Silicon Labs - Miniaturizing IoT designs


As we wirelessly connect more and more devices to the Internet, electronics engineers face several challenges, including how to package a radio transmitter into their existing device real estate and how to make increasingly smaller devices. They’re also striving to meet consumer demand for Internet of Things (IoT) products that are ergonomically easy to use and unobtrusive to the environment.

Size expectation is one of the most frequently asked questions when considering IoT devices, along with radio
performance and price. Ideally, engineers would like to use IoT components that are as small as possible, have great RF performance, and are affordable. These characteristics do not typically converge in IoT component offerings, and that presents a challenge for solution providers.

Fortunately, the size of a silicon die has been getting smaller and smaller over the years as the industry adopts new silicon manufacturing processes. The industry has been solving the space issue for IoT implementations by
combining the MCU and RF front end into system-on-chip (SoC) configurations (i.e., making wireless MCUs available.) However, the trend toward SoCs has not solved the physics of the RF transmitter — the antenna. Antenna design is often left for a customer to sort out, or they may be guided to choose ready-to-use wireless modules with an integrated antenna. The space required for an antenna is a challenge that comes with designing small IoT devices. It needs to be efficient while also enabling reliable wireless connections. For this reason, the focus of this whitepaper is highlighting the specific concerns around antenna integration.