A search of the Computable archive reveals that the first articles on ultra-wideband appeared as early as 2006. Now, sixteen years later, ultra-wideband is making a comeback. And that is largely due to the rapid development of the Internet of Things. How do these technologies reinforce each other?
Internet of things (iot) is sending data from devices or people to the cloud. This is done, on the one hand, to monitor the status of devices, manage stock or measure temperature and CO2 in a room. On the other hand, it is used to know where certain devices are. This is what we call asset tracking† The same applies to people in, for example, hazardous environments such as construction and industry. If an employee is in a dangerous zone, an alarm will be activated. IoT solutions in the field of tracking can use various networks, such as GPS or Bluetooth. However, GPS and Bluetooth are too inaccurate to locate devices or people inside buildings or workplaces. Ultra Wide Band (UWB) can provide a level of precision of five to four centimeters between two devices, while Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can only reach five meters.
“According to Adarsh Krishnan, Principal Analyst at ABI Research, integrating uwb into iot applications improves accuracy down to the millimeter level”
Uwb quickly addresses the needs of the many IoT applications on the market that require precise location determination and spatial awareness. According to Adarsh Krishnan, Principal Analyst at ABI Research, integrating uwb into iot applications improves accuracy down to the millimeter level. ABI Research expects uwb to be present in more than a third of smartphones by 2025. Uwb’s inherently strong security will also significantly improve IoT security, providing greater protection for transactions involving sensitive or private information.
radio communications technology
Uwb is a radio communication technology that uses pulses to transmit data. Mathematically, a pulse can be thought of as a sum of sine waves of different frequencies. This ensures that the uwb signal has a wide range of frequencies, hence the name.
In addition to being used as a communication protocol, uwb is also used as a method of determining distances between transmitter and receiver. By measuring the time it takes for a signal to travel from the transmitter to the receiver and assuming the signal travels at the speed of light, the distance between the two can be calculated. The pulse-like nature of the uwb signal indicates well-defined departure and arrival times, making it ideal for this purpose.
“The three uwb devices with known locations are also known as ‘anchors'”
If the distance between a uwb device and at least three other uwb devices is known, the location of this first device can be determined relative to the locations of the other three devices using trilateration. If the locations of these three devices are also known, the location of the first device can be identified. The three uwb devices with known locations are also known as ‘anchors’. Therefore, a system using uwb technology for location needs a minimum of three uwb anchors in known locations. Next, you need tags on the devices or people you want to track. These tags can identify their own location by determining their distance from nearby anchors and using trilateration with the anchors’ known location information.
In addition to tags and anchors, this system must also include gateways. The tags communicate their location information to one of these gateways and this gateway then forwards this information to the cloud or back-end application. Uwb can also use communication between tags and gateways to send data and messages (to and from tags). And this is where iot comes into play.
The combination of iot and uwb has many advantages. Thus, you can quickly and accurately locate certain devices. It is useful for healthcare to quickly know where certain medical equipment is, whether it has already been cleaned, how big the stock is, and whether the equipment is well distributed in the departments or not. The same applies to technical equipment in offices, such as mobile televisions or furniture. It also offers advantages in the industrial sector. There, containers, boxes and pallets are used to transport parts within a production process. These assets are often manually tracked or completely invisible in the process, leading to delays or the search for missing assets. Tagging and tracking these assets via uwb resolved these issues. Also, the combination of iot and uwb can help create a 2d or 3d floor plan of an office, factory, or other building. This way you can see at a glance where the assets are and how the stock is doing.
“If it turns out that he or she has not moved for a while, the alarm can be raised”
In some cases it may be necessary to locate employees. This is especially applicable in agriculture, industry and construction. Typically, a smartwatch-sized tag is used, which sends location signals and receives messages. It also contributes to safety. An alarm can sound if employees reach dangerous places. But even if someone wears a tag showing that he or she hasn’t moved for a while, the alarm can be raised. With an alarm button on the smart watch, the employee can also immediately call for help.
As a technology with a history of nearly sixty years, uwb is poised for the next phase of growth. UWB is currently the only wireless technology that provides accurate location measurements and supports high-performance security to protect access data and data communications. After all, Uwb signals are separate from other signals and resistant to noise and reflection. The technology is not new, but in its current form along with iot it has found a new relevance.
(The author Dhruv Gulhar is a Solutions Engineer at Evalan.)