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Using Ultra-Wideband Technology in Short-Range Wireless Communications

Key Takeaways

  • What UWB technology is.

  • Comparing UWB technology with narrowband systems.

  • The advantages of UWB technology.

UWB technology

Nowadays, digital devices are mainly comprised of three segments: consumer electronics, mobile phones or handheld devices, and computing devices. The devices in these categories sometimes overlap through wireless connectivity. For example, to listen to an audio file, the file is transferred from a PC to a mobile phone or vice versa. Another example is the ability to operate a home air conditioner through a smartphone. The interoperation of devices requires a common wireless technology with high data rates even with many connected devices. The need for high speed, high bandwidth, high throughput, and consistency over multiple device connections limits the use of WiFi and Bluetooth technology in new devices. 

Ultra-wideband technology (UWB) is a next-generation wireless communication protocol that offers a solution for next-generation wireless connectivity, with both high speed and high bandwidth. Advantages such as low cost and low power as well as the ability to keep devices physically small make UWB popular among electronic device manufacturers. 

What Is Ultra-Wideband Technology?

UWB technology is a rapidly evolving technology with high potential for short-range wireless communication, just like Bluetooth and WiFi. UWB technology delivers high throughput with many converged devices. UWB technology involves the intentional generation and transmission of short pulses of radio waves. The radiofrequency energy produced in UWB technology covers a broad spectrum of high frequencies in the GHz range. The frequency ranges utilized in UWB technology generally overlap with the frequency bands allocated for radiocommunication. The performance of UWB enabled communication is better than narrowband wireless communication.

UWB Technology vs. Narrowband Systems

According to Shannon’s theorem, the channel capacity of a wireless communication network is dependent on the channel bandwidth in Hz and signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). In ordinary narrowband systems, the bandwidth allocated is limited, and the channel capacity is varied by changing the SNR. However, the channel capacity holds a logarithm relationship with the SNR and, therefore, channel capacity slightly improves with the vast change in SNR. In this way, the performance of narrowband communication systems is not desirable in terms of channel capacity, data rates, or power consumption.

In such a scenario, ultra-wideband technology emerges as a promising wireless communication protocol suitable for high data rates. UWB technology is not band-limited, but power-limited. Channel capacity can be increased in UWB technology by increasing channel bandwidth. In UWB, the SNR is kept very low, as there is flexibility to increase the bandwidth. The low value of SNR transforms its relationship with channel capacity into a linear one. It is advantageous to improve the SNR in UWB technology-enabled wireless communications.

Apart from channel capacity, the power required for operation limits the usability of narrowband systems. The total power required in narrowband systems is limited by the transmitting power, which is not the case in UWB technology. UWB technology offers an inherent property of low power consumption in the transmitter, making it the best communication option for battery-powered devices.

Advantages of UWB Technology

UWB technology is employed in consumer as well as enterprise applications. It finds application in:

  • Wireless communications
  • Radar
  • Networking
  • Imaging
  • Positioning systems 

Let’s take a look at some of the advantages of UWB technology to understand why it is such a desirable choice for these applications.

High data rates:  The broad bandwidth of UWB technology supports high data rates in the range of more than 500 Mbps within the circumference of 10m.

High precision ranging: UWB utilizes short pulses of nanosecond duration. The time duration of typical UWB pulses offers high time-domain resolution and positional accuracy, which makes the technology suitable for location and tracking applications.

Fading robustness: The advantage of fading robustness makes UWB technology suitable for multipath environments by overcoming multipath fading.

Low loss penetration: UWB signals can penetrate through obstacles. This property makes it operational under line-of-sight as well as non-line-of-sight environments.

Coexistence: The spectral density of UWB systems is low, which allows the co-existence of UWB technology with other services such as cellular communication, global positioning systems, and wireless local area networks.

Security: The low power spectral density of UWB signals permits secure communication using this technology. UWB systems operate below the noise floor, making them highly immune to hacking.  The wide bandwidth of UWB systems makes them less prone to interference.

Low-cost transceiver implementation: The up-converters, down-converters, and power amplifiers used in narrowband transceivers are not necessary for UWB systems. The elimination of the many subsystems in transceivers reduces the cost of implementation and offers the advantages of high data rates and low power consumption.

It is safe to predict that the potential of UWB technology will continue being utilized in a wide array of consumer electronics, computing devices, IoT peripherals, and smartphones. Cadence software offers mixed-signal tools and systems that can reduce the time to market of these UWB-enabled systems.

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