Wearable Devices

Readying Wearable Devices for 5G

Wearable antennas will play a large part in achieving improved wireless connectivity on 5G communications networks.

As anticipation of Fifth Generation (5G) wireless networks continues to grow, designers of the various electronic devices that will “live” on 5G networks must also anticipate the type of performance levels and functionality that will be needed for optimum operation on 5G networks. Much has been written about the requirements for a successful 5G wireless network, following the “learning process” of installing and operating Fourth Generation (4G) Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless networks and essentially running out of bandwidth as users’ demands for more and faster data on their smartphones has steadily increased. But 5G will fix all this, with many times the number of electronic devices operating on the network than are used at present.

One type of new wireless device that will be part of 5G networks is the wearable device, with built-in antennas allowing users to essentially remain connected to a wireless network and the Internet at all times. To better understand the performance levels needed for 5G networks to function with all these added wireless devices, scientists from Malaysia and Belgium explored the current knowledge of wearable devices and estimated the types of technologies that would be needed to support the influx of connected wireless devices, including for Internet of Things (IoT) applications. In addition to using more bandwidth than 4G, such as at millimeter-wave frequencies, 5G will lean on techniques such as multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) antenna arrays and the use of wearable antennas for multiple wireless devices for improved performance compared to 4G systems.

The researchers examined requirements for wearable antennas that will provide efficient performance within a broadband wireless network while minimizing the amount of radiation incident on the wearer. Their studies included the types of materials currently available for wearable antennas, including conductive threads and adhesives, and the types of manufacturing processes, such as stitching and sewing, that could be used in producing cost-effective wearable antennas. A wide variety of antenna topologies were reviewed as candidates for wearable antennas, including patch antennas, slot antennas, planar monopoles and dipoles, and even waveguide-based antennas for millimeter-wave frequencies. The promise of 5G is great, but it will require creative engineering for such components as wearable antennas to turn that promise into a reality.

See: “Revolutionizing Wearables for 5G,” IEEE Microwave Magazine, Vol. 18, No. 5, May 2017, p. 108.

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