technology to watchEvery few years we get a new technology buzzword to watch; it was nano technology, then RFID and now it is UWB (Ultra Wide Band).

What is Ultra Wide Band and why should you care? Let me explain what it can do and then I’ll give you 30 seconds to come up with an application for it.

Ultra Wide Band is (i) short range and (ii) high bandwidth wireless technology. The current UWB wireless data speed exceeds 500Mbps.

As a comparison, a full HD video streaming at 1072p, requires about 150Mbps data speed (35Mbps for basic streaming and 150Mbps for stream manipulating applications like pause, replay, fast forward); UWB can easily accommodate this level of data speed requirements. Freescale semiconductor showcased their first prototype consumer TV with Ultra Wideband several years ago.

There are 2 billion peripheral USB devices connected to computers right now, they can all loose the wires and work with UWB. UWB is a natural extension of Bluetooth and WiFi.

Here is how the network scales looks like:


The standard setting body for UWB is WiMedia Alliance. It is an open industry association that promotes and enables the rapid adoption, regulation, standardization and interoperability of UWB. (IEEE attempted to define working standard called IEEE 802.15.3 for UWB but it got trapped in the quagmire of internal politics.)

According to the most recent report from market researcher In-Stat, in very near future UWB sales will overtake WiFi sales volume ($300M+ this year). The current predictions are that UWB-enabled notebook PCs hit the market soon and PC peripherals will follow shortly thereafter. CE and communications applications with UWB will hit the market in 2010 and in 2011, over 400 million UWB-enabled devices will ship. Of course, one expects several delays and I have heard of issues with the current state of UWB technology and its low power constraint, but I am hopeful.

Another really interesting use of UWB is for indoor GPS services. Last week, Thales, a French Aerospace company, said that it has developed indoor positioning system (IPS) that was aimed at helping fire services pinpoint people inside a smoke filled building. Traditional Global Positioning System (GPS) devices are of no use inside buildings because their signals are too weak and frequently bounce off surfaces, causing confusion.

The UWB IPS system will work seamlessly with GPS. All big box stores and all malls can use a system like this to help customers get to the right place, to the right store and to the right product. All major car park systems can use a system like this to help patrons find their cars.

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