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Precision Embedded GNSS Antennas for IoT – By Chris Anderson

Courtesy of Taoglas
Precision embedded GNSS antennas for IoT-Chris Anderson

Applications for GNSS in IoT

There are many applications for precision embedded GNSS antennas for IoT. Obvious uses would include mobile applications such fleet tracking and pay as you go insurance while other applications may not seem as obvious. For instance, using GPS to uniquely identify a specific trash compactor, smart garbage can or even street light. In cases where an IoT device may move but doesn’t move often, adding movement sensors can let you shut-off that receiver to save power once you have acquired a fix on the signal.

GNSS also has other uses besides location such as having an automatic means for setting system time. This can dramatically improve the performance of remote sensor systems by ensuring your time and date stamp are always correct and your device is reporting in when it’s supposed to. In addition, this combination of location and time can give you the timezone setting as well. GNSS reports altitude as well as location and sometimes that altitude information can be combined with other sensor data like barometric pressure for automatic deployment of weather or other sensing systems.

Another less obvious way to make use of GNSS is to deploy either multiple antennas switched into a single GNSS receiver or multiple receivers and antennas to measure the orientation of your system. For example, placing a GNSS antenna on each wingtip of a fixed-wing drone and at the front and back ends of a school bus can let you directly determine the orientation of the vehicle in real time with no magnetic errors or other issues associated with using a digital compass. The further apart the antennas, the more precise the orientation calculation can be. The receivers can be adjacent to each other if required but will not give the same precise results. The feedback can be close to instantaneous as modern GNSS receivers are capable of refreshing at up to ten times a second.

“With autonomous vehicles and other high volume applications creating a mass market need for high precision embedded GNSS antennas and receivers, expect to see dual frequency receivers available to the IoT market by 2019.”

Since GNSS receiver accuracy is mostly limited by variations in ionospheric propagation delays, which for any two receivers near (within a few km) each other, the relative accuracy of the two receivers can be very good. This high relative accuracy can be exploited in specific applications such as determining orientation as mentioned above, precision agriculture, lawn mower robots, invisible fence systems or any other application where relative location can provide sufficient information for use-case.

Why Use Multiband GNSS?

This high precision is achieved by removing the that ionospheric error. In a two receiver system, one receiver is referenced to a physical location, for instance, the corner of a yard for an invisible fence system, and the difference in locations is computed and used for the application rather than the absolute position. The absolute position could vary by several meters but the differential measurement can be accurate to a few centimeters. Any means of removing that ionospheric error will accomplish a similar improvement in accuracy and this is why GNSS systems always use two different frequencies. The satellites send the same information on two different frequencies. The delay through the ionosphere varies in a known way with frequency so by comparing the delay through the ionosphere for the signal on each frequency, one can calculate the ionospheric delay and correct it out resulting in a single (albeit dual frequency or “band”) receiver with centimeter-level accuracy.

With autonomous vehicles and other high volume applications creating a mass market need for high precision embedded GNSS antennas and receivers, expect to see dual frequency receivers available to the IoT market by 2019. Also, as joint CEO, Dermot O’Shea wrote in this article, Centimeter-level positioning will drive the next generation of location-based apps.  At Taoglas, we have seen the need for low cost and high precision for a long time which is why we have numerous multi-band GNSS antenna products available already.  It is due to this foresight that many of the companies developing multi-band receivers are using our antennas already to test their products.

GNSS still won’t work indoors, but outside it will now be much more accurate.

For more information, please contact our Customer Services Team. We can also test your antenna and customize it for your specific project requirements.

Designing an IoT Project?

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Chris Anderson

IoT Antenna Design Key Considerations Webinar image for Carol

 

Another technology sunset? The 3G sunset may be coming sooner than you think

Courtesy of Taoglas

Today, device manufacturers developing IoT solutions face the choice of designing upon a variety of wireless technologies. However, it appears, just after the recent 2G sunset, that the 3G sunset in the US may not be too far behind.

Carriers have differed in their approach to the transition from 3G to various flavors of LTE, but this year AT&T and Verizon have been leading the charge with definitive moves to force module and device manufacturers to also make the switch to LTE. As of June 2017, new 3G devices have not been permitted to enter the AT&T certification lab.

This means that device manufacturers developing new devices for many American carriers are already being pushed to uniquely support frequencies for LTE operation.

For device manufacturers with existing devices, the impacts of these moves are less immediate but still very relevant. Verizon has announced that it will cease to support 3G devices on its network by the end of 2019, roughly two years away. Additionally, earlier this year T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray expressed his desire to sunset T-Mobile’s 3G network in 2019 as well. One could infer, although unconfirmed, that AT&T may not be too far behind the actions of those carriers.

Needless to say, the time to begin converting to LTE is now.

Fortunately, Taoglas has all the tools to help solution providers make the switch, whether they are developing new products or converting existing products from sunsetting technologies. Offering a full range of cellular antennas that support the spectrum of LTE frequencies, along with world-class sales and engineering teams,Taoglas will ensure that each partner has all of the tools and expertise needed to maintain optimal connectivity.

Taoglas Antennas Connect the MangOH Open-Source Cellular Platform to Simplify and Accelerate IoT Development and Adoption

Courtesy of Taoglas

There are lots of inventors, developers and makers who have an idea for an IoT solution, but don’t have a platform over which they can design prototypes and test ideas quickly and cost-effectively  in an open source fashion. The mangOH open source hardware program was founded by Sierra Wireless to make it easier for IoT developers to create prototypes for wired, wireless or sensor technology based on their unique IoT use cases. It utilizes a platform that delivers up to 90 percent of the building blocks required for a prototype in an out-of-the-box fashion. mangOH is the first and only B2B open source cellular platform in the industry.

The mangOH Red platform was introduced to bring these powerful capabilities to the industrial IoT and maker community who required a feature-rich hardware platform with a small footprint and lower-power requirements than any other open-source platforms available. The mangOH Red platform fits the bill with its ‘smaller than a credit card’ footprint, allowing developers to create solutions for industrial IoT and other scenarios where access to reliable power sources may be an issue. Using the mangOH Red platform and Sierra Wireless’s CF3 module, users can achieve up to 10 years of battery life. LTE-m1/NB-IoT connectivity as part of mangOH offering.

“MangOH allows our partners and customers to quickly take ideas to prototypes and test them.  If they succeed, designs developed with the mangOH platform can be modified and repurposed for mass production,” said Ashish Syal, chief engineer, Sierra Wireless, and founder of the mangOH platform.

A big part of any IoT device is, of course, connectivity to the Internet, and the mangOH development team needed antennas that not only delivered highly reliable connectivity in moderate conditions, but also met the strict form-factor requirements of the mangOH board. An existing antenna was not delivering the performance and reliability results the mangOH team required, so the team turned to Taoglas for better answers.

Size and Performance Matter

Taoglas’ WLA.01 is a 2.4GHz high-efficiency miniature SMD edge-mounted ceramic loop antenna for Wi-Fi, WLAN, Zigbee, Bluetooth, and 802.11 applications. It is one of the smallest 2.4GHz antennas available worldwide with dimensions of 3.2*1.6*0.5mm.

“With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity built-in, developers can build wireless products without any expertise in connecting to mobile or PAN networks,” said Syal. “That was incredibly important because we want to enable our customers to do great things and not have to worry about being a connectivity expert. The Taoglas antenna was exactly what I needed for an on-board antenna.”

Size was an important factor in determining which Taoglas antenna to utilize. “What’s impressive [about the WLA.01] is its size. It’s extremely small and fits exactly where we wanted to put it on the platform. You’re always looking for half the size and half the width, but the Taoglas antenna was perfect for our requirements.”

Size wasn’t the only thing Syal was looking for from onboard antennas. “Performance was number one,” he said. “We knew the size was going to work by looking at it. My requirement, because it was a prototyping platform, was that the antenna should be able to provide maximum performance in what I call moderate conditions. It passed with flying colors.”

The mangOH Red kit, which also supports LTE-m1/NB-IoT connectivity, also ships with Taoglas’ FXUB63 antenna, which covers all frequency bands between 698-3000 MHz.

“This kit gives the user true flexibility, with the ability to use the mangOH on 2G/3G/4G networks worldwide, 2.4GHz Wi-Fi bands and certain ISM bands, providing what you want from a development board—simple and quick to use,” said Dermot O’Shea, co-CEO of Taoglas. “We’re proud to be able to deliver on the requirements needed for the MangOH platform and be part of such an exciting IoT initiative designed to speed and simplify IoT development and adoption.

“Sierra Wireless continues to be a great partner and we are not only there to help them with their own requirements but truly focused on getting their customers to market with the best antenna and RF solutions first time and on time”.

The WLA.01 uses the main device PCB as a ground plane, thereby increasing its antenna efficiency. It’s ideal for use in polymer and plastic housings generally associated with IoT devices. When tested in the mangOH system, efficiency was over 45 percent across all the IoT bands. Taoglas made specific recommendations about antenna integration and expectations based on potential use cases for devices built on the mangOH Red platform.

“The antenna gain looks great,” Syal said. “Overall, I think we made an excellent choice choosing these antennas from Taoglas.”

5G Antenna Technology

Courtesy of Taoglas

*Image: Slide from presentation given by Taoglas RF Engineer Baha Badran at Antenna Innovation and Evolution, hosted by the IWPC, 2017.

5G innovation will enable an era of connectivity like never before. Anticipated experiences from autonomous driving, tactile internet, Ultra HD video and VR based immersive technologies, all capacity-hungry communications, will see demands for higher throughput, better spectral efficiency, ultra-low latency and over 100 times the current number of connections. Taoglas are continuously at the forefront of wireless antenna technologies and we have various 5G antenna products to meet these demands in a range of applications.

In order to support increased traffic capacity, over 10 times existing throughput, and to enable the transmission bandwidths needed to support very high data rates, 5G will extend the range of frequencies used for mobile communication in legacy LTE/4G systems as well as leverage the new Radio Access Technology for 5G called ‘NX’. ‘NX will focus on new frequencies including new spectrum at sub 6GHz, as well as spectrum in higher frequency bands at mmW. We will address these new standards in 3GGP release 14.

Taoglas envisages that 5G antenna technology will be a combination of sub 6GHz antenna systems as well as mmW antenna systems, the latter will work just below 30 GHz and also from 30 GHz to 77 GHz. There is particular emphasis from a hardware and network deployment viewpoint on the 28 GHz.

3GGP Release 14 also discusses MU-Massive MIMO which uses a large number of antennas, typically 64/128/256 or more antennas for Multi-user MIMO and/or 2 dimensional beamforming.

Taoglas 5G antenna technology offerings will leverage both the sub 6GHz and mmW frequency space to give ubiquitous coverage and capacity for networks of the future. We believe that the C band can offer a good compromise for range vs coverage for MU Massive MIMO beamforming antenna technology. At Taoglas we demonstrate this in our product offering of the 5-6 GHz Massive MIMO Base Station Antennas, namely the MCM 100 with 64 elements 19dBi effective gain. Digital beamforming can be incorporated in the base band processor of the radios connected to each of the individual antennas.

According to this CNET article, which features Ronan Quinlan, Joint CEO of Taoglas “Next-gen networks will have vast capacity so your phone can handle data even in massive crowds. Help for self-driving cars will have to wait longer, though.”

But watch this space! At Taoglas we are constantly innovating on 5G antenna technology. Just watch the video to see a range of uses for Taoglas 5G antennas in the Automotive industry. See also, our range of internal and external 5G antennas. At Taoglas you can work with our engineers to have the antenna tested, customised and even certified for your needs.  Simply, fill out this form to get the process started.

Taoglas Filter Technology

Courtesy of Taoglas

Taoglas has leveraged our extensive RF experience and materials expertise to create a line of filter technology products optimized to meet the needs of wireless device designers.

We offer high pass, low pass, band pass, notch, and diplex filters manufactured using a range of filter technologies to meet most RF needs.

Our filters are typically designed as surface mount components, but many can be connectorized for integration with external components.

The following filter technologies are available from Taoglas:

Ceramic Dielectric Filters (Discrete and Monoblock)
Ceramic dielectric filters are constructed of ceramic resonators of varying
dimensions, which can be either strung together in series with coupling capacitors
(in the case of discrete ceramic dielectrics) or formed into a single block (in the
case of monoblock ceramic dielectrics).

Advantages:

  • High power-handling capability
  • Good insertion loss
  • Configurable transition band roll-off
  • Good stopband performance
  • Low minimum order quantity
  • Fast prototyping (discrete)
  • Low cost (monoblock)

Low-Temperature Co-fired Ceramic (LTCC) Filters
LTCC technology allows miniature LC filter circuits to be constructed as a single
surface mount ceramic chip component.

Advantages:

  • Physically small
  • Low cost
  • Good insertion loss

Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) Filters
SAW filters are formed on a single crystal to create a filter not made up of resonant
LC combinations.

Advantages:

  • Physically small
  • Fastest transition roll-off
  • Medium cost

Coaxial Filters

Coaxial filters are inline cable filters placed directly on the end of the antenna port to eliminate or reduce radio interference problems. They use standard RP SMA connectors and are easily screwed onto this standard antenna SMA connector.

Advantages:

  • It reduces out of band noise entering the receiver.
  • It reduces the antenna transmissions of out of band noise affecting other circuitry.
  • Has better insertion loss and stop band performance than competing LTCC or lumped element filters, while also maintaining good rejection at band edges.
  • Ideal for UAV applications

Taoglas announced it’s new RF filter division at Mobile World Congress Americas in September 2017.

Case Study: Guardity Technologies selects custom Taoglas MPA.11A for AngelGuard Crash Notification

Courtesy of Taoglas

Six million auto accidents in the United States each year result in over 40,000 deaths and two million permanent injuries. Many of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented if only someone had called 911 sooner, or if the caller could have provided more accurate information to dispatchers. Texas-based Guardity Technologies manufactures an automatic crash notification device (ACN) called AngelGuard that they hope will greatly reduce these numbers.

Technology makes a difference in a crisis

Guardity’s AngelGuard is a miniature device that plugs in under the dashboard of a vehicle and incorporates sophisticated sensors and advanced intelligence to accurately detect a crash. Through voice communication with 911 services, it helps 911 assess probable injuries. In the case of an accident, this intelligent M2M black box makes an immediate call directly to 911 using the nearest cellular network and automatically transmits critical crash details and location directly to the computer screen of the nearest 911 dispatcher.

The technology under the hood

The secret sauce behind AngelGuard is its built-in intelligence — this ACN solution not only detects a crash, but it analyzes the crash and calculates the probability of occupant injury. It intelligently determines if a call to 911 is needed, immediately places the call and automatically sends the dispatcher all the critical accident details.

In order to provide the correct triangulation of location coupled with a reliable, consistent connection to the T-Mobile Network, AngelGuard needed to incorporate a highly efficient antenna in order to provide nationwide 911 connectivity and link occupants directly with emergency services in a crisis situation. There was zero tolerance for error.

“I trust them and they have the best technical competence in antenna design that’s out there in the market. They know what they are talking about and just get the job done” — Joe Mader, President, Guardity

Guardity President Joe Mader said his team began designing the product in 2011 and early on, they started to work with a design services firm on antenna options before they got into the heavy lifting of designing the electronics. “We wanted to make sure we were prepared for certification from day one,” commented Mader. “When our product housing was ready, we went back to the design services firm in December 2012 to fit the antenna. We were shocked to find out that not only had they made no progress, but they couldn’t supply us with any antenna that would work in the design. We thought we were months away from a production launch and suddenly everything had blown up in our face.”

Working with Taoglas

Presented with this grim situation, Guardity needed to quickly find new assistance in helping the company certify AngelGuard successfully on the cellular networks. It was then that Mader was introduced to Taoglas, whose off-the-shelf antenna Guardity had previously used. That antenna offered very good quality with great performance, so Mader decided to give Taoglas a call.

“I was instantly impressed with Taoglas,” noted Mader. “I was connected immediately with the founder and director of Taoglas, Dermot O’Shea, and he lost no time getting to the bottom of the situation. He took a look at the hardware and system and made some frank suggestions. As President, I like people to be open with me and give me the lay of the land. Dermot was brutally honest with me. He was direct in telling me what was going on. As the relationship developed, if he saw a problem on the horizon, he told us straight away and helped us avert another potential crisis.”

Teamwork from Taoglas

AngelguardGuardity decided to work with Taoglas. The project was handed over to the Taoglas team, who did a thorough review. Manveer Brar, antenna design engineer at Taoglas, remembers the job well. “The product had many challenges,” she recalled. “While a vertical PCB antenna would have been the most ideal choice, Guardity had built all the molds and dies, costing thousands of dollars. Added to this, the antenna had to be housed in a small form factor of 1.8″ × 2.9″ × 1″ with little clearance between the PCB and the antenna.” The Taoglas solution was a custom GSM antenna, the MPA.11A, which operated on 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz frequencies and delivered over 50% efficiency performance in passive tests on the higher bands.

The AngelGuard also transmits location to the 911 dispatcher’s terminal. Mader commented, “Here again, we were very pleased with the performance of a Taoglas GPS antenna. We originally planned to use another antenna design by another automotive antenna manufacturer. However, Taoglas immediately verified the problems with this earlier concept and helped us design an entirely new GPS antenna implementation.”

The proof of the pudding is in the eating

Now that the antenna was fixed and ready to go, pre PTCRB certification tests — mainly RSE (Radiated Spurious Emission) testing — were done. The tests on the low band showed no problems, but the high band tests showed a noise spur, which would result in a failure at that point. Guardity set to work on the AngelGuard, the spike was fixed and AngelGuard was resubmitted for pretest. However, the subsequent pretest showed that while the changes made to fix the spur worked, the alterations had caused new issues on the lower frequencies.

Mader went back to Taoglas. This challenge was now handed over to Carlos Montoya, noise control engineer at Taoglas, to go through design reviews and see if there were any other issues lurking out there. “The noise control service at Taoglas was over a year in operation at that stage,” commented Montoya. “We gave the device a thorough review and made a number of recommendations and changes that Guardity would need to carry out.” Once these recommendations were adopted, AngelGuard was ready for the official PTCRB tests. This time, it sailed through PTCRB pretests and passed without a problem!

A perfect ending

“It was a relief,” said Mader. “Today, in 2014, as we speak, the product has now finished rolling off the assembly line and we are in trial with a large number of fleets. The product is available for purchase and we are seeing interest and orders coming in already. Everything has worked out for the best.”

Taoglas made a difference

When asked what impressed him about Taoglas, Mader said that from the moment he made the first call to the Taoglas office, office manager Catherine Cusack was instantly responsive and had Dermot on the phone within minutes. No time was lost. &lldquo;They understood how critical the situation was and immediately looked at the hardware, the systems and gave me a thorough review. Their speed and thoroughness was impressive,” noted Mader. The entire team — from Dermot to the engineers and office staff — all took a personal interest in making sure we succeeded,” said Mader.

“During the process, whenever we had an issue, Dermot would get on the phone and immediately start making phone calls for us and tracking down parts of the rules of certification. Taoglas was very, very helpful. I trust them and they have the best technical competence in antenna design that’s out there in the market. They know what they are talking about and just get the job done.”

Working with Taoglas again

“I truly view Taoglas as a design partner and absolutely intend to engage them for new products down the road. There’s no doubt in my mind that they are top class. My strong appreciation goes to Dermot and his team, ” said Mader. “For our next product, I plan on flying out there and working with Dermot and Manveer before I do the first schematic. I’ll be using them as a design partner from day one.”


Taoglas LDS Solutions For The Automotive Industry

Courtesy of Taoglas
OBD Wireless Transceiver Module

OBD Wireless Transceiver Model – with outer sleeve removed. Figure 1.

New LDS Technology gives Taoglas a highly competitive edge in offering ultimate design freedom for customers. We support running design changes such as antenna performance tuning & optimisation. With Taoglas working closely with the customer during all stages of the design process, we can facilitate a high degree of design flexibility.  See how we use LDS technology to provide innovative solutions for the automotive industry.

Title:

On Board Diagnostics [OBD] Wireless Transceiver Module.

Industry:

Automotive.

Challenge:

Integrate a high-performance GPS and a GSM antenna into compact OBD form factor.

The challenge was to integrate two high performance and efficient antennas into the compact space provided. The first antenna was a 1575.42 MHz GPS antenna to be used for positioning information, the second antenna would be a dual-band GSM antenna for data transmission and designed to operate at both 900MHZ and 1800MHz.  The first stage of the design involved working closely with the customer to mechanically model the product in Solidworks®. This stage of development was important as the 3D structure, the construction requirements and space limitations needed to be clearly defined. Taoglas is now offering LDS Technology to address customer needs for smaller, higher performance products with integrated LDS antennas. 

Once the physical outline and space requirements were complete, the choice of LDS polymer resin could be made. Based on the requirements of the application, ABS resin was chosen as it is a popular polymer, for internal cabin use, in the automotive industry. Many LDS resins* are available within the popular LDS resin families shown below.

  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Nylon (PPA)
  • Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
  • Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT)
  • Polyphenylene Sulphide (PPS)
  • Liquid Crystal Polymers (LCP)

Once the physical design and LDS resin had been selected, the basic antenna designs could begin. The two antennas were placed on opposite sides, and on the outer surface, of the planned plastic housing. The positions of the antennas were chosen to maximise isolation between antennas themselves and between the antennas and from the main internal electronics board [PCB].

The design of the connections to both antennas was achieved by using compact surface mount “C” clips. These connector components are supplied by Taoglas [part number CC.001] and are ideal for use in these types of compact assemblies. They are easy to assemble onto the main PCB as they use the same standard SMT assembly process used to manufacture the PCB.

The plastic housing design is also optimised to provide dedicated contact points for the clips to make reliable connections to the LDS pattern. The LDS pattern is designed so the contact points will be directly over the PCB mounted “C” clips during final assembly (see figure 2). The “C” themselves have a working vertical tolerance of 1mm so possible concerns with construction tolerances are not an issue.

(Cut away graphic showing two CC.001 clips connecting with the GPS antenna pattern)

(Cut away graphic showing two CC.001 clips connecting with the GPS antenna pattern) Figure 2

Finally, detailed modeling of the two antennas could be completed with the final physical requirements defined. For full antenna modeling, Taoglas uses CST Microwave Studio®. The antenna performance was iterated on and optimised using CST minimising the need for expense and time consuming “trial and error” sample builds.

The first production representation samples of the device were manufactured using the Taoglas LDS capability in Taiwan. A MicroLine 160i LDS laser was quickly configured to precisely transfer the antenna pattern from CAD data onto the surface of the first molded housings. Subsequent metalization of the antenna surfaces, activated by the LDS laser, provides plating Copper plated to a thickness of 12um followed by Nickel plated to a thickness of 4um.

(Optimised CST Electromagnetic field and current models)

(Optimised CST Electromagnetic field and current models) Figure 3

LPKF Microline 160i LDS Laser available at Taoglas Taiwan

(LPKF Microline 160i LDS Laser available at Taoglas Taiwan) Figure 4

Conclusion:

For the customer, Taoglas provided two highly integrated and efficient antennas which performed well within their compact OBD transceiver device. The LDS solution easily outperformed traditional approaches. The radiation patterns for traditional antennas such as stamped metal, PCB mount or integrated PCB antennas would have been impacted by their close proximity to the main electronics PCB and would have led to reduced isolation between antennas. The alternative was to make the OBD transceiver module bigger which was not an option for the customer. Finally, LDS allowed the antenna patterns and associated performance to be optimised quickly, without expensive tooling modifications, and allowed the product to go quickly into production.

Read more about Taoglas LDS Technology

References:

  • Solidworks® and CST Microwave Studio® Registered trademarks of Dassault Systèmes, France.
  • MicroLine 160i is an LDS laser system manufactured and licensed by LPKF, Germany.
  • CC.001 is a SMT “C” Clip available from Taoglas: http://www.taoglas.com/product/cc-001-smt-c-clip-connector/
  •   *: LPKF LDS Approved Polymer Resins: http://www.lpkf.com/_mediafiles/2074-approved-plastics-lpkf-lds-2017-02.pdf
  • **: LPKF LDS Design Guidelines: http://www.lpkf.com/applications/mid/design-rules/index.htm

Smart City Bigbelly uses Taoglas antennas to create “Smart Trash Cans”

Courtesy of Taoglas

Technological innovation and waste and recycling management are opposing concepts for most people, but Massachusetts-based Bigbelly links the two with the help of advanced antennas from Taoglas.

BB5 Triple - Times Square, NYC - WrapsRecognizing the opportunities to transform one of the least efficient and most resource-intensive industries on the planet — waste and recycling management — Bigbelly launched in 2003 with the introduction of the first smart waste and recycling system.

In the following years, the company evolved to offer a unique solution for the public space by leveraging renewable solar energy and information technology. The smart, cloud-connected system beautifies public spaces and supercharges operations. It features unique compaction technology driven by solar power to deliver increased capacity and total waste containment. The cloud connection provides real-time actionable data on capacity for each type of waste – trash; single-stream, bottle/can and paper recycling; and organics — to ensure maximized operational efficiency.

With the efficiency gains its customers realize, Bigbelly has been instrumental in the implementation of the first widespread public space recycling programs in cities such as New York, Chicago, and Boston, and is now pioneering public space compostable collection as well. Bigbelly is a key infrastructure solution for waste management in the evolution toward Smart Cities powered by data and cloud computing.

Reinventing waste and recycling collection

Bigbelly was addressing a real need with its new smart waste and recycling management solution. Cities were either: collecting too often and wasting fuel and labor while creating CO2 emissions, or they were unable to keep up with the demand, leading to overflowing trash cans, creating litter, health, and safety issues. As Taoglas Vice President of North American Sales Tim Dolan noted,

“Bigbelly took a modern approach by developing a system that would send information back to a Bigbelly customer’s department of public works or facilities management group. Armed with real-time data, customers can easily optimize the waste and recycling collection process by scheduling pickups as needed, which in turn reduces the need for trucks to drive around every day.”

Bigbelly needed GPS and cellular communication as part of PA.25A-1its solution. The company required an antenna solution that provided reliable, efficient connectivity, even in urban canyons or locations with many buildings, trees and other obstructions. Back when it was a startup, Bigbelly learned about Taoglas from the leading M2M module manufacturers. According to Dolan, “The only problem was that trash cans are typically constructed from metal, which completely blocks RF signals. Having worked with many product types to incorporate cellular and GPS, we knew we could handle this issue.” In addition, with its circuit board already designed, Bigbelly needed an efficient antenna that would easily retrofit into its system. Taoglas was up to the challenge.

Though the Bigbelly units are made of metal, the middle of the solar panel located on top of the unit and covered with a plastic window houses the PCB board. This allowed for the reliable transmission of RF signals from the bin, which reported location, fill levels, and collection status.

Dermot O’Shea, president of Taoglas USA, remembers the project.

“It was a bizarre and exciting project to work on. Can you imagine waste and recycling actually connecting and delivering information through 2G/3G technology? A few years ago, we would not have imagined this was possible, but that’s the amazing aspect of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine (M2M) technology.”

Needing quick, easy integration

Needing to work with an already-designed PCB, Taoglas Engineering chose its FXP14 antenna for the project. Made from a flexible polymer, this hepta-band cellular antenna is an ultra-low-profile antenna that can directly adhere to the housing of a product — even a curved housing. Connection with the Bigbelly station was made by mechanical contact with the main board. The FXP14 antenna delivers efficiency of over 50% on all cellular bands of 850, 900, 1700, 1800, 1900, 2100 MHz and covers GPS for GSM, CDMA, DCS, PCS, WCDMA, UMTS, HSPA, GPRS, and EDGE.

Bigbelly was delighted with the antenna choice. “The off-the-shelf FXP14 needed no customization. Our connectivity was pre-tested in Taoglas’ anechoic chamber in San Diego, and once Taoglas gave us the all clear, we submitted the device to PTCRB for testing and approval. Taoglas recommended the right solution, and we passed first time,” said Kevin Menice, VP of Engineering at Bigbelly.

According to O’Shea, “We work a lot with IoT/M2M devices, and we find the FXP14 delivers higher performance, resulting in a better connection to the network. It will improve sensitivity, particularly in low signal areas, and result in higher data throughput rates. This made it perfect for the Bigbelly units, which need to work just as well in rural low-signal areas as they do in urban settings. Network approvals are easier to pass with the FXP14 because the probability of radiated spurious emissions is lessened, allowing for a quicker and more cost-efficient route to market.”

Moving on to the next generation

The Bigbelly waste and recycling units needed an efficient cellular and GPS signal in order to communicate when each can was full so Bigbelly’s customers could plan an optimized collection route and thus maximize their profits. The initial system employing the Taoglas FXP14 was extremely effective, but in late 2009, Bigbelly realized it was time to consider a new design. According to Menice, “Because of the possibility of vandalism or accident (being struck by a car), we had to design a more robust system with added stability.”

This is where the Taoglas PA.25A Anam came in, explained O’Shea. “It’s an SMD antenna so it’s directly soldered on the main board.” Collaborating with Taoglas, the new design incorporated the PA.25A into the design of the updated board. The PA.25A delivers efficiency of over 51% on all bands including 850, 900, 1700, 1800, 1900 and 2100 Mhz for GSM, CDMA, DCS, PCS, WCDMA, UMTS, HSDPA, GPRS and EDGE.

“This new antenna called Anam — which means ‘soul’ — is the heart and soul of our antenna line,” said O’Shea. “It’s our best-selling and best-performing embedded cellular antenna. It is the result of years of intensive research and development into high-grade ceramic formulas and is a significant achievement in getting all the lower cellular bands designed into one small form factor. Its efficiency of more than 51% on all bands is unheard of in the market. Moreover, it is extremely robust and durable for use in extreme environments such as the automotive industry. It can be integrated off the shelf without the need for customization.”

“The PA.25A is an internal SMD ceramic antenna that we use when more robustness is demanded. It is the highest-performing solution of all antenna types,” O’Shea continued. “It consists of a specially formulated dielectric ceramic. A trace is printed using high-grade silver ink, combining a spatial geometry of monopole-PIFA topologies and delivered in tape and reel.” The PA.25A antenna can be mounted on any PCB using existing SMD processes.

GPS connectivity was also needed for this new generation so the SGP.25C SMD antenna was also incorporated into the new design directly, making the overall product more robust and reliable. “The SGP.25C is a surface mount solution also, which meets the environmental conditions required of the new design, with regards to their reliability vis-à-vis shock and vibration.” Dermot O’Shea explains ““the GPS functionality can be used for location of the solar trash compactors”.

These antennas were installed in the Bigbelly waste and recycling units and the solution was a perfect match. “We had a strong solution for our customers. Taoglas helped us navigate the approvals and are well versed in delivering connectivity to IoT/M2M devices,” noted Menice.

Looking toward the future

During the years of collaboration with Taoglas, Bigbelly has seen ongoing success as it has grown to a world leader in smart waste and recycling systems. The company now has solutions deployed in every state and more than 47 countries, and has won numerous awards. Giving its customers – municipalities, college campuses, corporate offices and retail locations, healthcare facilities – the ability to right-size waste and recycling management for each location helps shrink collection frequency by 70 to 80 percent in a fiscally responsible way, explained Menice.

According to Dolan, Bigbelly is in line with today’s mindset. “Customers love this smart waste and recycling system for its myriad benefits — beautifying public space with total containment and reduced litter overflows and pest eradication, operational efficiencies, including reduced collection frequency, cost reductions, and reallocation of people resources to more impactful projects, etc. It’s no wonder the company is such a success.”

An issue on the horizon is the inevitable march of technology. In 2016, certain main carriers will no longer service 2G networks, instead focusing on 3G and 4G. The result is that while IoT/M2M devices in the market may work a little longer, most providers are moving toward incorporating technology that will function in 4G markets. Fortunately, the PA.25A works with 3G, and given the level of data transfer, it will serve Bigbelly’s needs well for many years.

“Nevertheless, we’re in the process of defining 4G MIMO solutions with Bigbelly,” explained Dolan.

In a market with constantly changing technology, the company can rely on Taoglas to help keep them abreast of 5G capabilities when they appear.

“We will continue to evaluate using Taoglas when it comes to adding new capabilities to our waste and recycling system. We are confident that they can provide a cost effective solution that also delivers high connectivity,” commented Menice.

Resources:

FXP14 Datasheet: http://www.taoglas.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/FXP14.07.0100A.pdf

FXP14 Press Release: http://www.taoglas.com/m2m-cellular-flexible-antenna/

PA.25A Datasheet: http://www.taoglas.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/PA.25a.pdf

PA25  Press Release: http://www.taoglas.com/miniature-hexaband-surface-mount/

SGP.25C Datasheet: http://www.taoglas.com/store/sgp-1575-25-4-c-02-gps-1575mhz-smd-mount-patch-with-pcb-25mm/

Bigbelly website: http://www.bigbelly.com/

Bigbelly Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigbelly

Laser Direct Structuring (LDS) Technology

Courtesy of Taoglas

Laser Direct Structuring (LDS) is a mature technology widely used in the Mobile, Automotive, Medical, Industrial and Consumer Electronics markets.

It allows higher levels of functional integration and is particularly useful for high-performance antenna integration.

Taoglas is now offering LDS Technology to address customer needs for smaller, higher performance products with integrated LDS antennas. LDS technology allows an antenna design to be directly placed onto the surface of a molded plastic part which can become part of the planner enclosure for the finished product or sub-assembly.

LDS allows higher levels of product integration with fewer components and lower costs. The antenna no longer needs to be a separate component to perform well and effectively requires no dedicated space.

The LDS Process:

Firstly, molded parts are produced with standard injection molding equipment. The molding equipment uses commercially available resins which include additives suitable for the LDS process. A broad range of LDS plastic resins are available.

The next stage of the LDS process utilizes a laser beam to precisely transfer the antenna pattern from CAD data onto the surface of the plastic molding. This process provides great design flexibility allowing the antenna to fully utilize the 3D surface available.

Finally, the parts pass through a metallization process. Metallization is accomplished via an electroless plating process whereby copper, nickel, and other metals are plated onto the defined antenna pattern.

Through hole vias, contact pads and RF feed lines may also be added during LDS processing.

The Key Advantages:

  • High degree of design flexibility.
  • Ability to make products smaller by creating antenna structures on the enclosure.
  • Facilitates quick change of antenna layouts easily without expensive tooling changes.
  • There are currently over 15 suppliers and over 100 polymer resins available including popular PC, PC/ABS, ABS, LCP materials.
  • The technology supports running design changes such as antenna performance tuning & optimisation.
  • Offers cost-savings particularly for higher volume applications.

LDS technology offers the ultimate design freedom in three dimensions. Utilizing all three dimensions allows the antenna to outperform PCB mounted or PCB integrated antennas as the antenna no longer needs to be in close proximity to other components, batteries, displays or other antennas which will degrade the antenna radiation pattern.

Taoglas will work closely with the customer during all stages of the design to ensure that the LDS is “designed for manufacture”, optimizes antenna performance and provides a cost-effective solution for volume production.

Connected Cars Place New Demands on Vehicle Electronics Design

Courtesy of Taoglas 

Connected Cars Place New Demands on Vehicle Electronics Design

By Chris Anderson, CTO, Taoglas. Article featured in Wireless, Design & Development Magazine, Vol. 25, No. 5 

The connected car of the future will have more options than ever, expanding beyond basic infotainment and navigation systems to offer the latest in safety features, and (in the-nottoo-distant future) autonomous driving. The requirement for more sensors and antennas to deliver high-bandwidth, low-latency connectivity is seemingly at odds with another requirement of auto manufacturers—fewer cables and connectors that cause noise and vibrations, while being complicated and expensive to install. In today’s connected cars, antennas and electronics are increasingly being forced in closer proximity. What does that mean for design engineers?

For a modern car, electronics represent a little more than 30 percent of the vehicle’s total costs, and that percentage is expected to rise.  The more electronics a vehicle deploys, the greater need for electrical power, system components, and need to interconnect those system components. Electronic connections (be it the power supply or control wiring harness), digital communications connections, or radio frequency (RF) interfaces add complexity, cost, and weight.

Automotive designers spend considerable effort to minimize these factors. Consumer expectations are such that even base model vehicles are now expected to have features like smartphone connectivity via Bluetooth, entertainment, and safety systems like the Event Data Recorder or European eCall. Hence, significant design efforts are required in this area every time for all models. Old cars dealt with the power and control needs of facets like power windows and seats, using very complicated discrete wiring systems. Their weight and cost kept these features in premium vehicles.

Bosch created the Controller Area Network (CAN) bus in the mid- 1980s to address these issues. Today, CAN allows for power and communications using simpler and cheaper connectors and wiring. Some new car features such as the entertainment center, cameras, and cellular/Internet connectivity, use variations of USB and Ethernet. However, none of these address the need to run radio signals around the car. The GNSS receiver, eCall cellular radio, SiriusXM receiver, new DSRC radio (for talking to other cars and roadside infrastructure), maintenance cellular radio, remote keyless entry radio, and tire pressure monitoring system receiver all need RF cabling, connectors, and antennas.

Strategies For Elegance

The first step in simplifying vehicle interconnects was the use of a multi-drop digital data bus instead of discrete wires.  The next major step has been to consolidate functions into clusters of electronics. This often includes radio communications devices like GPS or cellular radio systems. One trade-off is how antennas for the radios in question often need to be remotely mounted elsewhere in the car for an appropriate radiation pattern to communicate with the radio link’s other end. GNSS or SiriusXM obviously need a clear view of the sky to see satellites, while cellular antennas need a clear view of the horizon.

This is where physics starts to complicate matters. Running radio frequency signals around a car from a radio and antenna is normally accomplished with coaxial transmission line cables. The thinner and lighter those cables are, the cheaper and more flexible they become. Unfortunately, this also means sacrificing performance and introducing more signal loss, which is proportional to both frequency and length of the cable.

In the case of GNSS, this situation can be easily addressed using an active antenna. The GNSS antenna contains a receive filter and Low Noise Amplifier (LNA), which is powered by a DC voltage over the coax cable. This removes the coaxial cable losses and helps retain the best possible performance. While this is normal practice for GNSS and SiriusXM receive-only systems, the process is increasingly difficult to do with radio systems that are bi-directional and also transmit, such as cellular, WiFi, and Bluetooth.

The filter and LNA added to a receive-only radio are duplications of parts already in the receiver.

In that context, they’re an added expense over what would be needed if the coax losses were low enough. For a radio that transmits, however, this sort of solution would require transmit and receive filters, a transmit power amplifier big enough for the signals in question, the receive LNA, a pair of RF switches, a power supply system, and dedicated transmit/receive control signal from the remote radio.

This, in turn, would require a coax cable between the radio, its active antenna, and also a control signal cable. Just as with GNSS, all this is already built into the cellular radio, so it’s a lot of extra expense and complication to mitigate coax losses. Therefore, it’s very rare to see an active antenna for a cellular system because of the added cost. The brute-force way of dealing with coax losses in cellular or other transmitting radios is often to use lower loss, higher-quality coax as the transmission line. There are trade-offs, however, in that the higher-performance coax is thicker, heavier, stiffer, and expensive.

Antennas Of The Future

The trend of co-locating the radios and their antennas will only continue, as the cost, weight, complexity, and RF performance benefits far outweigh the added design and development complexity. In some cases, however, as additional antennas are added, a certain minimum separation between antennas is required. This is likely to push most antennas into a single area of the car. It will also require that an antenna deployment area will take up more space. An example here would be the need to have four cellular antennas, GNSS, DSRC, SiriusXM, and two WiFi antennas all located in a single enclosure on the roof of a car. Car designers are not likely to accept the 400-mm diameter dome that would be the optimal size solution for this, so a lot of effort will go into understanding the complex interaction of co-locating all these antennas and the radios that use them. Some antenna companies have already been doing this sort of product for other markets. While it would be nice to get all the car antennas into a single package, some smaller number of antennas will still need to be located away from the main antenna cluster with coax; for example, AM/FM antennas, because of their size and the common need to have two of them for receive diversity. Another example would be cellular antennas that need to be physically separated to ensure maximum MIMO throughput performance. Even in these cases, it’s most likely that the radios in question would still get integrated into a TCU-type solution and the location of the antennas constrained to somewhere that keeps the coax runs short. Longer term, it would make sense to create a digital interface standard for the FM broadcast radio, GNSS, and other radios such that the radios could be integrated directly with their antenna. This would allow those radio and antenna units to be distributed around the car wherever the vehicle designer has a place to put them that lines up with the radio’s performance need while also minimizing the use of coax cable and RF interconnects. The connections would be limited to high-speed digital data and power, and the lower-cost wiring and connectors that involves. One trend that’s already in discussion is running power and communication over the same wires. Historically the power system in a vehicle was viewed as being so noisy that to make any attempt at communication over the same wires would be highly unreliable. Using new digital spread spectrum communication techniques, viable solutions have already been created that could one day allow the interconnection of vehicle systems with only two or even one wire(s).

Go Where the Antennas Are

As the number of radio systems in cars grow, a better overall solution to the coax issues is to simply locate the radios very close to their antennas. This has resulted in the radios moving into a combined electronics package. An example of one is called a Telematic Control Unit (TCU). The TCU is then physically located near the antennas, wherever they’re placed on the vehicle.

This has a number of effects:

  1. The longer runs of coax cables that used to go from the radios to the antennas are now effectively replaced with cheap digital communication wiring between the TCU and rest of the car systems.
  2. Active antennas are no longer needed because the transmission lines between radio and antenna are so short, their losses are negligible.
  3. The antennas all need to be in roughly the same area of the car, or the above benefits are lost.
  4. Co-locating radio antennas creates a greater possibility for interference between the radio systems that must be carefully designed around. When the antennas were farther apart, this issue could often be ignored.
  5. Co-locating the radio electronics near their antennas creates more opportunity for RF emissions from those electronics to interfere with radio reception performance. This requires additional design effort and testing.

This co-location of TCU electronics and antennas also creates a need for new RF interconnects. While using a small, short coax cable to connect the TCU radios and antennas is an obvious solution, all those connectors are potential long-term failure points. When there can be up to eight or 10 coax connections between a TCU and its antenna system, there is also potential for assembly mistakes and a non-trivial amount of assembly labor costs.

Most RF connector systems haven’t changed for decades. It’s uncommon having to connect an array of eight to 10 RF feeds between two electronic boards in a small physical space. As such, there haven’t been a lot of products to meet this need, especially in a low-cost, high-density, highvibration environment. Most of these interfaces are still proprietary custom solutions not commonly available off the shelf. Since both sides of such an RF connector interface are specific to the product to which they’re being deployed, there’s no driving need for an interconnecting standard. A generic solution for this application is a current point of research for connector and antenna companies so that future products can simply reuse a known good solution.

One of the most interesting areas of investigation is the use of a selective axis of conduction elastomer materials to create PCB board-to-board interconnects with what looks like a simple layer of rubber. There are still significant issues to be solved, such as insertion losses, isolation, and cross-talk, but the concept looks promising.

The state-of-the-art in cabling for automotive electronics focuses on minimizing the number and length of all cables in the vehicle. This has led to consolidation of the electronics into packages with similar physical needs in the car. The future of cabling in cars will continue to push towards higher-speed data buses and minimizing interconnects other than power and data. This all conspires to further complicate the design and test of the vehicle electronic systems. That additional complication highlights the need for experienced expert partners when it comes to specialties like radio electronics and antennas.

Read the Original Article on Wireless, Design & Development Magazine