VNA from MegiQ and the laptop to the edge of the shaft and carried out the measurements.

road measure

In the second example we went to a DIY store and bought a sack of gravel to build a model of a road. An old bucket plus gravel – and your virtual road is ready for testing!