Why ultra-wideband (UWB) and omlox?
UWB technology (aka ultra-wideband or ultraband) has been around for many years, but until just a few years ago, it was still a niche technology and only adopted by a small number of pioneering companies. Recent market growth numbers show a steep increase in UWB’s success. 2022 saw continued adoption of the technology that is well on its way to becoming the worldwide standard. The following years will be the time where UWB will prove to be the key wireless technology for accurate indoor positioning and location-based services. It is obvious that UWB is here to stay and that RTLS (real-time location system) will become its game-changing industry sponsor.
The time when a UWB signal is sent can be determined precisely. This makes the technology predestined for use in industrial environments.
The origins of UWB go back to the 1880s when the Spark Gap Transmitter was invented and later improved to send the first radio transimission across the Atlantic Ocean. Next, the impulse-based wideband radio technology RADAR was developed to determine the range, angle, and velocity of objects mainly for military applications as location finding and communication technology. It is the ultra-wideband’s unique ability to deliver location data that continued to spark the interest in UWB systems. Apple became the first to embrace UWB in consumer electronics to provide positioning data in its iPhone 11. While a handful of smartphone manufacturers have embedded UWB today, including Samsung and Xiaomi, the new UWB disciples can be found in Industry 4.0 solutions.
The main UWB feature is its highly accurate location tracking, up to 10cm precise, even in challenging indoor environments which makes it ideally suited to enable real-time measurement of location, distance, and direction, while also supporting twoway communication. There are two main UWB application fields:
- 1. peer-to-peer infrastructure-less solutions like the Apple AirTags and UWB car keys for hands-free access control, which connect UWB devices without the need for infrastructure, and
- 2. infrastructured solutions for robust location tracking in well-defined areas. This article will focus on location-based service applications that require infrastructure and the 7 trends that define their success
UWB can provide location data up to 10cm precise and makes it the best candidate for indoor tracking solutions that require high precision. Additionally, with low latency and high data rate traffic characteristics, UWB creates a compelling alternative to e.g. Bluetooth.
Ultra Low Power
Since UWB requires ultra-short airtime and is eminently a low-power wireless communication technology, it is ideally suited for battery-operated mobile tracking. The low radiation power furthermore has the positive side effect, that other non-UWB radio devices are not disturbed, since UWB signals blend in in the existing noise floor.
UWB offers high performance in noisy environments and is immune to interference in hostile condutions. Whereas narrowband radio reflections add up to a single unprecise signal, the ultra-short UWB pulses can still be distinguished when reflected. This makes UWB very robust in industrial or professional environments with many reflective metallic surfaces.
Ultra Low Cost
UWB’s low-processing and efficient power consumption enable affordable solutions and infrastructure. As UWB becomes more popular, the overall solution price will further erode when volumes go up and the market economics enter into competition.
Standardization bodies are in place to guarantee interoperability, boosting acceptance and market adoption.
Ultra Future Proof
Recognized by the big brands and backed by standards, UWB comes with built-in trustworthiness.
UWB works like a GPS on steroids that embodies all required features to make it the technology of choice for RTLS solutions. UWB is the most precise location technology available and offers by far the best solution for industrial use cases. RTLS solutions based on UWB track anything in manufacturing and beyond - people, assets, equipment, and vehicles - to analyze workflows, optimize efficiency and increase security.
UWB finds its home in the IEEE 802.15.4 standard for wireless communication. It is the technical standard that defines the operation of low-rate wireless personal area networks. In August 2020, the IEEE 802.15.4z was released with a focus on enhanced ranging capabilities, high increase of security, and enhanced power consumption, indeed all characteristics needed to further enhance and optimize UWB solutions. The IEEE standard not only crafts stability and and builds the basis for interoperability by higher-level standards, it also propels the UWB feature set that translate into benefits from which the UWB devices and applications can prosper. Apart from the technical standard IEEE 802.15.4, several standardization bodies, each with its specific focus, business scope and goals, operate to bring standardization to UWB. Technologies only endure when they are backed by a robust, quality-driven infrastructure that enables rapid expansion, providing a favorable regulatory and spectrum management landscape to secure and maximize UWB growth. The most relevant UWB-based standards include:
- omlox for professional use cases
- Car Connectiviy Consortium (CCC) for automotive use cases
- FiRa Consortium for consumer use cases
Each standard sets its focus in a clearly defined application space and different feature sets in order not to compete.
The omlox core zone works in conjunction with open interfaces and ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. On the one side, the omlox air-interface connects products (e.g. AMRs) and infrastructure (e.g. satellites). On the other side, the omlox hub API connects the core zone with the hub. Interoperability allows companies to easily network all omlox-enabled UWB products, regardless of the manufacturer.