UWB technology is in a transition phase towards a general-purpose indoor positioning solution alongside GPS technology outdoors. UWB can calculate location, distance and direction with unprecedented accuracy indoors and outdoors, safely and in real time. These capabilities enable completely new applications that were previously impossible to implement by utilizing the highly accurate location information produced by UWB technology.
How does UWB work?
Ultra Wideband (UWB) is a wireless data transmission technology that enables fast and reliable data transmission over short distances. UWB radio devices operate according to the IEEE standard.
The main advantage of UWB is its very high radio signal bandwidth, which enables the measurement of signal transit time and precise positioning. Using UWB is safe and interference-free because its low power and short signals do not interfere with other radio devices such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices. The use of UWB is regulated, like all other radio devices. The requirements guarantee that the radio devices work correctly and that they do not interfere with other radio devices. In the EU region, the EU Radio Equipment Directive (RED) 2014/53/EU defines how UWB radio equipment is approved for the EU market. UWB radio regulations are uniform in almost all EU countries.
UWB applications include real-time positioning (RTLS), object tracking, security systems and data transmission. The positioning system implemented with UWB technology is accurate and works without interference, which makes it very useful for industrial IoT solutions where accurate location information is needed for production control, object and goods management, and personnel safety solutions.
The use of UWB technology is rapidly becoming common.
We are currently in the transition phase of a new technology, where UWB radio technology will be mass-used in consumer products and in various industrial sectors. In their new high-end smartphones, Samsung and Apple have implemented consumer-oriented technology solutions that enable positioning between devices by using Bluetooth and UWB technology together. Airtag and SmartThing products can be used for both asset discovery and keyless entry. In the joint use of technologies, Bluetooth (BLE) technology implements communication between devices and UWB technology accurately measures the distance between devices when the devices are already close to each other.
Integration of UWB technology into other technologies
The introduction of new technologies is not possible without the compatibility and standardization of different equipment manufacturers. Several consortia promote the usability of UWB technology. The Digital Key 3.0 standard implemented by the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) defines the communication between the mobile phone and the car, which enables keyless car driving very safely and reliably. The FiRa consortium acts as an association of different equipment manufacturers and guarantees the mutual compatibility of the equipment. Fira’s goal is to define an RTLS standard that will allow mobile phones using UWB technology to be located. On the industrial side, the Omlox standard is used to agree on the compatibility of UWB positioning between different device manufacturers and to integrate UWB technology into other technologies; Wi-Fi, GPS, 5G, RFID, and BLE.
UWB radios are already manufactured by about ten different technology companies, the best known of which are NXP, Qorvo and Samsung. With competition between several circuit manufacturers, the implementation costs of the technology can be brought down sufficiently, in which case the price is not an obstacle to the introduction of the technology.
The use of UWB will explode in the next few years
UWB technology has reached sufficient maturity for its deployment to be safe and effective. The availability of UWB devices from several different device manufacturers, technology standards for different uses, the functionality of the technology with other technologies and standards, and the undeniable functionality of the technology even in difficult industrial environments guarantee that the use of UWB will become more widespread in the next few years.
Iiwari is a technology company that implements positioning networks with UWB technology and implements solutions for maintaining and managing the positioning network. In addition, Iiwari offers several different applications for different industries that utilize the precise location data produced by UWB technology.
The author is Jukka Kämäräinen, the founder and chief engineer of Iiwari Tracking Solutions