Smart Antennas Come Into View

No longer invisible or unforgotten, antennas are getting smarter all the time.

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Antennas are getting smarter, particularly in light of their increasing complexity, along with the intricacies of the environments — existing and new — they play in.

There are interesting ways in which antennas are being integrated into the latest vehicles, some examples of which are in-vehicle approaches that range from a single antenna in the infotainment (behind the screen in front of the driver, and which can be a fairly low-cost approach), to a more expensive cabling approach that travels up to the rear-view mirror, which can see both inside, and outside of the car. There are also implementations where both of these may be in the same vehicle in multi-antenna solutions, according to Richard Barrett, senior product marketing engineer, automotive wireless technology at Cypress Semiconductor.

In some cases, there may even be five Bluetooth devices in one vehicle (one in the infotainment, two in the telematics, and two in the rear seat systems). He said this is not driven by antennas so much as by the applications that are too much for one radio, although some of it is driven by the need to have antennas facing what they need to.

Because of these new use models, Barrett believes there’s going to be an opportunity for companies that are doing antennas, smart antennas, and higher end antenna solutions. “The world would love to use cheap PCB Inverted F antennas but there are companies that do higher end stuff — like Ethertronics, Mitsumi or Laird — that are really spending time optimizing these solutions. It costs more money but that’s where the world is going to have to go if they want to continue to do what they want to do.”

BCC Research agrees. The market research firm recently said in a report that smart antennas continue to provide the bulk of the technological impetus that will leave a lasting impact on the antenna industry. Further, the company said that as the industry waits for 5G, antenna vendors are busy perfecting the adoption of smart antenna constructs across power values, operating distances and frequency ranges. They predict the global antenna market should grow from $16.8 billion in 2016 to $22.5 billion by 2021, demonstrating a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.0%. The smart antenna, which BCC said dominates the market, should reach $4.7 billion and $7.6 billion in 2016 and 2021, respectively, reflecting a five-year CAGR of 10.1%.

BCC Research analyst Shalini Ramamurthy said in a statement, “Smart antennas will account for more than a third of the overall antenna revenues by the year 2021. The coronation of smart antennas as the pre-eminent antenna category is a reaffirmation of the user thirst for reliable, high data transfer wireless communication. The two largest end application markets will be for the wireless telecommunications infrastructure and for defense and surveillance.”