The wireless connectivity technology industry has grown so huge that it can be challenging to put new entrants into perspective. While Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi already benefit from a very broad market adoption today, they lack in accuracy when it comes to their positioning capabilities and provide relatively little to no RF level security, compared to UWB, to protect ranging data exchange.
It is possible to achieve ranging with any wireless connectivity technology. However, you need to evaluate your environment and determine what accuracy and response time is required for your use case; this will determine the choice of technology.
There are various technologies in use and each has its own strengths in a selected set of use cases. When it comes to accurate positioning, UWB stands out thanks to its ability to precisely localize devices and objects down to less than 10 cm in line of sight or non-line of sight. With a refresh rate of 200~1000 times per second, pinpointing a location is done in real time. Also, UWB pulses resist a common difficulty, known as the multipath effect, which is what happens when radio signals reach the receiver by more than one path, due to reflection or refraction caused by natural or manmade objects close to the main signal path. Its immunity to narrowband fading and jamming makes it a very robust technology option too.
UWB operates in a different part of the radio spectrum, away from the busy ISM band clustered around 2.4 GHz. The UWB pulses used for location and ranging operate in the frequency range between 6.5 and 9 GHz and don’t interfere with wireless transmissions happening elsewhere in the spectrum. That means UWB co-exists with today’s most popular wireless formats, including satellite navigation, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and even Near Field Communication (NFC).
One of the most important additions to UWB, being defined as part of the new 802.15.4z specification, is an extra portion of the physical layer (PHY) used to send and receive packets of data. The new feature adds cryptography, random number generation, and other techniques that make it harder for an external attacker to access or manipulate UWB communications.
The primary UWB technology differentiators are highlighted in the image below.
UWB’s unique combination of signal characteristics – easy to identify, resistant to noise and reflection, separate from other signals – makes it an excellent choice for measuring distance and addressing a wide variety of use cases.