UWB: Back from the dead, bound for IoT location-based services

If you thought ultra-wideband (UWB) technology had joined the ranks of zombies on The Walking Dead, think again. It never totally died; it just got new again.

This time UWB is appearing in an area that's very much alive in the hearts and minds of many industry professionals: the Internet of Things (IoT), and it's getting some renewed attention for industrial applications. A decade ago, UWB was envisioned as a short-range solution for home media networks, replacing all those cords in the home, but now the focus is on the location tracking space.

As Embedded Computing Design points out, the old UWB was based on the IEEE 802.15.3a standard. Today's UWB falls under the IEEE 802.15.4a banner, and it provides an "intriguing play" for IoT location-based services, such as asset tracking and fleet/inventory management.

A big benefit to persist over the life of UWB technology is highly accurate impulse response, the article said. Unlike other solutions in its class, UWB was originally designed for radar systems and operates by using short, narrow pulses. That means the time of flight of RF signals through the air can be measured with extreme precision. Another advantage of UWB technology is the lack of interference.

Despite the meltdown of a key standards group back in 2009, some trying economic times and various industry machinations, some early pioneers managed to stay in the game. Late last year, DecaWave, a startup from Dublin, Ireland, unveiled ScenSor, an integrated circuit that uses impulse radio ultra wideband (IR-UWB) for accurate indoor positioning to within 10 centimeters.

Besides DecaWave, other pioneers still hard at work in the space include Pulse-LINK, which offers a form of UWB called CWave. CWave represents the culmination of $100 million of investment and a decade of research and development. It offers dedicated connectivity solutions for automotive, avionics, military, healthcare and consumer electronics.  

Alereon of Austin, Texas, supplies BAE Systems and DRS Technologies with UWB radio technology. Both BAE and DRS were selected by the U.S. Army to develop new night-vision weapon sights and head-mounted goggles. Alereon's wireless component eliminates the wire between the weapon sight and goggle, reducing weight and avoiding snag hazards.

Over at Time Domain, executives are focused on industrial applications rather than commercial electronics. The company says its PulsON 410 (P410) platform, paired with its RCM software, provides superior ranging and communications in high multipath environments, where GPS and other tracking systems struggle.

For more:
- see this Embedded Computing article
- see this Rethink Wireless article

Related articles
DecaWave claims accuracy within centimeters for indoor-positioning chip
IR-UWB installed on single chip for indoor positioning
SPOTLIGHT: In-Stat: Ultrawideband taking off
UWB shows signs of life

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