IoT Components and PCB Design Considerations for IoT Devices

January 28, 2020 Cadence PCB Solutions

 IoT architecture spread across fields for agriculture

 

I’ve always marveled at how pizza was made. With the right combination of ingredients, a bite of the crunchy crust of Ninja Turtle’s favorite food sends a blissful delight onto my tastebuds. As my chef-minded intuition kicked-in, I attempted my version of Hawaiian Delight, only to fail miserably. 

It’s ok if you have trouble figuring out the ingredients that make a decent pizza, but if you’re working on an IoT project, it’s crucial to get the ‘ingredients’ of the components right. In IoT design, you’ll need to take a different approach as the design ecosystem is different from typical electronics products. 

What are IoT Components? 

IoT or Internet of Things is a word coined for electronics devices that are interconnected to the internet. This means that users have control of such devices remotely with an app linked to the internet. For example, getting an inside view of your fridge on the mobile and being able to create a shopping list instantly. 

Smart fridges and TVs are just a fraction of what IoT is all about. The concept of connecting conventional devices to the internet has made an impact across various industries. Smart agriculture systems are developed by interconnecting multiple sensors across a vast area of the farm. Industry revolution 4.0, is an extension of IoT in manufacturing technology. 

As IoT changes the architecture of interconnectivity, hardware development goes through a subtle but focused change. Cloud connectivity, remote sensing, and power efficiency are the common traits of IoT devices and these are reflected by the new range of electronics components introduced by leading manufacturers.

Common Types of IoT Components

When you’re tasked to take on an IoT project, you’ll need to start getting familiarized with these components.

1. Sensors

When you look at the big picture of IoT, it’s all about gathering data to facilitate actions. This means you’ll need to start familiarizing yourself with various types of sensors. These sensors are commonly used in IoT devices

  • Temperature sensors

  • Pressure sensors

  • Camera

  • RFID tags

  • Humidity sensors.

  • IR sensors.

2. Wireless Connectivity

The IoT is an ecosystem where sensor nodes communicate with each other with the data consolidated by a centralized controller than enables access to the internet-enabled app. In other words, wireless connectivity plays a crucial role in bringing the various IoT parts together. 

 

Icon of a smart home with various electronic devices connected via IoT

Zigbee is a popular protocol for integrating IoT house appliances.

 

Common wireless transceivers for intra-connectivity are:

  • Bluetooth LE

  • Zigbee

  • Z-Wave

  • LoRa

  • WiFi

  • NFC

 

To enable internet access, you’ll be using transceivers such as:

  • GSM/LTE

  • WiFi 

3. Power Management

If you’re working on IoT devices that are powered from battery, you’ll need to design with power efficiency in mind. This means, opting for power management ICs or using voltage regulators with a very low quiescent current. In IoT design, every uA saved can be a huge difference in the battery life of the device. 

IoT Components PCB Design Considerations

The success of IoT PCB design is more than choosing the right IoT components to work with. The tough part is bringing all the components together to create a functional IoT device. This means taking a different approach to conventional design methods. 

For a start, you’ll want to be comfortable dealing with smaller sized components. IoT devices, such as smart wearables are often limited in size. With limited routing areas, you’ll need to consider multilayer PCBs and place stricter restrictions for EMI best practices. The signal integrity of sensors needs to be protected from noisy traces or wireless signals. 

 

Smartwatch connected to a coterie of IoT devices in a home

IoT components may have smaller footprints. 

 

You’ll also be dealing with newer materials such as flex PCB. The emergence of IoT has made flex PCBs a popular alternative to rigid PCBs. Flex PCB designs require consideration of the mechanical structure of the material and this affects the placement of the components. Curved traces and hacked polygons helped in mitigating stress points on flex PCB. 

As mentioned, power management is important to prolong the lifespan of batteries powering IoT devices. Apart from choosing the right power management ICs, you’ll need to ensure each block of the design stays within the allocated power budget. 

Whether it’s configuring the stack up for flex PCB or enforcing EMI rules, your task will be simplified by using the right PCB design software. An intuitive PCB design software goes a long way in bringing the various IoT components together. 

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to us and our team of experts.

About the Author

Cadence PCB solutions is a complete front to back design tool to enable fast and efficient product creation. Cadence enables users accurately shorten design cycles to hand off to manufacturing through modern, IPC-2581 industry standard.

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