Antennas for LoRa, LPWAN and 4G

Real world antenna considerations for LoRa, LPWAN and 4G

The last part of an RF-based design is commonly considered to be the antenna. In a remote design where optimal connectivity, low power performance and long battery life is paramount, the antenna decision should, in fact, be a priority as one of the first decisions. Antennas come in a wide range of shapes and sizes; the selection decision will likely influence the shape, size and the material used for the finished product enclosure.

Placement

Antenna placement is key especially for integrated (internal) antennas where there is limited space, and/or shielding from metal objects such as batteries, RF shielding cans, the PCB, mounting brackets and LCD displays. Essentially, with anything metallic, you have to carefully ensure that the antenna has a good view of the sky. In most cases, the optimal position for the antenna is either mounted on the top of the design inside or outside the enclosure. Many designers opt for the internal antennas as they are more aesthetically pleasing but this actually helps mitigate the problem of them being unscrewed or potentially damaged. That said, an externally mounted antenna will generally give better performance, however this usually comes down to the type or style of product being designed.

If you decide to use an internal antenna, you have two options: on PCB or off PCB. When considering this, the following areas need to be addressed:

For trace-on-board antennas, performance may be compromised; you need to ensure the PCB material is stable over temperature and humidity as this will change the RF performance. With respect to the chip-on-board antennas, they may need to be placed with a track along the long edge of the PCB to enable it to be tuned for best performance. For these reasons, many designers opt for the PCB patch antenna with micro coax feeders that are generally connected using U.FL style RF connectors.

The quality of the micro coax is vital; low quality micro coax cables may have a screen without a tight weave, which can cause the transmission to leak over the design, thus, causing instability. The higher the transmission power, the worser the effect. In addition to this, it’s good practice to route the micro coax around the internal corners of the enclosure and hold it in place with a drip of silicon or mould a pin into the housing to guarantee its route. We have seen many designs where MCU’s go into reset during transmit, due to poor quality coax and/or wrong placement of the coax.

It is critical to avoid detuning the antenna at the required frequencies as it can inadvertently change its performance. To ensure best performance, the RF module – regardless of band – must have a good 50 Ohm RF match as close to 1:1 as possible. However, sometimes this isn’t achievable because of the materials used in the enclosure or external mounting brackets etc. Therefore, it’s good practice placing the component spaces/layout for a Pi filter as close to the RF Module as you can, between the Module and RF connector. This fitted with a zero Ohm link to begin with, enables inductors and capacitors to be placed in the future to tune-up the antenna, to achieve optimal performance.

Testing

Sometimes, to only test that the design works on the bench just isn’t enough. Range/field testing in ‘real world’ style installations should be done to ensure you have good range margins. Testing in the field taking into account the signal attenuation caused by rain, fog, wet trees, buildings, vehicles etc. will ensure the design performs well without a hitch when deployed.

Long Range

Having an antenna with the best RF performance isn’t just a matter of good design practice – it can drastically improve the communication range and battery life. If the VSWR is off (antenna mismatched), you are burning more power than you need to during the transmit event and the received signal level is lower, hence requiring more current through the receiver stage. LoRa and LPWAN is predominantly about long range, low-power communications, so battery life and operational life in the field without the need for a truck-roll to change battery is the holy grail.

Contact Us for Any Advice

Solid State Supplies have a wide range of services assisting customers in antenna selection, placement and tuning. Our advice is free, so please contact us if you need any help.

We have a comprehensive range of antenna solutions supporting all types of wireless technologies including LoRa. Below is a selection of LoRa antennas to help support your design. If you have any questions, need support or advice, Solid State Supplies is here to service your technical and commercial requirements.

Written by Richard Bethell, Technical Director at Solid State Supplies

Contact Us For More Information

Recommended Antennas:

Style PCB Mounting Embedded Antennas

Antenova

2J

Internally Mounted Flexible PCB Antennas

Connector Mounted External Antennas

2J0B15-868-C885G

2J0B15-868-C884G

2JW0124

External Antennas with Cables

2JWIFI12 Antenna

‘Use some gain to remove the pain’

Richard Bethell, Technical Director at Solid State Supplies:

Installing a wireless-based solution can be a lot of hassle when you can’t make the distance within a good margin. However, the new 2JWIFI12 antenna promises great performance, making it a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card for the deployment of long range 2.4 & 5Ghz based wireless systems. If you’re looking for performance, we may have the answer.

The 2JWIFI12 is recommended for – but not limited to – the following applications:

  • Connecting to an Industrial style router to give Wi-Fi access across a large Industrial site
  • Point-to-point building communication for Wi-Fi
  • Greater Wi-Fi access in large buildings such as hospitals and government buildings
  • Extending the range of Wi-Fi in homes to give extended access in your garden or outdoor pursuits centre; where cellular connectivity isn’t available when using a laptop or tablet
  • Extending the range of any 2.4Ghz radio network, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Zigbee
  • The 2JWIFI12 antenna also support 2.4Ghz and 5.0Ghz Wi-Fi

Solid State Supplies also offer a host of communications solutions in module and box form for seamless global connectivity full details are available.

Contact us for more information

IoThink: Custom IoT Monitoring & Analysing Software

IoThink Solutions is an IoT company offering fully customisable software to remotely control, monitor and analyse data, equipment and environments to support various smart technologies. Founded in 2016 by Julien Dalmasso (CEO), Jérémy Mirouf (CTO) and Antoine Feldner (Head of Project Management department), using the ‘KHEIRON IoT Suite’, IoThink provides the tools needed to build bespoke IoT platforms which are compatible with a wide range of market sensors, and are adaptable to many applications to meet numerous requirements.

KHEIRON IoT Suite Features

  • KHEIRON Studio IoThink’s integrated development environment (IDE) to create your own dashboard
  • KHEIRON Service Platform web version to monitor your equipment and analyse your data
  • KHEIRON Mobile on iOS & Android

KHEIRON IoT Suite was named after the centaur Kheiron from Ancient Greece mythology, also represented by the constellation Sagittarius. According to Greek mythology, Kheiron was the wisest and most skillful of the centaurs, so much so that he was the master of many ancient heroes. He was not only recognised for his knowledge, but above all for his ability to restitute knowledge and transmit it. This is what the IoT platform, Kheiron IoT Suite, does.

Why Choose IoThink Solutions?

  • The platform is agnostic; it already works with more than 15 communication protocols and connectivity networks (Sigfox, Lora WAN, NB-IoT, LTE-M, 3G,4G, 5G, Wi-Fi, HTTPS, MQTTS, etc.)
  • IoThink has created more than 1000s of use cases to date – more than 100 of these are already available in their public library of dashboards
  • The platform is multi-tenant – specific rights and roles can be assigned to administrators, technicians, etc.
  • IoThink can integrate any type of sensor, tracker or machine to the KHEIRON platform; their developers have already created more than 500 decoders. If a customer cannot find a device in the public library, they simply need to submit the technical information (payload) and IoThink engineers will do the integration for the customer
  • KHEIRON Service Platform is available both on the web and on mobile devices (iOS and Android)
  • The entire solution is available in White Label
  • KHEIRON Studio allows you to quickly design your own dashboard (create custom Digital Twins) using the ‘Drag & Drop’ system and a toolbox with widgets
  • Finally, users can create alerts by email, SMS and push notifications (on mobile devices) and generate reports that can be exported (in PDF, Excel or images)

Markets

IoThink Solutions already addresses various markets so it can help any type of business (from start-ups, SMBs, international corporations, etc.) and public organisations to accelerate their digital transformation and increase their ROI.

IoThink can assist any IoT project in the fields of: Smart Energy, Smart Building, Smart City, Smart Industry, Smart Retail, Smart Agriculture and Smart Logistics.

Ideal for

Device makers, machine builders, system integrators, network operators, OEMs, facility managers, solution providers, etc.

Partnership with Solid State Supplies

IoThink software solutions is a highly complementary service to Solid State Supplies’ hardware and support offerings. We recently partnered with IoThink to strengthen our complete IoT solutions.

Speak to one of our team to see what end-to-end IoT solutions can benefit your business.

Contact us for more information

Robustel: Low-Cost Industrial-Grade LoRa Gateway

A Long-Range (LoRa) Gateway at a basic level is quite a simple construct; it takes RF packets (typically 868/915MHz) on the LoRa side and sends them to a LoRaWAN Network Server on the “TCP/IP” side of the box. In this way, it can fulfil its basic role as a ‘distributed antenna’, shifting sensor data from the application environment to the Cloud.

Additional features are required for real-world deployments and this article takes a brief look at the key components that make up the full proposition of the R3000LG Gateway: hardware, software, support and price.

Hardware

The R3000LG is based on the popular R3000 4G router from Robustel. This means that there are already well over 100,000pcs of the core product in the market – a volume that is atypical in the world of the Internet of Things (IoT) currently.

This means that the design is tried and tested with thousands of units in the field working for many years. The unit has RS232, RS485, Digital Inputs and Ethernet ports as well as the core LoRa capability which can be invaluable if the scope of a project creeps, and more IO is required.

TPH6700 is an IP67 Enclosure with integral POE splitter that turns the R3000LG into a cost-effective outdoor solution, allowing outdoor deployment of the R3000LG via just a single piece of CAT5/6 cable.

Software

RobustOS is Robustel’s brilliant Linux-based router operating system that offers functionality far beyond a typical Gateway. Robustel has this advantage from being a high-volume 4G router manufacturer, perfecting RobustOS over the last 5 years.

Key features:

  • RobustVPN: Innovative use of Open VPN tunneling to provide a fixed IP address on the Gateway independent of SIM or ISP used
  • Robustel Cloud Manager Service (RCMS): Robustel’s Free Cloud management platform – essential for managing an estate of Gateways effectively
  • Data Guard: Critical ‘failsafe’ that stops unexpected data over-usage within seconds of a threshold being breached
  • Smart Roaming: Essential recovery solution for when your roaming SIM card doesn’t roam
  • Automated failover: Configure the Gateway to automatically fail from Ethernet WAN to 4G with just a few clicks

Support

Robustel and their distribution partners have an Industrial heritage and pride themselves in their support. They are able to deliver fast and accurate answers to techical issues, which is enabled by Robustel writing the operating system entirely in-house. With over 10 years of product design expertise, this means that in the rare instance there is a hardware issue, advice is quick to follow.

Price

The Robustel R3000LG is arguably the best price-to-performance Gateway on the market with one simple fact that underpins the claim. The R3000LG is based on a stable design of 4G router of which well over 100,000 units have already been sold. The R3000LG tremendously benefits from these economies of scale and that is why – for volume deployments – there is no better value 8-channel Gateway on the market.

If you have any questions about LoRa or Robustel, and how it can benefit your business, speak to one of our experts today.

Contact us for more information

Microchip: LoRa Technology

The demand for new innovative wireless sensors and actuators is increasing every year; a vast range of sensors have been developed to detect temperature, light, movement, vibration, pollution for applications (such as energy monitoring), asset utilisation, tracking, security, preventative maintenance etc., enabling businesses to save costs and improve efficiencies with these devices. The ability to instantly turn a device off remotely to prevent costly damage to machinery, if left unmonitored, could be invaluable.

If you are looking for a new wireless technology to integrate into your next sensor design, LoRaWAN technology from Microchip has been developed to address all these increasing demands on your next sensor project for volume deployment.

Microchip’s LoRa technology solution is ready-to-run and out-of-the-box, and with the complete LoRaWAN protocol and certifications in place, it reduces time to market and saves development costs.

The LoRaWAN protocol is a Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) specification intended for wireless battery-operated devices in regional, national or global networks.

LoRaWAN protocol targets key requirements of the Internet of Things (IoT) such as:

  • Secure bi-directional communication
  • Mobility
  • Localisation services

The LoRaWAN protocol standard will provide seamless interoperability among Smart ‘things’ without the need for complex local installations, further enabling IoT.

The LoRa® Mote (DM164138) is a demonstration board that showcases the Microchip Low-Power Long Range LoRa® Technology Transceiver Module (RN2483). The LoRa® Mote provides access to the module through a convenient USB-to-UART bridge chip and supports connection points to all GPIO-controlled module pins.

To enable long range testing, the high-frequency (868/915 MHz band) RF signal is transmitted through the RFH (J3) SMA connector, which can be used with a number of different types of external LoRa antennas depending on the end application, i.e. articulated stub antennas to external antennas which are designed to be mounted externally on buildings.

Depending on the use case, a selection of antennas is also available from Solid States Supplies. Examples by Antenova (Latona series), Pulse (W1063), 2J-Antennas (2JW0515-868 series) and EAD-Ltd (WMO86916 high gain outdoor omni antenna).

RN2483 (DM164138) and ATSAMR34 (DM320111) LoRaWAN evaluation kits from Microchip and range of antennaes from Solid State Supplies

The on-board PIC18LF45K50 MCU is programmable via ICSP™. In addition, the PIC18LF45K50 MCU application program is capable of being updated via the bootloader utility. The Mote board will power-on automatically when a USB cable is connected. When powered by AAA batteries, power-on/off is controlled using the (S3) switch.

The LoRaWAN protocol implements several layers of encryption to ensure the highest security for the whole infrastructure.

  • Unique Network session key ensures security on Network Server/Network level
  • Unique Application session key ensures security on the Application Server/Application level
  • Application key specific for the end-device

Microchip also offers the SAM R34/R35 in a highly-integrated LoRa® System-in-Package (SiP) family in a 6x6mm BGA package which includes an ultra-low power, high-performance 32-bit ARM Cortex M0+ MCU, upto 256KB flash for application code and software stack, LoRa transceiver and software stack. With certified reference designs, and proven interoperability with major LoRaWAN™ gateway and network providers, the SAM R34/35 SiPs significantly reduce time to market for Internet of Things (IoT) designs.

Other features on the R34/R35 are 5 serial comms ports, each can be configurable as a USART, SPI, LIN or I2C ports are available. A Full Speed USB option is available on the SAM R35. Also, 8 channels of 12bit ADC’s and 2 analog comparators enables a variety of sensor inputs to be interfaced to the device.

The radio frequency range operates between 862MHz to 1020MHz with a link budget of 168dBm  (20dBm max TX  power and -148dBm RX sensitivity).

Supported by certified SAM R34 Xplained Pro Evaluation Kit  (DM320111), Atmel Studio and a detailed chip-down design package, these devices highly simplify the development and accelerate the time to market for LoRa end-nodes. 

To get started with software development, download and install Atmel Studio 7. For software examples, update to ASF 3.44 and above in Atmel Studio

For further information on the LoRaWAN technology in this article, please speak to one of our teams.

Contact us for more information

LORIOT: LoRaWAN Software and Network Server

We recently announced our latest partnership with LORIOT: a global IoT company providing long-range (LoRa) infrastructure for the Internet of Things (IoT). As both a software provider and network provider, LORIOT’s positioning in the LoRa® ecosystem enables them to provide one of the most powerful and complete solutions in the market.

Their core product is a software for scalable, distributed, resilient and secure operation of LoRaWAN® networks and end-to-end applications that dramatically reduces time to market for clients. They offer the network infrastructure to set up, operate and maintain a radio network, integrate sensors and communicate with them over a secure and reliable network.

Already operating in over 140 countries, LORIOT is one of the leading LoRaWAN® network solution providers worldwide.

LoRaWAN Network Server

The Network Server is at the core of an Internet of Things solution; secure, scalable, carrier-grade network connectivity for your valuable IoT data.

The LORIOT Network Server has built-in penetration tested security to safeguard your valuable IoT data.

Enterprise-grade network infrastructure enables the operation and management of IoT networks while providing proven reliability and scaling. Secure connectivity for thousands of gateways, millions of devices and the routing of critical data.

Top Features

Security

IoT security at every stage of your product life-cycle with enhanced, resilient end-to-end encrypted bidirectional data and device protection. Including LoRaWAN® AES 128 encryption combined with high-grade TLSv1.2 communication, LORIOT build battle-tested security into the network server to safeguard your IoT data and assets.

Scalability

A server architecture designed to grow with the network, from local deployments to national coverage, our network infrastructure and server distribution provides robust availability of all data. Carrier-grade redundancy, high-availability and minimal maintenance guarantees the handling of thousands of gateways and millions of devices.

Integrations

Flexible access to data, LORIOT network applications integrate with virtually any IoT application. They enable easy interoperability with IoT platforms, user and billing systems or device provisioning at the application server. Standard APIs such as MQTT, HTTPs and WebSocket are supported, and fully backend integrated platforms such as AWS IoT, Azure IoT, IBM Bluemix are available.

Management

A complete network infrastructure and software suite; enables the efficient management of your IoT network. A user-friendly web browser interface removes the complexity of scaling, managing devices and processing data so that you can focus on building the network. User management, roles and multi-tenancy streamline the server for efficient network and user organisation.

Operator

A wide feature-list of operator systems for effective IoT network deployments; monitoring, logs, alerts, and powerful tools such as remote gateway management and multiple application outputs provide data regulation and valuable status information. Plus, filtering and search tools to rapidly analyse the network and find anomalies.

Independence

LORIOT hosted or on-premise, our network server deployment is designed to meet your use-case and give you complete control. When security and control are critical, their flexible network server deployments offer complete independence to manage your data. LORIOT hands over full control of your server and are always ready to support when required.

Speak to one of our experts to see how Solid State Supplies and LORIOT can mean for your business.

Contact us for more information

New Partnership: LORIOT

Global long-range specialist IoT company, Loriot AG (‘LORIOT’), and franchised distributor, Solid State Supplies Ltd (‘Solid State Supplies’), have announced their newly agreed partnership to provide IoT solutions to their customers.

LORIOT is a revolutionary software and network provider based on the LoRa infrastructure; providing powerful IoT solutions by setting up, maintaining and operating secure networks tailored to a business’ needs.

‘Solid State Supplies Ltd understands the needs of customers, with a realistic focus on ensuring the successful delivery of IoT projects and provides the highest standards. Their expertise with hardware, electronic design and integrating the IoT stack combined our LoRaWAN Network Server will ensure best-in-class services at every stage.’ Added, Julian Studer, CEO at LORIOT.

Solid State Supplies is a franchised distributor of electronic components; they have a team of experts who specialise in the design and delivery of complete IoT solutions, utilising their strategic partnerships with different companies across the IoT spectrum to apply their ‘5 Stage IoT Framework’.

The decision of the partnership was confirmed almost immediately after understanding each other’s mutual strategy and parallel industry relationships. By forming this partnership, both companies are able to offer customers a more integral solution, maximising customers’ IoT potential within cost parameters.

Scott A. Brenton, IoT Technology Director at Solid State Supplies said ‘as IoT is made up of many technologies, it is important that we can discuss all options with customers, to offer suitable solutions that are available – including LoRa. Some customers will need a LoRa network server, and with our new partnership with LORIOT, we can offer an end-to-end solution; whether that may be custom-built or ‘off-the-shelf’. The synergy between LORIOT’s service and our hardware made it the obvious choice to move forward with our partnership.’

For more information about LORIOT, please speak to Scott A. Brenton at Solid State Supplies.

Contact us for more information