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Discover Qorvo and Spark Micro's latest UWB Transceivers for Fast Data TX and Precise Positioning


Image showing UWB ultra wideband precision location and data transfer

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

2.1 Modulation


Image depicting the difference between Wideband and Narrowband signals
Figure 1 - Wideband Vs Narrowband signal

Narrowband and wideband radios differ significantly in both the time domain (Figure 1) and the frequency domain (Figure 2 below).


Image showing the frequency domain for the power density of Wideband and Narrowband signals
Figure 2: Power Spectral Density Vs Frequency for Wideband and Narrowband

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.


2.3 Regulations

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.


Image Showing Frequency Bands for various carrier signals
UWB Spectrum

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

Image of the Qorvo DW3000 UWB Transceiver QFN40 package top and bottom

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


DW3000 EVKs

  • 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

Image of the Spark SR1020 UWB Transceiver QFN package

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.


10. Conclusion

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.


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