About UltraWideBand

KALM-150x150"Tom provides a brief explanation of what UltraWideBand is and how you can benefit from it and when you need to worry about it.

Featuring Tom Merritt.



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Episode Script
iPhone tracking tags?

What are these things?

Also what is this U1 chip?

Are you confused?

Don’t be.

Let’s help you Know a Little more about UltraWideBand.

Ultra-wideband is occasionally referred to as UWB or ultraband.

It ‘s used in sensors that collect and report data but it’s most mainstream use is in tracking. Put an Ultrawideband tag on something and then you can always find it if you’re in range and have a device with an ultrawideband chip. BUt it can do so much more than that!

Ultrawideband is a very low energy radio technology for high bandwidth communication over a wide spectrum. In other words, you want to send a lot of data without using a lot of power. Use UWB. Oh and it’s really good at telling where something is.

Think of it as a low power radar that can scan a room and detect objects.

One of its big advantages is that it doesn’t interfere with other transmissions in the same band, usually greater than 500 MHz. So it doesn’t need its own spectrum, it can share it with others.

UWB used to be called pulse radio because it doesn’t continuously transmit. Hence the ability to share the spectrum better.

Also when it does transmit, it uses all the bandwidth available to it at once. Broadcast radio, and most conventional radio transmissions vary the power level — that’s amplitude modulation or AM radio or the frequency that’s frequency modulation or FM radio.

UWB transmits information by generating radio energy at specific time intervals and occupying a large bandwidth. So Time Modulation.

Because it sends out over such a wide bandwidth, it can overcome interference and be very good at measuring distance.

Think of it this way. Every so often – say every one or two nanoseconds– UWB sends out a pulse across its wide spectrum frequency. The pulses are really short. 10-1,000 picoseconds. A receiver can then calculate data based on how long the signal took to get there and a few other pieces of information.. Because of its low power and high bandwidth it can relay a lot of data.

It can transmit through stuff like your couch cushions but it’s not good at transmitting through walls. It’s pretty much line of sight. Though a multi-input, multi output or MIMO antenna system can help increase range and reception reliability. MIMO is part of the IEEE 802.14.4a standard for UltraWideband that can determine location within line of sight at up to 200 meters.

Generally UWB’s emission levels are limited by regulatory agencies which keep the range of Ultrawideband short. This shorter range allows for high data rates.

It can be used for enabling wireless monitors, or sending data from a camera, wireless printing and file transfers.

But because of its location precision and low-power its especially good at real-time location

For instance UWB digital car key operates based on the distance between a car and a smartphone. This could help thwart a man in the middle attack where someone tries to intercept authentication messages between a key fob and a car. UWB can make sure only the car knows where the authentic fob is. And the car can ignore transmissions from any other direction.

This same “second check” could also be used in payment systems or ATMs.

And UWB can be used as radar. It has been tested for Signaling of the New York City Subway to help detect instructions on the tracks. Military uses include detecting IEDs and hidden people. And Ultrawideband has been used to monitor vital signs like heart rate and respiration though that use has fallen off.

But again. It’s star use seems to be real time location.

Time of flight, which we mentioned earlier is the key to this. The unobstructed signal takes a certain amount of time to go round trip from one UltraWideband device to another. Given the speed of light, that “Time of flight” indicates how far away the two devices are.

Bluetooth can do this too, but UltraWideband is more precise, uses less power and at scale should cost less to make.

This could be used with UWB sensors attached or built into an object to help you locate them. Or a location like a mall or an airport could fix UWB beacons that have known locations. This could be used to locate a person’s phone and help them navigate inside the mall or airport to the store or gate they want to find.

It can also be used with file transfers. Not only could UWB handle the transfer but also it can tell where people nearby you are. So if you have a person to your left that you want to send the file to and another person available that’s behind you and you don’t know who that is, you can tell which one is which and send the file to the right person based on where they are. Another layer of security. And for instance with AirDrop on the iPhone you can point your phone at the person you want to send the file to.

Apple was the first with an Ultra Wideband chip – the U1-starting with the iPhone 11 series of phones in September 2019. Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo and others are currently members of the FiRa Consortium developing interoperable UWB ecosystems including mobile phones.

Fira wants to develop UWB for
hands-free access control, – like getting into your house, or a driverless car, or an unmanned store,
location-based services like indoor navigation, AR gaming, or tracking things even patient tracking
and device-to-device applications like ticket validation, finding a friend nearby or patient data sharing.

One of the challenges to UWB adoption is the name. Fira wants to come up with a new one, like WIFI is used for IEEE 802.11 for instance. So keep a look out for a new name for UltraWideBand.

But there you have it. Someday you may have phones and sensors, doors, cars etc with UltraWideband inside making it easy to differentiate not just what is nearby but where it is.

I hope this helps you understand a little more about what UltraWideBand is and how you can benefit from it and when you need to worry about it.

In other words I hope now you know a little more about UltraWideband.