UWB technology, capable of high-precision positioning, will soon be incorporated into all of our mobile phones, where it can be used in several different applications. UWB technology will first be applied in car locks and payment terminals due to it being the most secure.
Security is a priority when indoor positioning is coming into mobile phones
Keyless locks and start systems are already commonly used in cars. Now, UWB, or ultra-wideband radio technology, praised for both its precision and security, is being introduced onto the market:
UWB can measure the exact distance from a mobile phone to a lock in a reliable way. Compared to other radio technologies, it is more convenient, as you can open a door from a distance with your mobile phone simply in your pocket, says CTO Jukka Kämäräinen from Iiwari Tracking Solutions.
Technology that opens up new possibilities is generally of interest to big players worldwide. Apple has already partnered with BMW to bring the UWB car key to its latest models, with other phone and car manufacturers following suit.
UWB technology can function without a base station when both the mobile phone and the door lock case have a UWB chip. You can also start your car by simply pressing a start button when the system recognises your mobile phone placed on the seat next to you, for example.
Strong signal encryption increases payment security
In the near future, UWB chips and mobile applications will replace payment cards. The advantage of UWB technology over NFC, which is currently used for local payments, for example, is that UWB is technically more reliable. The payment terminal measures the exact distance to your mobile phone and payments can be accepted at a distance of up to 20 cm. This will probably also require either fingertip, face or similar authentication to ensure that the phone is in the possession of its rightful owner.
Connections made with UWB technology can be strongly encrypted, meaning that they are safe from interference or interception from radio signals. Thanks to the element of security, there is a growing amount of interest in UWB and it is on its way to becoming more widespread, Kämäräinen says.
UWB chips, which can locate objects with an accuracy of 10 cm, will become an integral part of mobile phones in the near future. The latest advanced smartphones from Apple and Samsung already come with a UWB chip, although their use is still limited. In the first applications, a mobile phone can be used to search for objects with a UWB tag compatible with mobile phones based on distance and direction information.
No upper limit to the number of monitored items
UWB technology has already demonstrated its superiority regarding indoor positioning and it will have enormous potential as it becomes more widespread. The question is, when will it become commonplace in our country?
UBW technology is currently being standardised. FiRa is a consortium that aims to ensure the compatibility of equipment and systems created by different manufacturers. So, FiRa will determine more precisely how different devices have to function in order for them to work together reliably even if they have been produced by different manufacturers, Kämäräinen says.
The new generation of UWB radio and indoor positioning systems are based on the 802.15.4z standard. Several improvements have been developed to previous standards to enable higher data transmission rates and enhanced security.
The weakness of the 802.15.4z standard is that it can only position a limited number of items in a given area. At Iiwari, we have resolved this scalability issue and developed a method that allows for a limitless number of positioned items, Kämäräinen says.
In the future, Iiwari will develop positioning software, or a location engine, for mobile phones. The aim is that anyone could create applications that are compatible with the software. However, we are talking about a new technology and standardisation is still in progress, so there is no certainty about the openness of future interfaces.
Base stations to cooperate with other actors
In order to enhance the spread of indoor positioning in mobile phones, we need networks and base stations. Thus, Iiwari has developed a patented solution that is simple, accurate and easy to install. Iiwari is also in the process of developing a fully wireless battery-powered base station.
According to Kämäräinen, the construction of networks would be easier if infrastructure did not have to be built specifically for indoor positioning, but if the necessary networks would instead be installed together with other telecommunication networks, such as 5G networks.
In just a few years, UWB indoor positioning will be as common as GPS positioning is today. I believe that the innovative indoor positioning solution developed by Iiwari can be applied in a limitless number of ways in industry, trade, logistics as well as consumers’ mobile phones, Kämäräinen predicts.
Iiwari Tracking Solutions
Iiwari Tracking Solutions is strongly involved in the development of indoor positioning technology. The company originates from the Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd (VTT), where Kämäräinen was involved in developing Iiwari’s patent for a wireless positioning solution. The first products of this growth company are already in used for indoor positioning in retail, for example.