New Technology

Ultra-Wideband is a fast, secure and low power radio protocol used to determine location with accuracy unmatched by any other wireless technology. 

We are the first company in the West to embrace it and we do so because it has the potential to revolutionize our world.

Ultra-wideband (also known as UWB and ultraband) is a short-range wireless communication protocol that uses radio waves to enable devices to talk to each other. It's similar to Bluetooth but more precise, reliable and effective.

What is Ultra-WideBand?

Although you may have heard about Ultra-wideband only in 2019 when Apple added UWB to iPhone, the technology has actually been around for decades. As early as 2002 the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized the unlicensed use of UWB. It saw limited use in military radars and was even briefly used as a remote heart monitoring system. Back then the cost of implementation and lower than initially expected performance limited the use of UWB in consumer products. Today ultra-wideband chips are cheap and small enough to put them inside other devices like smartphones. Nowadays it is so precise that an iPhone owner can now point his or her phone at a friends phone to transfer a file or photo.
What makes UWB so unique? It transmits data across short distances and precisely determines location by measuring how long it takes for a radio pulse to travel between devices. As the name suggests, it also uses a wider frequency. The frequency range of Ultra-wideband is between 3.1 and 10.6 GHz. There is one drawback which is its short range, but that doesn’t matter much when you have two devices that are in a room together. Thanks to its characteristics, UWB applications enable a lot of new services for consumers and enterprises like accurate indoor location & positioning, providing context aware information and precise analytics in real time (see UWB usecases).

How does UWB Work?
Like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, ultra-wideband is a wireless communication protocol that uses radio waves. A UWB transmitter sends billions of radio pulses across the wide spectrum frequency and a UWB receiver then translates the pulses into data. The same way bats use echolocation to sense their environment, UWB pulses can be used to sense distances between two transmitters. The shorter the duration of the impulse, the more precise the distance measurement will be. UWB achieves real-time accuracy because as it sends up to 1 billion pulses per second (about 1 per nanosecond).

UWB Spectrum
UWB uses very low power and the high bandwidth (500MHz) is ideal for delivering a lot data from a transmitter to other devices. By sending pulses in patterns, UWB encodes information. It takes between 32 and 128 pulses to encode a single bit of data, but given how fast the bits arrive, that enables data rates of 7 to 27 megabits per second.
To increase UWB’s range and reception reliability, a MIMO (multiple-input and multiple-output), distributed antenna system has been added to the standard that enables short-range networks. The antennas can be embedded into a smartphone or other devices such as a wristband or smart key.

When a smartphone with UWB (like the latest iPhone) comes close to another UWB device, the two start ranging, or measuring, their exact distance. The ranging is accomplished through Time of Flight (ToF) the time it takes for a pulse to get from point A to point B.
Depending on the type of use, such as asset tracking or device localization, one of the UWB devices calculates the precise location of another UWB-enabled object – such as those car keys or television remote control that fell between the couch cushions. (If the device is running an indoor navigation service, the UWB-enabled device must know its relative location to the fixed UWB “anchors” and calculate its position on an area map).

How accurate is UWB?
UWB's low-power signals cause little interference with other radio transmissions and can effectively measure distance with an accuracy up to 10 cm (3.9 inches). Decawave’s UWB Chip promises accuracy even up to 2 cm (0.78 inches) in indoor environments. To compare Wi-Fi and Bluetooth accuracy is only up to 1 meter (39 inches) provided there are no obstructions.

What is UWB Range?
UWB can determine the relative position of other devices in the line of sight even up to 200 meters (656 feet) based on the IEEE 802.15.4a standard.

What's the difference beteen UWB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and RFID?
It is easy to get overwhelmed when choosing your own solution when there are so many different technologies to choose from.
Below is a summary of the main differences.

UWB vs. Bluetooth
At first UWB and Bluetooth may sound very much the same. Bluetooth LE (BLE) is a low power radio system that has been used in beacons for ranging and measuring location, or at least that was the promise many beacon producers were trying to sell. BLE technology is relatively inexpensive and easy to implement. The problem is that with Bluetooth you can’t really measure location or distance. What you can do is to detect if a device like a smartphone is within a range of another device (for example beacon). Why is that? With Bluetooth you can only distinguish whether a signal is weak or strong and translate it to being close or far from a device.

It’s really not the same as measuring precise distance or tracking location. Some solutions promise to convert that signal strength to a distance estimate but the problem with this approach is that signal strength is a poor indicator of distance. If signal strength is low, that doesn’t have to mean the phone is far from the beacon but there is an obstacle between the beacon and the phone. Bluetooth and Wifi operate on the same frequency of 2.4GHz therefore their signals are highly prone to noise interference, they can easily be reflected or absorbed resulting in inaccurate data and low responsiveness. You may try to create a walkaround and use a mesh of beacons in fixed locations to take signal measurements every few meters to mitigate the problem of interference and increase precision. But those measurements are costly, time consuming to implement and not precise.

Ultra-Wideband, in comparison, provides a much higher accuracy (up to a few centimeters). In contrast to Bluetooth Low Energy, the distance it measures is not based on the signal strength, but the time it takes the signal to travel from point A (smartphone) to point B (UWB tag). UWB range is shorter compared to Bluetooth. Because Ultra wideband frequency is 3.1–10.6GHz there is limited probability of any signal interference which is often a case with BLE.

However, there are certain things where BLE beacons are still the preferred solution. They have been on the market since 2013 and easily available. BLE based solutions are also cheap and easy to integrate with any existing systems. All smartphones do have bluetooth technology integrated in them which is not yet a case for UWB.

Info. Below:  <UWB> vs. {Bluetooth Beacons}  
Battery:  <Low consumption>   {Low consumption} 
Range:   <Up to 200 meters, 656 ft.>  {Up to 70 meters, 230 ft.)
Accuracy:  <10 centimeters, 3.9in.>  {1 meter, 3.3 ft.}
Cost:    <Low>    {Low} 

UWB is Best for Proximity Marketing, Customer Analytics, Indoor Navigation, Smart Homes, Factory Automation, Asset-Tracking, Logistics

Beacons are Best for Proximity Marketing, Customer Analytics, Loyalty, Indoor Location

UWB vs. Geofence
Geofencing uses GPS signals from satellites and cell phone towers to establish your proper location. GPS accuracy is limited to 5 meters at the best possible scenario. This accuracy is even worse if you are inside a building as GPS signals are weaker inside a closed building. Using GPS has a big impact on the battery life of your mobile device. Geofencing does not work indoors and that is where Ultra wideband comes into place. UWB is currently the most precise way to establish location indoors. UWB is not only more precise than GPS but also much faster.

Info. Below:  <UWB>  vs.  {Geofence, GPS} 
Battery:  <Low consumption>  {Moderate consumption} 
Range:  <Up to 200 meters, 656 ft.)  {No limit outdoors} 
Accuracy:  <10 centimeters, 3.9 in.>  {5 meters, 16 ft.} 
Cost:  <Low>  {Low - no infrastructure} 

Geofence, GPS is best for Outdoor Campaigns, Outdoor Location, Customer Analytics.

NFC is a relatively inexpensive RFID technology that operates in the 13.56MHz band and is becoming much more popular due to its low cost and size. NFC has a range of just 4 centimeters (less than 2 inches) therefore it can only be used in certain scenarios and establishing a precise location is not of them.

RFID is not able to estimate the distance which is one of the most important advantages of UWB over other technologies. What it can do is to tell you that two objects are within 4 cm of each other and that’s all. Passive NFC tags do not require any battery and are often incorporated into key fobs, payment cards or devices. One of the most popular use cases for NFC is to use it for contactless payments with a smartphone. An NFC tag that is created in a smartphone is then read by NFC reader in POS to establish a secure connection and pay for a product.

It is likely that UWB will win over NFC in many use cases as it has all pros of NFC. The only disadvantage is that you must broadcast a UWB signal, so UWB tags are more expensive than passive RFID tags.

Info. Below:  <UWB>  vs.  {NFC (RFID)} 
Battery:  <Low consumption>  {No battery} 
Range:  <Up to 200 meters, 656 ft.>  {A few centimeters} 
Accuracy:  <10 centimeters, 3.9 in.}  {A few centimeters} 
Cost:  <Low>   {Low} 
NFC (RFID is best for Loyalty, Delivering information at a tap, Security Checkpoints. 

UWB vs. Wifi
Wifi was the most common indoor-location technology before Apple announced iBeacon protocol in 2013. Wifi’s main advantage over UWB technology is its availability in public as well as private places all over the world. All smartphones are Wifi enabled as well which makes it a fairly easy choice for many companies.

The main Wifi disadvantage compared to UWB is the common approach to estimate distance or location by measuring only the signal strength. As described above for Bluetooth, signal strength is a poor indicator of distance. The accuracy of Wifi is limited to a few meters, which makes it unusable in many use cases. You can determine a room in which a worker is located in a factory building but you won’t be able to pinpoint thier exact location.

WiFi requires much more power than UWB which is why all routers need to be plugged in to the power outlet at all times. Wifi routers are also much more expensive than cheap UWB tags nowadays.

While Wi-Fi has come a long way to allow greater accuracy in locating other devices and reducing the costs, UWB is more precise, uses less power and is much cheaper.

Info. Below:  <UWB>  {WiFi} 
Battery:  <Low consumption>  {Does not work on battery} 
Range:  <Up to 200 meters, 656 ft.>  {U to 100 meters, 330 ft.} 
Accuracy:  <10 centimeters, 3.9 in.>  {A few meters} 
Cost:  <Low>  {High} 
Wifi is best For Proximity Marketing, Loyalty, Basic Customer Analytics

Is Ultra-wideband safe?
There are multiple aspects to discuss when analyzing the safety of UWB technology. First of all the power of UWB pulses are 1/10000-1/100000 then those of signals emitted by mobile phones so it’s safe to be used by all people.

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