By 2025, 7.2 billion antennas will be shipped for IoT devices – nearly threefold of what it is today, new findings from ABI Research reveal.

With new product launches and evolution of existing devices requiring multiple radios, smaller form factors, and greater device breadth, OEMs are increasingly challenged both at the design phase and when getting their products to market, the firm said today.

A new whitepaper, Rethinking IoT Device Development with Virtual Antenna Technology, by ABI, highlights the challenges created by the small, yet critical, antenna component and the real-life impact it has on all IoT product design and certification processes.

“The antenna is one of the most common causes of failure when creating a new IoT product," said Tancred Taylor, IoT hardware and devices research analyst at ABI Research. "The goal of any antenna in terms of choice and design is high performance for the application it serves, and the network and spectrum it operates on. 

“The reality is much different. There are dozens of factors that impact real-life operating performance such as proximity to metal or the human body, interference from surrounding waves in RF-congested environments, obstruction from vehicular traffic or other objects, or detuning by other electronic components in a device.

“If the antenna is not designed and integrated properly at the beginning of the process, an OEM is very likely to encounter higher costs, delays, and even product failure at the certification stage.”

The white paper notes that the antenna is “less and less seen as a standalone component and more as one that functions as part of a broader system. Offering software and services on top of the antenna component itself presents significant emerging opportunities for traditional component vendors, as RF engineering gains complexity from expanding network standards and accessible radio spectrum.”

"IoT designs are evolving to incorporate more radios, to miniaturize devices, and to reduce power consumption.” said Taylor. “There are a huge number of OEMs operating in the space, with many getting to large volumes while many others experiment with smaller-scale products.

“Simplifying the job of RF design in these conditions becomes critical, meaning there are significant opportunities for antenna vendors willing to modify how they interact with customers.”