UWB - taking wireless to the next level

A world where wireless is king has a huge potential for disruption and it looks like there’s a status quo challenger on the horizon. Ultra Wideband (UWB) is a wireless data transmission method that seems to have what it takes to turn the industry upside down. 

 

UWB technology is based on similar assumptions as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, being a short-range communication protocol operating via radio waves. However, compared to other solutions, UWB is extremely precise and accurate when it comes to data, at the same time requiring minimal power.

Let’s take a closer look at the UWB technology to better understand how it works, why it’s different and potentially disrupting, what are its benefits and most popular use cases. Read on!

How does UWB work?

In a nutshell, UWB can be understood as a sort of a radar that is continuously scanning and looking for an object to lock onto, determine its location and communicate with it. This wireless technology generates radio energy in the form of billions of pulses at an ultra wide broad spectrum of frequency.

When a UWB-enabled device finds itself in proximity to another UWB device, both start ranging, meaning calculating the round trip time of response packets. Thanks to that, they are able to transfer data, precisely localise other devices or calculate their distance and position - all that at a very low power density and in a convenient distance of up to 10 meters. 

Moreover, the whole process takes about two nanoseconds, which makes UWB real-time accurate. And since this technology is unlicensed, it means everyone can use it for their benefit. 

 

The advantages of UWB

 

UWB brings plenty of benefits to the table that certainly set this technology apart from other comparable solutions. Here’s a list of the most important ones:

- UWB is fast

Ultra Wideband is not only fast in operation, but also in installation and configuration. Since it operates on a very large bandwidth and using short duration pulses, it transfers big amounts of data in a swift way.

At the same time, fast doesn’t mean vulnerable to threats. UWB is known to be secure against interception and interferences, which adds additional value.

- UWB is accurate and reliable in real-time

500 MHz bandwidth and 2 nanoseconds-long duration pulses translate directly into unrivalled accuracy in real-time. The process of positioning of another device with UWB is reliable and precise to the level that allows not only to track the location of the device, but also to enrich the location insights with details about motion. Thanks to UWB, you can understand whether the device is still, moving closer or moving away - all that with a precision of centimeters.

- UWB consumes less energy

UWB is known not only for its small size and relatively low cost, but especially for the low level of power consumption it requires. With UWB, the power efficiency level is significant and translates directly into the longer lifetime of the sensor, despite it transfers more data and works in more demanding conditions - with obstacles such as walls and people not blocking the signal.

 

The flip side of the coin

 

Every stick has two ends. Despite plenty of benefits this technology allows to tap into, there are also some disadvantages of UWB.

Firstly, the speed of data transmission drops when the distance between devices increases. Secondly, although the cost of implementing UWB in a device is relatively low, the price of tags required to cover a relevant area could be expensive. And last but not least - UWB is not there yet when it comes to popularity. At the turn of 2020, only a handful of commonly used devices are equipped with UWB. This of course is subject to change as the popularity of UWB is expected to significantly increase.

 

UWB compared to other technologies

 

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of UWB is crucial, but being conscious of the most significant differences between this and other comparable technologies is even more important. At the end of the day, it’s good to be familiar with the whole context and have a broad horizon that would facilitate choosing the right solution to solve relevant business challenges.

Comparing UWB to similar solutions like Bluetooth, WiFi, RFiD and GPS, it certainly is the most reliable technology, as it is strongly immune to interference. Moreover, UWB has the best range and coverage parameters in the stake, of up to 250 m2 per anchor. It’s also definitely best-performing in terms of security, latency (below 1 millisecond) and precision (centimeters). Additionally, UWB scores extra points for operating away from congested bands of the radio spectrum.

Just like Bluetooth, WiFi and RFID, UWB works well both indoors and outdoors. UWB’s reliability can be compared to RFID. These technologies are also known to use less power than other solutions. On the other hand, WiFi guarantees faster data communication, transferring large amounts of information quicklier.

 

UWB use cases

 

As for early 2021, UWB is still a relatively new technology, only exploring the potential for commercial use cases. Nonetheless, with the benefits it introduces, we already see a good number of interesting success stories and should expect its exponential increase in the near future.

Since UWB is extremely precise, one of the most common use cases of this technology is related to advanced and precise localising and finding items or people. Checking the location of certain equipment, controlling movement of goods, analysing the flow of customers, measuring distance between objects and people, increasing security levels or even finding your watch that fell behind the couch - the possibilities are endless. 

Here are just some examples:

- Samsung SmartThings Find

The new solution by Samsung allows users to localise their devices - smartphones, smartwatches, tablets or wireless headphones. Once users can’t find the device, they can use a combination of UWB and Augmented Reality to track and locate the lost item. Samsung is also working on a solution where UWB supports intelligent, distance-based door access.

- Xiaomi smart home solutions

Chinese gigant Xiaomi already introduced UWB technology to their flagship smartphone Xiaomi Mi 10 5G. With its advanced tracking and directional localising features, Mi 10 understands towards which other device we’re pointing and allows the smartphone to control this device. As a consequence, you can turn the TV volume up, increase the fan, unlock doors or the garage or use other Smart Home appliances from the perspective of your smartphone.

- Spark Control

Spark Control by EMBIQ is another great example of how UWB supports indoor positioning in large areas. It’s a system based on an autonomous solar power supply and wireless long-range connection, that allows to localise and track people and devices in a given space. Thanks to daily sensor analysis and task planning features, Spark Control allows to monitor real-time progress of for example employees in the greenhouse and generate performance reports for given facility, person or time period.

UWB - a technology with enormous potential

With the high speed of data transmission, unprecedented reliability and security combined with finest precision, UWB facilitates localising and tracking people and devices across all sorts of environments.

UWB surely has the potential to be the next big thing, especially bearing in mind the growing number of sensors and wearables used for remote monitoring these days. And although this technology is still a relatively new concept, it gains grounds, becomes widely available and is obviously set to unlock a range of new, interesting IoT applications. 

New technologies are emerging and it’s good to have a finger on the pulse - the next potential disruptor is just around the corner. It’s worth using it to the benefit of your business, and for that to happen organisations need a reliable and experienced tech partner. 

 

Get in touch and see how EMBIQ leverages technology for the benefit of your business!