Not to be confused with the technology behind Verizon’s 5G Ultrawideband mobile network, Ultra wideband (UWB) is a completely different technology. Ultra wideband radar is a radio-based technology that sends data as pulses in the time domain, within the 3.1 to 10.6 GHz frequency spectrum. While the technology’s primary purpose when originally introduced was for high bandwidth data communications, it is not used for that purpose much these days.
Currently, UWB technology is getting a lot of attention within the industry for its location discovery, directional accuracy and device ranging capability. It is already being used to track down the location of objects. The Apple AirTag and Galaxy Smart Tag+ are some common applications of the technology today. Other common applications are file sharing over Apple’s Airdrop and Samsung’s Nearby share. The directional accuracy and fine ranging capability opens up the technology for potential use in many more use cases. With a huge projected potential and opportunity for leveraging UWB technology, a couple of different consortiums are major driving forces for the mass adoption of this technology in the near future.
The FiRa Consortium and Car Connectivity Consortium
The FiRa Consortium is a non-profit organization that is promoting the use of UWB technology for use cases such as access control, location-based services, and device-to-device services. The FiRa name, is short for “fine ranging” and highlights UWB technology’s accuracy when locating distance to a target object. The consortium believes UWB will transform connectivity experiences across the smart devices, smart phones and IoT industries.
The Car Connectivity Consortium® (CCC) is a cross-industry organization advancing global technologies for smartphone-to-car connectivity solutions. CCC is developing Digital Key, a new open standard to allow smart devices for remote keyless entry into vehicles. The goal is for Digital Key to let owners lock and unlock their vehicles, start the engines and share access to friends or valets using their smart devices in a highly secure manner. CCC includes a large number of stakeholders, including Car OEMs, Tier-1 suppliers, phone manufacturers, and App developers.
UWB technology offers many advantages, which is the reason behind the attraction to UWB. But that does not mean that it is the hands down choice for all applications. For certain applications, Bluetooth and NFC will continue to be the implementation technology of choice.
The technology offers high directional and positional accuracy for detecting object location. Given its operating frequency band, it is highly tolerant to interference to other ambient signals and noise sources. The time-of-flight measurement aspect of the technology makes it inherently immune to attacks. The technology’s energy efficiency during active mode combined with its high speed data transfer capability makes it very attractive.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is better suited for discovery during search and locate, due to its power-efficiency over UWB for this task. The subsequent task of fast, precise and secured localization is handed over to UWB for its high accuracy.
Concerns Around Mass Adoption of UWB
The cost point for UWB is currently much higher than alternate technologies and would be a while before the cost comes down. As such, mass adoption in a multitude of applications is expected to take some time. With such a fast, highly accurate, energy efficient, high speed data transfer technology, a legitimate concern is around unauthorized tracking and monitoring of people and assets. As the technology finds more widespread adoption, more regulation on the use of this technology is not unreasonable to expect.
Immediate Use Cases for Deploying Ultra Wideband Radar
Over the years, infant and pet deaths have occurred due to care givers absent-mindedly leaving their wards inside unattended vehicles. According to Market Research Future (MRFR) , the Child Presence Detection System Market is projected to grow at a rate of 51% CAGR, reaching $3B by year 2030. A number of automobile manufacturers are already incorporating ultra wideband radar technology in the vehicle in-cabin electronics. An innovative approach to child presence detection is to leverage this already installed UWB technology.
Ultra wideband radar technology is sensitive enough not only to detect the presence of an infant but also to detect the breath rate of that infant. This allows for a vehicle system to send alerts to the caregivers in a timely fashion. A demonstration of this enabling technology can be found here.
The way we safeguard our assets has been evolving over time. Whether it is our homes or vehicles, locking mechanisms have evolved from mechanical keys to key fobs to keyless entry systems. Sooner or later after a new technology is widely deployed, a vulnerability generally gets exposed, allowing unauthorized people to access and control a secured asset. While security providers are continually enhancing the solutions, hackers usually find a way to break the enhanced system.
A digital key is a feature that allows the use of smart devices as keys for entering automobiles or even homes for that matter. This approach has been widely adopted over the last decade or so and the mechanism is implemented on top of the Bluetooth technology. But hackers have been able to break into these security mechanisms by taking advantage of inherent vulnerabilities. Rolling-PWN attacks and Bluetooth relay attacks are well documented security breach mechanisms to break into automobiles. Fixing these vulnerabilities require vehicle owners to take additional steps such as the “PIN to Drive” feature recommended for Tesla vehicles.
But users don’t want to be bothered with taking extra steps. They want the technology to take care of issues without requiring extra steps from the user, better still for the technology to not even have vulnerabilities in the first place. This is where UWB technology comes into play. The automobile industry is very excited about adopting UWB as a digital key mechanism due to its highly secure and unbreakable nature of the communications system. Many automobile manufacturers have already incorporated ultra wideband radar modules into their various vehicle models. CCC is standardizing the digital key with the CCC Digital Key 3.0 release specification built around UWB and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity.
Digital Key 3.0 compliant UWB IP enables chip companies and systems OEMs to quickly create and customize the next generation of highly-secure digital keys for automotive keyless entry systems. CEVA’s UWB IP platform is an example of a Digital Key 3.0 compliant UWB IP for mobile, automotive, consumer and IoT applications. As a leading licensor of wireless connectivity and smart sensing technologies, CEVA stays at the forefront of integrated IP solutions for a smarter, safer, connected world.
Future Use Cases to Come
With high accuracy, unbreakable security and low-power nature that come with the UWB technology, many innovative and creative use cases/applications are sure to crop up in the future. For example, the ultra wideband radar can be used for gesture recognition to identify movements such as a leg under the trunk and open the trunk automatically. The ultra wideband radar can also be leveraged for Smart Home usage for light control, sound beaming, etc. CEVA’s UWB Platform IP is ready to support these applications as well.
Published on Embedded.com.
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