A smart antenna is a digital wireless communications antenna system that takes advantage of diversity effect at the source (transmitter), the destination (receiver), or both. Diversity effect involves the transmission and/or reception of multiple radio frequency (RF) waves to increase data speed and reduce the error rate.
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In conventional wireless communications, a single antenna is used at the source, and another single antenna is used at the destination. This is called SISO (single input, single output). Such systems are vulnerable to problems caused by multipath effects. When an electromagnetic field (EM field) is met with obstructions such as hills, canyons, buildings, and utility wires, the wavefronts are scattered, and thus they take many paths to reach the destination. The late arrival of scattered portions of the signal causes problems such as fading, cut-out (cliff effect), and intermittent reception (picket fencing). In a digital communications system like the Internet, it can cause a reduction in data speed and an increase in the number of errors. The use of smart antennas can reduce or eliminate the trouble caused by multipath wave propagation.
Smart antennas fall into three major categories: SIMO (single input, multiple output), MISO (multiple input, single output), and MIMO (multiple input, multiple output). In SIMO technology, one antenna is used at the source, and two or more antennas are used at the destination. In MISO technology, two or more antennas are used at the source, and one antenna is used at the destination. In MIMO technology, multiple antennas are employed at both the source and the destination. MIMO has attracted the most attention recently because it can not only eliminate the adverse effects of multipath propagation, but in some cases can turn it into an advantage.