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Antenna Design for IoT Applications

Key Takeaways

  • IoT antenna designs depend on the wireless protocol in use, necessitating important protocol selection.

  • Consider factors like directionality, form factor, gain, and regulatory standards when choosing an IoT antenna.

  • Antenna types include whip antennas, patch antennas, PCB antennas, and chip antennas, each with its own advantages and use cases.

A paddle antenna design for IoT applications, connected to a prototype board.

As IoT applications continue to expand and rely heavily on wireless connectivity, the role of antenna design becomes increasingly vital. These applications often require wireless communication with IoT gateways and other devices within the ecosystem, especially when wired connectivity is impractical or unfeasible. 

Consequently, the demand for embedding multiple high-performance, ultra-compact antennas in IoT devices has become a standard requirement, presenting significant challenges for product developers in this field. Read on as we discuss antenna design for IoT applications.

IoT Applications Guide Antenna Design for IoT Devices

Antenna design is not a one-size-fits-all process. Your IoT device’s intended application and use will dictate your device’s required protocol, which will dictate your antenna design.  

Examples include some of the following:


Wireless IoT Protocol

Frequency band

General IoT close-range devices


915, 2.4 MHz


2.4 GHz


2.4, 3.6, 4.9, 5, and 5.9 GHz



2.4 GHz

LPWAN (smart city, smart farming)


169 to 915 MHz


868 to 928 MHz

  • WirelessHART was created for Industrial IoT and features low latency, high reliability, a focus on battery life longevity, and a medium bandwidth of 150 MBps. 
  • Low Power Wide Area Network (LPWAN) focuses more on extremely high link distances of greater than a mile and high battery life (of over 10 years ideally), but with lower throughput in the range of bits per section, designed for agricultural industrial, medical, and smart city applications.
  • Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, WLAN, and ZigBee are other popular wireless technologies that operate in the 2.4 ~ 5 GHz range and have a focus on high data rates over short distances.
  • Other standards such as LoRA (169 ~ 915 MHz) and SigFox (868 to 928 MHz) are used in longer range and lower data rate applications.
  • LTE CAT-M also offers higher bandwidth, high throughput, and low latency.

Once you’ve pinpointed your device's functionality and decided on the accompanying protocol, the next step is to consider antenna directionality, form factor, and gain.

Antenna Design for Directivity

 Directivity expresses the concentration of a beam of radiation in a particular direction. Omni-directional antennas are, therefore, somewhat evenly concentrated in all three dimensions, while a directional antenna exhibits narrower radiation patterns. This is often accomplished by combining multiple radiating elements. 

Antenna Form Factor Design for IoT Applications

Depending on your protocol, there are a variety of antennas you could incorporate into IoT devices. Different antennas have different frequency bandwidths, which must be taken into consideration. 

Antennas For IoT Applications

Antenna Type


Frequency Bandwidth


Whip and paddle antennas

Modular antennas that are not integrated into the PCB of IoT devices. Connected via a coaxial connector.


ISM, LoRa, LPWAN ddetc.

Patch antennas

Commonly used in GPS-enabled IoT devices. Can be designed for single or dual polarization.


GPS-enabled devices

PCB antennas

Antennas composed of conductive traces on circuit boards. Fitting into small spaces with higher gains than chip antennas.


USB dongles, automotive systems, robotics applications

Chip antennas

Compact antennas well-suited for small IoT devices. Relatively low bandwidth—best used with large ground planes and low-frequency bands.

Low-frequency bands

Computers, satellite radios, GPS devices

  •  Whip and paddle antennas offer the advantage of modularity as they are not integrated into the PCB of IoT devices, making a physical connection with the PCB over a coaxial connector. They are commonly used in wireless connectivity for IoT applications like ISM, LoRa, and LPWAN. Whip antennas, specifically quarter-wave whip antennas, are a type of monopole antenna with a ground plane replacing one of the radiating elements. Larger installations may include quarter-wavelength radials mounted perpendicular to the antenna for optimal performance.
  • Patch antennas are commonly employed in GPS-enabled IoT devices. They can be designed for either right-handed circular polarization (RHCP) or left-handed circular polarization (LHCP). Some patch antennas may exhibit only a single type of polarization, such as linear, RHCP, or LHCP. Selecting a polarization that matches the transmission is crucial for optimal performance. Patch antennas can also be designed for dual polarization with reconfiguration using PIN diodes or RF MEMS devices.
    • PCB antennas, composed of conductive traces on circuit boards, offer the advantage of fitting into small spaces and can have higher gains than chip antennas. Different PCB antenna topologies, including inverted-F, L, and folded monopole designs, are available. The ground plane is crucial for PCB antenna performance, affecting bandwidth, radiation efficiency, and radiation pattern. Despite occupying board space, PCB antennas are cost-effective and provide design flexibility. 
  • Chip antennas are even more compact and well-suited for small IoT devices. They have relatively low bandwidth and perform best when used with large ground planes and low-frequency bands such as computers, satellite radios, and GPS devices. However, integrating chip antennas into densely populated boards can pose challenges.

Selecting the right antenna design for IoT applications is crucial for optimal performance and functionality in terms of wireless connectivity, GPS-enabled devices, space constraints, and design flexibility.

Antenna Design for 5G Applications

When working on antenna designs for IoT and 5G applications, it is crucial to consider regulatory standards in different regions worldwide, including the Radio Equipment Directive (RED), Electromagnetic Compliance, FCC Class A and B Rules, and SAR requirements. 

The key parameters to consider when selecting an antenna are: 

  • Antenna type
  • Operating frequency band 
  • Field of View (FoV) 
  • Radiation pattern 
  • Antenna gain (total power radiated)
  • Shape

Specifically for 5G, compact antennas with high gain are especially desirable. To support increased densities of connected devices operating at higher data rates simultaneously. Addressing this challenge will necessitate higher cell densities and broader utilization of multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) antenna technologies, which are already utilized in preexisting networks. 

MIMO involves an array of multiple transmitting and receiving antennas, commonly found in current LTE networks as an 8 x 8 antenna array. Using spatial multiplexing, MIMO breaks down a signal into encoded streams, which are transmitted simultaneously through different antennas in the array. The transmitting and receiving devices are equipped with multiple antennas and employ signal processing for encoding and decoding the multiplexed signals.

Ready to optimize your antenna design for IoT applications? Explore the power of Cadence's AWR software, providing advanced tools for antenna simulation and design. Enhance wireless connectivity and overcome challenges with precision. 

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