IoT, or the Internet of Things, refers to an infrastructure incorporating several electronic devices connected to the Internet. Smart devices, remotely controllable utilizing dedicated apps, represent only a tiny part of the IoT network. Connecting smart sensors and traditional electronic devices has significantly impacted various application fields, such as industry, agriculture, biomedical, transport, and consumer electronics. Every IoT device must meet the primary connectivity requirement, achieved through wireless technologies such as Bluetooth, WiFi, and mobile networks. As a result, the hardware development capable of supporting IoT functionality passes through subtle but targeted change connectivity, remote control, and high energy efficiency are requirements that every IoT device shall meet. So, the success of the intelligent product lies only when the mechanical side and the engineering side work together, which means PCB Design services’ role is crucial in the IoT industry. But have you ever wondered how it would work without implementing a PCB?
According to the research, this year’s latest IoT trends have demonstrated the interconnectedness of smart device approaches, where PCB designers will have to develop new strategies to match smart devices. A new PCB design is needed to check the new features built into smart IoT devices. Simply put, IoT requires printed circuit boards to work.
Let’s find out why IoT devices need exclusive PCB design services.
PCB Design Requirements for intelligent devices
The IoT underpins any electronic device, including PCBs that drive essential changes in the electronics business. PCB designers have to make changes to these new products to work smart and prevent bugs. Let’s read more about the requirements of a PCB design for such devices.
Even in these early days of IoT development, many different platforms are available in the market. See the difference between Thermostats, Smartwatches, Nest cams, hue lamps, and Ring Doorbells.
There are four critical issues to consider when choosing a brand for your IoT device.
- Lightweight: Most IoT products are customer-focused and don’t want users to use something heavy.
- Miniaturized: In many cases, IoT portable devices are everywhere. You want it to be unobtrusive, which means the signal should be as small as possible.
- Ergonomic: if you build a device, it must optimize for the user.
- Durable: Some product designs are to work in extreme conditions. If you expect your device to be abuse, it needs a form factor to withstand that use case.
There are many different technologies and criteria to choose from when building an IoT product. The communication decisions you make will affect, among other things, power consumption, compatibility, and reliability.
Every decision you make will affect your IoT device’s data transfer speed and range, so making the right choice is essential. Although easier said than done, these standard layout techniques can help you create a PCB that converts data with minimal noise/interference and high bandwidth:
- Energy Analysis: Usage will fluctuate throughout the day, and an energy consumption formula is needed that takes these fluctuations into account. It is imperative when a battery powers the devices. When designing a PCB, you need to have a clear energy consumption forecast for the product’s expected life.
- PCB Stack: The PCB stack is essential for thermal and RF applications. Take the time to set up the correct storage to avoid broadcasting signals, power outages, antenna feeds, and more.
- Grounding: The surface area is usually minimal for small devices. Must take care to provide a proper ground connection for heat dissipation and RF performance.
- StitchingVias: Efficient stitching ensures correct, recent returns and reduces noise interference. In combination with grounding, you can effectively reduce noise and maximize the performance of your RF design.
- Antenna performance: Orientation, direction, gain, and form factors are the most important criteria for choosing an antenna. Also, please pay close attention to all objects in the antenna area as it may cause tuning.
These standard methods consider your ability to obtain certifications for your RF designers. The most common certificates are FCC (in the USA), IC (in Canada), and CE (in Europe). But you must also pay attention to standards for intentional/unintentional radiators, multiple radios, and the requirements for additional certifications such as PTCRB and WEEE.
The price range of your IoT product depends on its overall complexity. Thus, you can take this familiar example as a way to create your expense concern:
- Research and Development: You can spend six months to two years relying on the complexity of your product.
- MSRP: Make sure you sell your product in a suitable price range. Depending on the features and functionality, this can cost between $ 50 and $ 200.
- One-time engineering fees: NRE production is the money spent to create a production. Usually involves a contract manufacturer, and you can spend several months setting up supply chains and testing the build. If production requires non-standard fixtures or equipment, you will see costs increase. This cost component can fluctuate greatly, averaging between $30,000 and $70,000.or
- Diplomae: The certifications we talked about above can be expensive. You can spend between $20,000 and $50,000 to certify your new PCB design fully.
Test Early and Often to Minimize Costs
Nobody wants to make mistakes, but sometimes they are inevitable. The deeper you go into the hardware development process, the more expensive mistakes become. For this reason, you should catch any errors as early as possible in the process.
Frequent testing and maintaining an agile mindset can help minimize late-stage errors. Shortening feedback loops also helps. You want to have an iterative approach to providing feedback on small features to review and approve before moving to a specific build.
Every wasted feature implementation effort will increase the cost of the entire project. Testing may prove that you’ve made a mistake, but at least you’ll find it quickly and minimize the consequences.
Time To Market
Being the first to bring your IoT product to market can help build a solid customer base before competitors flood the space. Look at intelligent doorbells, for example. The company was the first to enter the market and protected itself from the competition with its high-quality product.
However, everyone wants to be first in the market. Even a couple of weeks of development delay can push you back to second or third place, giving you less market share. Also, if you take too long to market, you risk the technology becoming obsolete before you even start production.
It all depends on spending more time in the design stages to avoid further design cycles down the road. The evident best practice is accelerating time to market to prevent development mistakes. Work out your needs quickly and do your market research to make development as smooth as possible. The sooner you can communicate with vendors, your CM, and parts suppliers, the better.
You can further reduce your time to market by practicing rapid prototyping. I delved into a quick prototype in another article. But in general, you should focus on constant iteration to secure your product in the future. You don’t want to design something for 2G connectivity only to find it fades away until you’re finished.
KEY CONCLUSIONS FOR SUCCESSFUL BOARD DESIGN IN IoT PRODUCTS
Of course, each of these pillars of successful PCB design offers a lot. When starting to develop IoT hardware, keep the following points in mind:
- Do your best to choose the right technology early.
- Maximize cooperation between MCAD and ECAD
- Always design for production and installation.
- Plan ahead for certification and production.
- Shorten the design feedback loop. Check quickly and often.
- Mistakes = time + cost.
Hope these tips help you create a fantastic IoT product. And if you need help with strategy and development, BridgeThings can help. Contact us today and let us know what you would like to build.