Wearable Devices

Readying Wearable Devices for 5G

April 25, 2017
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.

About the Author

Jack Browne | Technical Contributor

Jack Browne, Technical Contributor, has worked in technical publishing for over 30 years. He managed the content and production of three technical journals while at the American Institute of Physics, including Medical Physics and the Journal of Vacuum Science & Technology. He has been a Publisher and Editor for Penton Media, started the firm’s Wireless Symposium & Exhibition trade show in 1993, and currently serves as Technical Contributor for that company's Microwaves & RF magazine. Browne, who holds a BS in Mathematics from City College of New York and BA degrees in English and Philosophy from Fordham University, is a member of the IEEE.

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