“Choosing a radio technology is the first and most important aspect of a wireless design because that decision has a huge impact on the characteristics of the device you are building.”
Choosing a radio technology is the first and most important aspect of a wireless design because that decision has a huge impact on the characteristics of the device you are building. You must choose between licensed technologies, such as narrowband Internet of Things and Long-Term Evolution for Machines, or unlicensed technologies, such as LoRaWAN, Sigfox, or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). The technology you choose depends mostly on the use case and on the operational requirements of the device you are designing, coverage requirements, the regions in which it will operate, and data transmission specifics.
BLE is a popular choice, benefiting from low power consumption and offerings from a variety of component providers. Because it has a range limitation of tens of meters, it must rely on a gateway to relay information to a server over the internet, which is why many BLE devices leverage smartphone connectivity. That is the reason we see a lot of wearable devices using this wireless technology.
Once you settle on a radio technology, the next challenge is antenna design. The antenna must provide the best signal while at the same time having the smallest form factor and lowest price. For instance, some industrial devices cannot have external antennas because they break off in industrial environments, so the antenna must be inside the enclosure, which creates problems if, for example, the enclosure is entirely made of metal. Some wireless modules are now available with innovative features to tackle these challenges, which can greatly simplify antenna design, reduce costs and improve performance.