Ultra Wide Band
is a radio technology used primarily for communicating between devices. Electronic devices with Ultra Wide Band module installed beams radio signals, receive feedback from nearby devices, and act upon that feedback. This interaction happens at a blazing fast rate and with extreme accuracy.
Ultra Wide Band Details
True to its name, the Ultra Wide Band technology uses 500 MHz (MegaHertz) to 7.5 GHz (GigaHertz) channel bandwidth. Ultra Wide Band uses low populated frequencies of 3.1GHz to 10.6GHz, which reduces interference with other transmissions in similar frequency bands.
The low signal density also allows Ultra Wide Band signals to penetrate surfaces like concrete, metal, wood, making it very efficient in buildings with tight spaces. You can use Ultra Wide Band as a medium for data transfer with a speed of up to 27 Mbps.
Ultra-Wide Band sends radio signal impulses at an insanely fast rate. Because of its high rate, Ultra Wide Band is able to use Time of Flight (ToF) measurement to track objects with laser-like accuracy.
Time of Flight is a measurement of the time taken by a radio signal to travel at a distance. Time of Flight measurement is used in research laboratories to track the acceleration of particles. Imagine having that kind of precision in your smartphone with the Ultra Wide Band technology in it.
Real-World Example of Ultra Wide Band
Even though Ultra Wide Band technology has been around since the early 20th century, only the military aviation organizations use it. Recently, there are two early Ultra Wide Band technology adopters that will make this technology become mainstream.
On 10 September 2019, Apple announced their brand-new flagship smartphone iPhone 11 with the new Apple U1 chip inside. Apple’s U1 chip is the first major smartphone chip that uses Ultra Wide Band technology.
As a result, the AirDrop app in the new iPhone 11 is able to detect and pair with other devices more efficiently. The Ultra Wide Band technology allows AirDrop to check its surroundings 10 times per second, resulting in quick and easy AirDrop pairing. The 27 Mbps transfer rate is a cherry on top.
On 13 October 2020, Xiaomi joined the party with their new Xiaomi Mi10 lineup. They included the Ultra Wide Band technology in the new Mi10, along with a specialized antenna. It’s primarily used for effortlessly remote-controlling nearby electronics such as fans, lamps, speakers, and smart doors.
Ultra Wide Band vs Wi-Fi vs Bluetooth
Currently, wireless technology is dominated by either Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. They are used in almost all kinds of electronics such as keyboards, smart lamps, earphones, and speakers. What if I told you that Ultra Wide Band is going to be the new wireless standard? Let’s do a comparison!
First, we must take a look at the basic specifications of these three different technologies.
- BluetoothIt has only one frequency band which is 2.4GHz, 70 meters signal range, low fabrication cost, and low power consumption.
- Wi-FiIt has two frequencies which are 2.4GHz and 5GHz, up to 200 meters signal range, high fabrication cost, and high power consumption
- Ultra Wide BandIt has a wide frequency range spanning from 3.1 GHz to 10.6 GHz, 10 meters signal range, moderate fabrication cost, and low power consumption.
Now, let's pick a subject of comparison: measuring distance or position. The concept Wi-Fi positioning system is to approximate our location based on our signal strength. To obtain higher accuracy, we need to connect to multiple Wi-Fi sources. The margin of error is 1-3 meters.
Bluetooth works pretty much the same as Wi-Fi. A newer Bluetooth version like version 5.1 can narrow down the margin of error to a few dozen centimeters. However, only high-end electronic devices enjoy it because of the high pricing.
Ultra Wide Band signals have a limited range, but it can penetrate concrete walls and metals inside a building, unlike Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Furthermore, Ultra Wide Band uses the Time of Flight positioning method, instead of approximation by signal strength. The result is Ultra Wide Band has a margin of error of just a few centimeters.
Ultra Wide Band Technology in Smart Home Devices
Because of Ultra Wide Band’s unique characteristics, the most promising use of this new technology is in smart home appliances. Currently, smart home appliances are actuated by time and audio input.
Ultra Wide Band technology allows smart home appliances to create a new actuator: proximity. Smart home appliances with Ultra Wide Band technology can accurately sense us when we approach. Once we passed a certain distance threshold, the device will turn on by itself. Once we’re moving away from the device, it will turn off automatically to save power.
Another promising usage of Ultra Wide Band technology is item tagging. We made a small device with an Ultra Wide Band receiver and stick it on an item, like a wallet. When I misplaced my wallet, I can fire up Ultra Wide Band signals from my smartphone and easily navigate through my house to find my wallet.
Ultra Wide Band Technology in Automotive Industry
The distance-time bounding protocol used by the Ultra Wide Band technology means signals can’t be spoofed. Even though hackers use the same signals as you, they won’t unlock your device because they’re not at the correct distance.
The Ultra Wide Band technology is also immune to multipathing and interference. Wi-Fi signals typically use the 2.4 GHz frequency signal. Other people could ‘tune in’ and attempt to replicate that signal to gain access to your device.
This isn’t the case with the Ultra Wide Band technology because it uses 3.1GHz to 10.6GHz frequencies which is way less populated compared to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth’s 2.4GHz frequency. Furthermore, less populated frequency means your Ultra Wide Band device will have significantly less interference with other devices.
These are essential features to have for a secure contactless car key. The Ultra Wide Band prevents the single most dangerous thing about contactless car key system: spoofing. Spoofing attackers try to mimic signals from your contactless key car transmitter and replicate it whenever they want.