Streamlining car and radio services is an engineer’s dream, but what benefit does it provide to drivers and passengers? In a recent episode of the HARMAN Experiences Per Mile podcast, I explain how the most recent telematics technology innovations like the Smart Conformal Antenna benefit automakers and consumers alike. This blog post highlights the discussion, but you can listen to the podcast
The number of vehicle radio services for navigation, infotainment, ADAS, and other features has dramatically increased in recent years and will continue to rise as time goes on. The surface space available in conventional antennas will become a challenge—and the Smart Conformal Antenna is the solution to meet these new demands.
A conformal antenna is a flat antenna, meaning there is no element of the antenna that protrudes outside of a vehicle’s body structure. The word “smart” means that the electronics of a Telematics Control Unit (TCU) is combined with the antenna elements into one box, giving several advantages and new possibilities to implement TCUs in an automotive environment.
The main reasons the Smart Conformal Antenna was developed are listed below.
Compared to a traditional shark fin antenna, the Smart Conformal Antenna has many benefits. As mentioned, the Smart Conformal Antenna is mounted beneath the vehicle’s body surface and covered with a waterproof, non-conductive cover (radome). This is ideal for vehicle aesthetics. Additionally, with more high-frequency telematics technologies being incorporated into one TCU box, the Smart Conformal Antenna is better equipped to operate with these technologies simultaneously without disturbing each other.
From a consumer standpoint, the Smart Conformal Antenna has many benefits too. When we implement these Smart Conformal Antenna modules very close to the TCU electronics, this vastly improves the signal quality from the antenna to the radio modems. The transmitting and receiving the quality of the signal improves as well, providing a better, more stable connection for consumers.
Consumers have big expectations when they step into a state-of-the-art vehicle. Essentially, they want to use the car as a hotspot. They want to have a seamless switch when they move from the connection at home to the Wi-Fi in the car. And they want the experience to be reliable and future-proof so that they don't need to exchange the hardware in the car every few years when new technology comes out. So, the design of the Smart Conformal Antenna must really support these expectations.
What’s great is that the Smart Conformal Antenna is not reserved for luxury brands. As technology becomes more mature, costs will decrease, making the solution more accessible in various vehicle classes.
Thinking about the future, the Smart Conformal Antenna is 5G ready and is supported by vehicle-to-everything solutions (V2X). When we look at the state of the art vehicles today, we see there are some brands that already are replacing the traditional internet concept while trying to mount antennas at several positions on the car (sometimes hiding antennas in unusual locations). So, we know there is a high demand to get rid of the shark fin antenna, because of aesthetics, but also because of technical issues. And this absolutely convinces me that conformal antennas will be mainstream in the next few years.
To hear more from me on this topic,
listen to this episode of the Experiences Per Mile podcast.
Associate Director, Engineering and R&D - Telematics at HARMAN International