How IoT and Ultra-Wideband Go Hand in Hand

Zara Raza -
How IoT and Ultra Wideband Go Hand in Hand
Illustration: © IoT For All

The Internet of Things (IoT) is shaping how we interact with the world every day. This connected future is powered by sensors and actuators connected via the cloud to applications that serve us in ways that we never could have imagined just a few years ago. Standards such as IEEE 802.15.4 and ultra-wideband (UWB) enable devices to communicate with each other without the need for line of sight, which means IoT can finally become a reality in places other than our homes and offices.

Why Has Ultra-Wideband Been a Buzzword Lately?

Ultra-wideband was first seen in mobile technology with the premiere of Apple’s iPhone 11 launched back in September 2019. Since then, the state of the art sensing technology has gained traction and presence in the tech world, especially in the past year or so. In response to the rave reviews Apple’s latest model was getting, Android and Google phones quickly followed suit, and proceeded to incorporate the same UWB technology you can now find in the Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra and in the upcoming Google Pixel 6 phone.

You might be asking yourself what makes this latest development so remarkable that it is in such high demand now, especially if UWB is not the first communication protocol to offer spatial awareness. It seems that tech geeks and the general audience are particularly interested in UWB because of how it enhances preceding technologies, such as wifi and Bluetooth, with an additional layer of accuracy. UWB has a high advantage in this field, as it can provide accuracy levels of 5-10 cm between two devices, while Bluetooth and wifi can only reach up to 5m. 

How Ultra-Wideband Will Transform The IoT Industry

We cannot talk about UWB without acknowledging IoT. The concept of interconnected devices known as the Internet of Things continues to show promising advances, and now, with the reemergence of UWB technology, IoT devices requiring location and movement data will boast a stronger performance than ever before. 

Thanks to UWB’s interoperability, this communication protocol can be harnessed to build upon smart technologies such as BlueTooth, wifi, and yes, the Internet of Things. UWB can play a significant role in revamping IoT devices already available while introducing even more sophisticated networks of interconnected devices to the public in the future. 

UWB is quickly serving the needs of the numerous IoT applications in the market requiring precision location tracking and spatial awareness. According to Adarsh Krishnan, principal analyst at ABI Research, the incorporation of UWB in IoT applications improves accuracy even up to the millimeter level. ABI Research expects UWB to be present in over one-third of smartphones shipping out by 2025.  UWB’s inherently strong security will significantly boost IoT protections as well, offering more protections for transactions that involve sensitive or private information. 

There are a number of ways UWB can be employed in tandem with IoT to provide the most important functionalities for both business and personal use, including:

Access Control

UWB endows businesses with the capacity to track their employees’ location on the premises of the workplace (whether they are indoors, outdoors, etc.), and grant contactless access accordingly. Homeowners can also leverage this technology using digital keys to protect their homes and prevent unauthorized access. Imagine how wonderful it would be to no longer worry whether you’ve locked the doors or not when you go to bed or leave the house! 

Indoor Navigation

Ever find yourself struggling to locate items, stores, or even people inside large grocery stores or shopping centers? Indoor navigation solves this problem by allowing you to know where everything you need is ahead of time. This way you can plan the order you’ll buy things when you want to save time during your shopping trip. Marketers can also utilize indoor navigation for location-triggered marketing campaigns.

Smart Home Solutions

It is possible to make your smart home even smarter with UWB-powered applications. These solutions will more efficiently monitor what devices are on and how much energy they’re using according to your needs. A smarter home empowered by UWB effectively prevents wasted resources and extra effort by making sure the TV is turned off when you’re not using it, automatically adjusting the thermostat, changing the light color on a smart bulb, or controlling the temperature of your fridge and freezer.

Device Tracking

People don’t have to worry about lost essentials, such as AirPods, wallets, and keys with tracking tags. Both Apple AirTags and Samsung Galaxy SmartTags have UWB capabilities to allow easy device tracking. Tile has also announced its first tracking tag incorporating UWB, the Tile Ultra, expected for release in 2022.

A Smarter World

IoT and UWB have one major component in common: they both offer more connectivity. Both location-precise technologies make homes, cities, and businesses smarter, allowing daily operations to become less of a hassle. We are seeing increased usage of such technologies in practically every sector today. Here are some industries that have made a great deal of progress in recent years to become ‘smarter.

Healthcare

There has been an increased presence of wearable technology in the healthcare industry. This grants accurate patient monitoring from the comfort of patients’ homes. There are three main groups of healthcare IoT (HIoT) applications in healthcare: identification technology, location technology, and communication technology. 

Identification technology allows healthcare providers to exchange patient data remotely, using different types of identifiers. Communication technology ensures an established connection between two or more healthcare staff and also connects doctors to patients. Some examples of these are Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID), Near-Field Communication, wifi, BlueTooth, and Zigbee. Location technology can be used to track medical devices, or even humans, such as medical staff and patients.

Retail

Some of the biggest nuisances consumers experience while shopping in person are the long wait lines and the difficulty with locating items within a store. Additionally, when the pandemic emerged, people were scared to touch surfaces, making self-service options became more popular than before. Luckily, this opened up an entire range of opportunities for the retail sector. Amazon is leading the way with its self-service model, by omitting checkout lines to make payments in the store. Consumers only need to activate their ‘Amazon Go’ card, pick up what they need, and they are automatically charged. Ultra-wideband is ready to further transform retail with precise location tracking to aid in finding cars in parking lots, people in stores, and items that are hard to locate.

Real Estate

One of ultra-wideband’s most impactful capabilities in real estate is to unlock and lock doors automatically. The technology will also aid in improving access control, therefore, making homes safer. Most people have heard of the phrase smart home. These IoT-heavy homes are the future of the real estate world. Since there is a heavy demand for contactless technologies during the COVID pandemic, realtors are able to conduct property showings to potential buyers while keeping the entire process touchless. Smart homes are allowing realtors to continue their work without disruptions by implementing IoT and UWB technology.

Future Opportunities

UWB is likely to be around for a long time because it is a highly secure technology. Due to its precise tracking abilities and its use of Time of Flight measurements, a relay attack attempt to divert or redirect the UWB signal will most likely fail. This is because the UWB-lock or ignition uses distance to determine the proper device to send the signal. As UWB and IoT technology continues to grow, organizations can use these technologies for large-scale security applications. 

Author
Zara Raza, Sunvera Software

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Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...