By Ruben Ruiz Aumente*
Existing BLE- Bluetooth Low Energy based smartphone applications using iBeacons for indoor positioning can be useful for certain use cases, such as in museums, shops or airports, but are limited in terms of accuracy and latency.
A new technology for accurate and fast location detection, called ultra-wideband (UWB), eliminates these limitations by enabling a very accurate Real time Location System (RTLS).
The main advantage of UWB is that it is undoubtedly the most accurate method (~20 centimeters) to provide positioning where technologies such as GPS, BLE or RFID are not sufficient, mainly in indoor environments, but also in outdoor environments where accuracy is a critical requirement – not to mention its low latency compared to BLE, where, for example, smartphones may need three to six seconds to detect a nearby beacon.
The market is clearly betting on this new technology. Some examples are:
- Samsung has started to equip its high-end handsets with UWB support. It is committed to UWB as a transformative technology, as shown on its website;
- Apple is driving the growth of the ultra-wideband applications market by including UWB chips in its latest smartphones (iPhone 11 and 12, Apple Watch 6 and HomePod mini);
- BMW announced future plans to implement Digital Key Plus, an enhanced version of Apple’s Car Keys feature that incorporates ultra-wideband technology, allowing drivers to unlock and start their vehicle without using their iPhone;
- A leaked Tesla FCC document shared by The Verge suggests that Tesla’s upcoming cars will support ultrawideband. According to the FCC documents, at least three of the items in the following inventory explicitly support UWB communication
In short: Samsung, Apple, BMW and Tesla are betting heavily on UWB, so it seems that it is a technology that is here to stay. Although today the iOS SDK on UWB only allows peer2peer location between iPhones, it is logical to assume that this will evolve and open it up to developers to allow more uses.
How does it work? What is it for?
The UWB infrastructure requires the installation of strategically distributed antennas in the place we want to monitor, and its installation and maintenance are simple. The UWB solution requires each user or asset to be located to carry a small dongle powered by long-life batteries to measure its location. The dongle sends a signal to the anchor antennas, which process the signal and calculate the position to centimeter accuracy.
The applications of this new technology are innumerable:
- Social distance control between people
- Localisation and Prevention of Occupational Risks in hostile environments (mines, tunnels, …).
- Monitoring and care of the elderly and sick in nursing homes
- Asset and merchandise management in warehouses
- Access and presence control in offices, factories, laboratories, …
- Industry 4.0
At Deimos we are constantly investing in R&D&I to be at the forefront of location technologies, both outdoor and indoor. Since mid-2020 we have had a laboratory where we test UWB and, as a result, we have recently been to carry out an indoor positioning service and supply project using Ultra Wideband technology for Adif at the María Zambrano high-speed train station in Malaga.
Interested in indoor positioning?
At Deimos we help you choose the most suitable location technology for your needs. We work in practically all sectors, such as logistics and distribution, industry, manufacturing, transport, PRL, security, sales force or ports and airports, where location-based solutions and services are essential to improve management, results and safety. Our location platform Kyros already has this new technology to provide a very accurate Real Time Location System,
Do not hesitate to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org ; +34 983 549 620