At present, there are not many consumer electronics brands that have used UWB ultra-wideband technology on a large scale. The one that everyone is most familiar with is Apple. Fast file sharing function can be realized between iPhones equipped with Apple U1 ultra-wideband chip. When the phone is close to the HomePod mini smart speaker with built-in ultra-wideband chip, it can play music and get personalized listening suggestions; it is bound to AirTag with built-in ultra-wideband chip Later, the iPhone has the ability to accurately locate and track objects indoors.
1. What is UWB technology?
UWB (Ultra Wide Band) ultra-wideband technology is a wireless carrier communication technology that uses a frequency bandwidth above 1 GHz. It does not use the sinusoidal carrier in the traditional communication system, but uses nanosecond non-sine wave narrow pulses to transmit data. Therefore, It occupies a large spectrum. Although wireless communication is used, its data transmission rate can reach hundreds of megabits per second.
UWB technology has the advantages of low system complexity, low transmit signal power spectrum density, insensitive to channel fading, low interception capability, high positioning accuracy, and strong penetration capability. It is especially suitable for high-speed wireless access in dense multipath places such as indoors. .
UWB is not a new technology. It was first used in military radars and communications applications under the name "Pulse Radio". Since 2002, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has authorized its use without permission and has divided it into 3.1 ~10.6GHz frequency band, occupies a bandwidth above 500MHz.
Compared with the well-known three technologies of GNSS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that can provide location services, the advantages of UWB technology are as follows:
First of all, the traditional Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) can provide satellite positioning services, but because satellite signals will be blocked by buildings, indoor positioning cannot be achieved.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth usually use the received signal strength indicator (RSSI) to determine the location, only showing the rough category of the "weak" or "strong" received signal, and the positioning accuracy can reach the meter level.
There are three technologies for UWB positioning, namely TOF (Time of flight), TDOA (Time Difference of Arrival) and PDOA (Phase Difference Of Arrival). Although this is only suitable for a short range, the location of the signal source can be determined with an accuracy of less than 50 cm (under optimal conditions and deployment) and extremely low latency.
Through this picture, everyone can more intuitively understand the difference between UWB technology and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. In short, the advantages of UWB technology are:
1. High positioning accuracy: wide bandwidth, strong multipath resolution, anti-interference, and higher resolution for distance than Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
2. Fast real-time positioning speed: UWB ultra-wideband pulse signal has a bandwidth of nanoseconds, which can realize real-time indoor positioning, with low latency, and can instantly perceive and track the movement of objects.
3. High reliability and safety: UWB has low transmit power and wide signal bandwidth, which can be well concealed in other types of signals and environmental noise. Traditional receivers cannot recognize and receive. It must be consistent with the transmitting end. The spread spectrum code pulse sequence can be demodulated.
Of course, the three technologies of UWB, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth do not exist in isolation. They can be used at the same time. They have complementary advantages. They can bring a variety of positioning and data transmission services to terminal products such as smart phones. Antenna and radio frequency design have higher requirements.
2. Is there a standard organization for UWB technology?
Each wireless transmission technology usually has a standards organization responsible for the formulation and technical certification of related standards, such as Bluetooth Technology Alliance, Wi-Fi Alliance, International Telecommunication Union, etc. In the field of UWB technology, there are currently FIRA Alliance and UWBA Ultra Wideband The two major organizations of the alliance were both established in 2019.
FiRa Alliance is committed to developing and widely adopting the safe and fine ranging and positioning functions brought by the interoperable ultra-wideband (UWB) technology to provide users with a seamless experience.
The members of the FiRa Alliance mainly develop products based on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard UWB security fine ranging technology, and develop the application scenarios of UWB technology across various vertical business fields. FiRa Alliance works closely with other industry organizations, such as IEEE, Wi-Fi Alliance, Car Connectivity Alliance (CCC), etc., focusing on UWB use cases that operate in the available 6-9 GHz frequency band.
The members of the FiRa Alliance are divided into sponsor members, contributor members, associate members, adopter members, test laboratory members, academic and educational members, many of which are familiar brands.
The UWB Alliance focuses on providing a favorable regulatory and spectrum management environment under the 802.15.4z standard to maximize the growth of the UWB market. The UWB Alliance aims to promote various vertical industries to demonstrate the value of UWB to the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0, and to build a global ecosystem in the entire UWB value chain from chips to services.
In addition, the UWB Alliance is currently advocating for new spectrums, and plans to expand UWB to 12.4 GHz and emerging higher frequency bands in Europe.
The current members of the UWB Alliance have the above brands, as well as many well-known semiconductor manufacturers.
I love audio network will follow up a separate article summarized by UWB chip manufacturers and solution providers, so stay tuned.
3. What are the application scenarios of UWB technology?
Thanks to Apple’s vigorous publicity, UWB technology has gradually become well-known in the consumer electronics field in recent years, but its application in the industrial and commercial fields has been very mature, and it is an important component of the RTLS (Real Time Location Systems) real-time positioning system. The main use is the UWB ultra-wideband technology with high positioning accuracy, fast short-distance communication transmission speed, and quick response.
Today I will share with you the current application scenarios of UWB technology in consumer electronics products.
Since the iPhone 11 series of mobile phones, Apple has successively applied its own UWB solution in Apple Watch S6, HomePod mini smart speakers, iPhone12 series mobile phones and Aritag wireless trackers. Its control chip is Apple U1.
Samsung mainly introduced UWB solutions on mobile phones. Specific models include Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Galaxy Z Fold 2, S21+ and S21 Ultra. At the same time, Samsung has also introduced SmartTag+ smart trackers using UWB technology.
The domestic mobile phone brand Xiaomi has launched a UWB connection technology called "Yizhilian" to give full play to the advantages of its smart home ecology, and it will be able to link with various smart home products in the future. In addition, OPPO has also demonstrated the precise orientation and precise control capabilities between mobile phones and IoT devices at the technology conference.
Apple initially launched the U1 chip on the iPhone 11 series models, using the high-speed transmission capability of UWB technology to increase the transmission speed of the "airdrop" function, and at the same time using its precise positioning capabilities, "airdrop" will give priority and direction The iPhone establishes a connection.
Using an iPhone equipped with U1 ultra-wideband chip close to the HomePod mini smart speaker equipped with U1, the audio being played by the speaker will smoothly transition to the iPhone and listen to it; when there is no music playing, hold the iPhone close to the HomePod mini, and the screen will pop up personalized Recommended for music playback without unlocking the phone.
AirTag wireless tracker is a combination of Bluetooth low energy and UWB ultra-wideband technology. With ultra-wideband technology, users can see on their mobile phone how far away the AirTag is and which direction to look for to facilitate asset tracking.
Demonstration of Xiaomi's "Yizhilian" UWB technology function. The mobile phone points to an electric fan that supports UWB technology, and a control card pops up on the mobile phone to control the fan. There is no need for a physical remote control, and the mobile phone no longer needs to download a separate APP. In addition, Xiaomi's "Yizhilian" has also implemented operations such as smart TV projection and smart door lock opening when approaching.
This picture on the official website of the FiRa Alliance shows in more detail the impact of UWB technology on our lives in the future, including: digital car keys, identification, indoor navigation, offline shopping behavior analysis, exhibition data analysis, wireless payment, VR games, gesture recognition, etc.
As mentioned earlier, the RTLS real-time positioning system based on UWB ultra-wideband technology is currently very mature on the industrial side. It is mainly used in industrial manufacturing (tracking personnel, vehicles and equipment, etc.) and location tracking (in special buildings such as prisons and other special places). It is widely used in fields such as personnel/equipment/file positioning), warehousing and logistics (library, e-commerce industry, etc.), wireless measurement, intelligent driving (automatic vehicle entry and exit), as well as augmented reality and competitive sports.
4. How big is the UWB market?
UWB ultra-wideband technology has been developed on the industrial side for many years. Data shows that UWB technology will occupy 30%-40% of the indoor positioning market in the future, and its market size is expected to reach 16.4 billion U.S. dollars by 2022. The prospects are very broad. But the main discussion here is how big the UWB technology can be in the consumer market in the future.
At present, if UWB ultra-wideband technology wants to realize the above-mentioned functions, the main product that needs to be attached most is a smart phone. For example, Apple and Samsung's mobile phones that already support UWB technology have already driven the sales of UWB chips in the tens of millions.
In the domestic market, Xiaomi, which has launched the "One Finger Link" technology, will sell nearly 10 million high-end mobile phones in 2020. The AIoT ecosystem has gradually improved. The Mijia APP has 45 million monthly active users, and its iterative products have been upgraded. UWB technology is possible; in the future, mobile phone manufacturers such as OPPO and vivo will join in.
It can be said that the huge shipments of mid-to-high-end mobile phones can continue to lead the development of the C-end UWB market, which in turn will drive the growth of shipments of various UWB devices such as smart watches, smart wearables, and smart homes.
According to forecasts by ABI Research, shipments of smartphones supporting UWB will increase from more than 42 million in 2019 to nearly 514 million in 2025.
Not only that, UWB technology vendors that focus on industrial-grade solutions have also entered the game after seeing the huge development potential of the consumer market. The most representative one is Qingyan Technology. They are the only company in the FIRa Alliance that has a vote. Right-qualified Chinese solution provider has launched TicTag, an AirTag-like hardware product compatible with the Android ecosystem, and will open the hardware platform for OEMs, providing platform-level products compatible with 802.15.4z and FIRa, which can help more consumer brands enter quickly This market.
The UWB Alliance believes that since 2019, UWB has been expanding into the mainstream consumer technology of smartphones, wearable devices, automobiles, and industries, and is expected to drive the sales of more than 1 billion devices each year by 2025.