As an electronic engineer, I have always been fascinated by the advancements in technology that have revolutionised the way we communicate and interact with the world around us. One such technology that has been gaining a lot of attention lately is Ultra Wideband, or UWB. In this article, I will be taking a closer look at UWB technology, its benefits, limitations and applications, and the latest UWB modules and chips from Qorvo and Spark Microsystems to help you start designing in this next generation technology.
1. Introduction to Ultra Wideband Technology
UWB technology was first developed in the 1960s for military applications, but it wasn't until the 1990s that it started gaining traction in the commercial world. Today, UWB is used in a wide range of applications such as indoor positioning, asset tracking, smart homes, and automotive radar.
Ultra Wideband (UWB) is a wireless communication technology that uses short-range, high-bandwidth signals to transmit data over short distances. Unlike traditional wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, UWB uses a much wider frequency spectrum, typically ranging from 3.1 GHz to 10.6 GHz. This wide frequency range allows UWB to transmit data at very high speeds, with low power consumption, and with high accuracy.
2 Ultra Wideband vs Narrowband Radios
Narrowband and wideband radios differ significantly in both the time domain (Figure 1) and the frequency domain (Figure 2 below).
Most wireless radios operate in narrowband. Their modulation bandwidth is much smaller than the carrier frequency. In the time domain, the modulated RF signal is sinusoidal with the carrier frequency whose amplitude and / or phase are modulated at the modulation frequency. In the frequency domain a narrowband radio has a narrow peak and a high peak-power spectral density.
Despite being around for decades, Wideband radio has gained popularity only fairly recently. In the time domain a UWB radio sends pulses with a width in the order of a few nanoseconds. Thus the spectrum of an UWB radio is much wider than a narrowband radio, while the power spectral density is significantly lower. A UWB radio is defined as having a bandwidth that is larger than 500 MHz, or more than 10% of the center frequency.
2.2 Data Rate
As the bandwidth of an UWB system is high, higher datarates than narrowband radios are possible. Alternately, the pulses in an UWB system can be sent sporadically, resulting in a lower data rate.
The regulatory bodies of individual countries have set aside license-free parts of the spectrum to be used for UWB communications. Examples of regulatory bodies include the FCC in the USA and ETSI in Europe. The spectrum set aside for UWB emissions depends on the regulatory body, for example the FCC has set aside a band from 3.1 GHz to 10.6 GHz, while ETSI has a band mostly from 6.0 GHz to 8.5 GHz.
Each country has the same in-band regulatory limit power spectral density of -41.3 dBm/MHz measured with an RMS average detector over 1 ms. Out-of-band emission masks depend on the regulatory body. The overall UWB Spectrum is shown among other narrowband regulated spectrum below.
The aim of the regulations is for UWB to appear below the noise floor of the surrounding narrowband radios operating in the vicinity of the UWB radio. The filters in narrowband radios will reduce the received power from the UWB signal as its bandwidth is much wider.
3. Benefits of Ultra Wideband Technology
One of the key benefits of UWB technology is its high data transfer rates. UWB can transmit data at speeds of up to 480 Mbps, which is much faster than traditional wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. This makes UWB ideal for applications that require high-speed data transfer, such as video streaming, HD Audio* and data transfer.
Another benefit of UWB technology is its low power consumption. UWB uses short-range, low-power signals to transmit data, which means that it can operate for long periods of time on a single battery charge. This makes UWB ideal for battery-powered devices such as smartwatches and fitness trackers.
UWB technology also offers high accuracy and precision. UWB signals can be used to determine the exact location of a device within a few centimeters, making it ideal for applications such as indoor positioning and asset tracking.
* Exact definitions of HD Audio or Hi-Def Audio vary but are, as a minimum, deemed to be better than the quality on a standard CD which is 16-bit with a 44.1kHz sample rate. Purists would be pushing for 24-Bit @ 96Khz. Bluetooth, by comparison, as the dominant wireless format can only broadcast compressed audio to fit within the bandwidth available, which by its nature is more lossy than the pure uncompressed audio signal.
4. Applications of Ultra Wideband Technology
UWB technology has a wide range of applications in various industries. In the healthcare industry, UWB can be used for patient monitoring and tracking. In the automotive industry, UWB can be used for collision avoidance and autonomous driving. In the retail industry, UWB can be used for indoor positioning and proximity marketing. In the smart home industry, UWB can be used for home automation and security.
Here are just some of the 40+ verticals where UWB is making an impact:
Omlox: open locating standard for industry and Logistics
Apple: adopted UWB in AirTag, HomePod and Apple Watch and iPhone since the 11
Google: Pixel 7, Android 12 or newer, Android TV
Samsung: UWB since Galaxy S30
Connected Home: Tags, Find my Stuff, Point and Control
Access / Asset Control: Wearables, Indoor Navigation, Asset Tracking, Anti-Spoof car access
Agritech: Livestock management, Precision Agriculture, Automation
Connected Industry & Retail: Location Awareness, Logistics, Safety
Healthcare: Indoor navigation and asset tracking
Gaming: Ultra Low Latency gaming, VR
HD Hi-Fi Audio: streaming and Wireless music systems
5. Introducing Qorvo DW3000 second generation UWB Transceiver
The DW3000 is the second generation of the DW1000 transceiver which is already deployed successfully in over 40 verticals. It has made significant improvements over its predecessor including reducing the energy consumption by a factor of 4, on a smaller footprint of 3.1 x 3.5mm WLCSP or 5x5mm QFN40 and complies with the latest IEEE 802.15.4z standard for Impulse Radio Ultra Wideband technology.
Key benefits of this UWB transceiver are:
Provides precision location AND data transfer capability concurrently
Asset location accurate to 10cm
Offers secure ranging / distance measurement
Delivers high multipath fading immunity
Worldwide UWB Radio Regulatory Compliance
Low power consumption means it is suitable for coin cell applications
It can be used in 2-way ranging, TDoA and PDoA systems
DWM3000 - No MCU, Fixed Ceramic Antenna, Supports ToF, TDoA, Ch 5,9, DW3110 IC
DWM3001C - Turnkey RTLS Tag / Anchor, Nordic 52833 MCU, 512Kb Flash, 3DoF Sensors, Fixed PCB antenna, Support ToF, TDoA, Ch 5,9, DW3110 IC
6. Spark Microsystems SR1020 - Ultra Low Power / Short Latency Wireless Transceivers
The SR1020 is a highly versatile integrated short range wireless transceiver with ultra low power consumption and ultra low latency. It facilitates high data rate communications and secure signal transmission. The transceiver communicates in the license-free UWB spectrum from 6-9.3 GHz.
Spark Microsystems UWB transceivers achieves 40x better energy efficiency, 60x low power latency and 10x more data throughput compared to BLE. They have low EMI which does not interfere with other radios such as WiFi, BLE, Zigbee, Z-Wave or cellular.
Key Benefits of the SR1000 family
Ultra-low power - battery-less operation with energy harvesting
Coin-cell battery operation for many years
Supports device to device, star and mesh networks
Configuration and link layer software included
Low system cost
High-efficiency PCB antenna reference designs available
EVK for SR1000 Series
EVK-SR1010-MP1: SR1020 Eval Kit, XC-SR1020-MP1: SR1020 Transceiver module
The evaluation board uses an ARM-based STM32G4 MCU to communicate with the SR1020 and the provided software. It includes a USB-C connector, Line in 3.5mm jack, 3.5mm headphone jack, expansion connector and ST Link Programmer Connector.
In conclusion, UWB technology is a powerful wireless communication technology that offers high data transfer rates, low power consumption, and high accuracy and precision. The latest UWB modules and chips from Qorvo and Spark Microsystems offer a range of features and capabilities that make them ideal for a wide range of applications. They have distinct capabilities in their own right and we can help you with product selection for your specific needs.