Ultra-wideband or UWB wireless technology A short-range wireless communication protocol. UWB Gradually adopted and approved by users worldwide, it now includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC. However, it should not be confused with the ultra-wideband mobile network which is a different 5G mmWave technology. Here we will discuss all the details about Ultra-wideband wireless technology That you have to be aware of.
What is ultra-wideband wireless technology and how does it work?
Ultra-wideband wireless technology is used to locate items in the real world with the utmost precision because it boasts extremely high positioning and directional accuracy. UWB technology is already present in connected tracking devices such as – Samsung Galaxy SmartTag Plus and Apples Airtag.
Furthermore, car manufacturers including BMW, Audi, Ford and Hyundai have claimed that UWB-equipped devices can also act as a secure digital key. Various forms of keyless entry technology exist today, however, making UWB more secure than other wireless standards. UWB technology will allow cars to measure the exact position of the key fob in real-time within a few centimeters. Bluetooth 5.1, on the other hand, provides lower positional accuracy than UWB, which is only accurate at the nearest meter. BMW noted, “Your car will recognize when you approach and automatically unlock, turn on its lights, or even turn on pre-configured personalized settings.”
UWB chips can be integrated with other devices, such as smartphones and smartwatches. This technology will make it convenient for car owners as they do not have to carry separate key fobs. Samsung is working on a digital key platform that allows users to unlock their car’s front doors using a UWB-enabled device or wearable. As NFC-based mobile payments eliminate the need to carry physical bank cards, UWB is expected to discontinue the use of physical car keys.
How does technology work?
UWB works differently from other wireless data transfer technologies. UWB is a pulse pattern radio-based technology that sends data across time domains. It works with spectra of 3.1 and 10.6 GHz. As the name implies, the Pulse method involves much more spectrum than other protocols to work reliably. A single UWB band is typically 500MHz wide, with a 4G LTE band ranging from 5 to 20MHz and a Wi-Fi band from 20MHz to 80MHz.
Pulse data can be sent very quickly without losing accuracy due to the wide spectrum. Depending on the frequency, UWB can hit data rates ranging from 4Mbps to 675Mbps or higher, faster than NFC’s 424Kbps and Bluetooth’s standard 2.1Mbps speeds. However, Wi-Fi 6 achieves a higher speed of 2Gbps.
To avoid interfering with each other, wireless technologies are usually confined to very narrow bands. UWB operates at a very low power level which falls within the noise floor of other wireless applications which helps this technology to avoid interference problems. In short, the wide spectrum allows UWB to be easily recognizable when its low power does not interfere with other signals.
Another advantage of using this pulse-based transfer is that it can be used to calculate flight time-location information from the data obtained. The distance between the transmitter and the receiver can be worked out once the signal takes time to bounce back and the speed of data transfer is known. It even eliminates the risk of relay attacks which is a common tactic used by car thieves. This technique involves intercepting and re-broadcasting a radio signal to unlock a vehicle.
The difference between UWB, NFC and Bluetooth
Bluetooth provides a decent range for internal use because it operates in the 2.4GHz band, but it is still susceptible to interference because it uses the same spectrum as some WiFi signals. UWB was adopted for industrial applications because its wide spectrum is much less prone to interference, but it does not have the long-range like Bluetooth. In contrast, NFC operates at 13.56MHz, and most implementations require physical proximity for data transfer, while the UWB transmission distance is somewhere between Bluetooth and NFC.
Both Bluetooth and NFC are relatively inexpensive for low-power beacons or passive-powered NFC tags, where UWB is more expensive and requires an active power source. UWB will be convenient when the basic requirements include – high-speed data transfer, fast location detection with high accuracy and low risk of interference.
Devices that support ultra-wideband wireless technology
UWB has been available for several years now, however, it is still not as common as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. UWB technology is limited to some of the most expensive devices available in the market. But that may change as the technology adapts to mainstream vehicles and tracking devices. Some of the smartphones and wearable devices that support UWB technology include – all models of Apple iPhone 11, 12 and 13 series, Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Google Pixel 6 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus / Ultra and S22 Plus / Ultra, Apple Watch Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 and Z Fold 3 with Series 6 and Series 7. More manufacturers are expected to include UWB support in their upcoming flagship generation, however, mid-range and affordable devices are still a long way from getting this technology. Any time soon.