IoT designs are evolving towards more monumental data collection, greater machine to machine and human to machine connectivity, and the use of a wider array of platforms supported by cloud structures, including wearables, and industrial instruments.
As various key players in the IoT world contend to shape the infrastructure standards of the IoT, the battle is heating up in some critical areas, including security, Radio Frequency (RF) safety, and RF interference. One of the cornerstones of IoT is the wireless radio protocols, which facilitate communication between IoT devices and human interfaces as well as the measurement of collected data.
These types of wireless radios include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and RFID. As such, RF interference has been a major concern for IoT manufacturers, and this has been one of the major reasons why the industrial application of IoT has significantly lagged behind the consumer application.
Radio interferences from immediate wireless and electrical devices can corrupt packet reception and throughput and cause faster battery depletion. However, with the emergence of more wireless machine-to-machine connectivity solutions, more efficient industrial IoT platforms are fast catching on.
The Nature of Problems Associated with RF Interference in IoT Designs
Wireless carriers such as those that deploy a 4G LTE platform have been grappling with interferences from improbable environmental sources such as FM broadcast transmissions, CATV, and even rusty nuts and screws. RF interference issues have become a critical capacity and coverage issues in 4G, LTE, Wi-Fi, and other broadband transmission media.
As a result, interference modes like those associated with FM to LTE, LTE to CATV, etc, are drawing greater attention. System integrators can reduce passive intermodulation (PIM) in components such as antennas and coaxial lines, but are ineffective in tackling interference from the external environment.
Since IoT is a sensor-driven technology that relies on short-range, low-power networks, and the Ethernet or high-power wireless networks, RF engineering plays a critical role in preventing RF interferences and other safety issues in IoT developments.
Connectivity Solutions Which Address Numerous Needs Simultaneously
From a comprehensive platform to improvised ones, the choice of the communications protocol used in the implementation of RF mostly depends on the specific requirements of the IoT application, the location and access efficiency of the sensor nodes, and the power requirements of the protocol options.
Bluetooth comes with low-power requirements, and that makes it well suited for battery-powered sensors that transmit data from hard-to-reach locations via Personal Area Networks (PAN). 6LoWPAN provides direct IP connections for low-power devices with minimal processing power such as factory automation systems that operate with Local Area Networks (LAN).
For network protocols that require low-power, long-range capabilities using Neighborhood Area Networks (NAN), proprietary Sub-1 GHz solutions are the most suitable. Nonetheless, hybrid IA connectivity comprising a mix of multiple connectivity protocols can be used to provide multiple networks within a single facility.
How the Rise of 5G Platforms is Altering the Implementation of RF in IoT
IoT is a technology which primarily revolves around the transmission of data to and from various devices. Hence, data transmission speed is a critical factor, and the rise of 5G technology is as beneficial to the IoT industry as it is in any other industry.
A research carried out by market research firm Yole Développement shows that the RF front-end industry will be worth over $22 billion in 2022. 5G technology is driving this growth, fueling innovations that are based on the use of additional filters for multiple carrier aggregation (CA) channels, and also facilitating the ever-increasing production of antenna switches and antenna tuners.
It is speculated that IoT designs trends that’ll be dominating in the next years will border on expanding design size, greater integration and complexity, migration from single IC designs to multiple multichip designs, and more complex standard specs.
As the application of 5G technology in various industries continues on the rise, IoT design engineers looking to incorporate 5G are now better placed to address challenges that have plagued the industry over the last decade. Some of these issues include power efficiency, electro-thermal effect management, circuit simulation issues associated with complex designs integration evaluation, etc. Since RF is indispensable to 5G technology, a host of companies are forwarding advancements in RF connectivity like never before.
Using Custom-Built or Pre-Certified RF Modules in IoT Designs
One major challenge for IoT design engineers is whether to build a custom radio or to integrate a pre-certified RF module. A custom-built RF module is the most cost-effective strategy, but a large production volume can take away this advantage. Other drawbacks include the long period of time for the development and a long-winding certification process like the US FCC regulations.
On the other hand, pre-certified modules can lead to lower overhead costs for large production volumes and can also fast-track the time taken for the development to reach the market. But scalability issues, physical size, and placement on PCB boards can all count as drawbacks of pre-certified modules. However, a hybrid solution can bring the best of both worlds.
As IoT continues to cause disruptions across several industries, it is causing a rippling effect on the prevalent RF architectures and designs. This presents product development with a whole new range of choices and 5G technology is a major driver of the changes in the patterns of implementation of RF modules.