We cannot even imagine how everything looked like before evolving radio technology. Now we cannot keep up with changes in wireless technology. What is essential, wireless solutions are an indispensable tool for everyday work not only with computers but also with checking the localization far away from home or office.
Technologies that help us to define and wirelessly find objects are Real-Time Locating Systems. RTLS is mostly used in indoor and designated areas, such as buildings, and does not provide global coverage like GPS. There are a few ways of using RTLS. It depends on The discussion of what is the best, what is the most precise, what is the cheapest, what is the most suitable for a specific solution. You may know RLTS solutions like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or radio frequency identification (RFID). But there is still a system that is not fully discovered. Ultra-wideband - radio system designed to measure distance and location more accurately than narrowband radio systems such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. You can send information over a short distance using minimum power. How is it different from other radio transmissions? UWB transmits the data by generating radio energy at a specific time. UWB transmitter is sending billions of pulses across the broad spectrum frequency at the same time. A corresponding receiver is changing the pulses into data; it lasts about two nanoseconds, helping UWB achieve its real-time accuracy.
Furthermore, UWB systems are working in bands already used by other spectrum users. Due to the fact that the emission is ultra-wideband (even to 2Gbps), the spectral density of this emission may be small, so the power of this signal received by narrowband or broadband devices may be much lower than the power of desired signals. In this case, it is possible to use a vast range of frequencies for transmission without interfering with the reception of narrowband and wideband signals.
In the early 2000s, UWB was used only in the military with radars and in medicine with a heart monitoring system. Today thinking about UWB has changed; it is explored for commercial uses. Why is that? It is because UWB is much more precise than popular systems.
Even the UWB is not as popular as other systems like RFID tags, Bluetooth connection, or just Wi-Fi, you can find it in many primary areas. But now, thinking about UWB solutions is changing. It works similarly to Wi-Fi - for example, UWB is a helpful tool in locating and investigating how employees move in workplaces or staff and customers in shopping malls. Also, it is used with production like checking the location of the equipment, the study of its use, control of the movement of goods, including dangerous goods, analysis of the flow of cargo and customers, the location of service officers during rescue operations, security (alarm systems). There is a possibility to measure not only products but also people who are working. UWB solution seems to be suitable for ground survey radars, surveillance, and monitoring systems or could help to observe objects through the walls.
If we can compare ultra-wideband technology, we can certainly do it with radio frequency identification (RFID) or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). All of them are a technology that helps with real-time location systems. RFID is pretty old technology but also really cheap. That is why it is still viral. But it has some disadvantages. Works with cheaps tags but needs specific tools to detect them. It could be less precise than other solutions. On the opposite side, we have quite a new technology BLE. It can provide good results in most environments, but not perfect. Tags used with this technology are inexpensive; the battery can last long. The results of the measurements are good, but the accuracy is lower than UWB. Finally, ultra-wideband technology is one of the newest solutions. It works with 10cm precision, while other narrowband radio systems can only reach the accuracy of several meters.
An excellent example of using UWB is the development of smart factories. Manufacturers have realized that the industrial revolution is something inevitable and necessary to move on. According to Capgemini’s report - Smart Factories: How manufacturers realize the digital industrial revolution's potential only with new solution factories can improve their work. As you can see, the forecast for the next years tells us that transformation is going faster and faster.
One of the most significant advantages of ultra-wideband is its accuracy. If you are looking for a tool that probably will not be mistaken - here you are! One project which is using UWB is Spark Control. The system lets us controlling, planning, and monitoring real-time spending in a particular area, in this case, we are talking about the application in greenhouses and horticulture. The system has an autonomous solar power supply and long-range wireless connection as an advantage, so we do not need any additional infrastructure.
The system is dedicated to employee management, planning, and monitoring of real-time spending in a particular area. The extensive panel allows the user to create long-term plans with prioritization, consisting of individual tasks assigned to a specific employee. The sensor system enables real-time progress monitoring and employee location with designed facilities.
Thanks to the unique system, we can check individual employee’s tasks, daily readings from sensors or generate a performance report for every facility, employee, plans, and periods.
The project which could help on the European roads was made two years ago. It assumed creating an application in satellite navigation - Galileo. This project's main objective was to develop and demonstrate a high availability positioning solution for automated driving applications. PRoPART is using sensors based on ultra-wideband technology. It seems to be the best option in areas where GNSS coverage is low, like in tunnels or urban canyons.
RTLS solutions are also very useful in the transport area. The company KG Bursped is a shipping place that is using UWB technology in its warehouses. They are using RTLS is integrated with video surveillance. In cooperation with 160 cameras, nearly 20 forklifts and 140 entrance gates are monitored, the barcode scanners are equipped with RTLS labels. The system let to locate tags and scanners. Knowing the scanner's position at the time of reading the code finds a given shipment, improving video surveillance operation.
Ultrawideband seems to be the most precise technology you can find nowadays. Still, it is not the most popular solution, but it is changing now. Not long ago, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth was the best option for a wireless connection because every smartphone can use it. What is interesting, you can find UWB in iOS smartphones, which were released at the beginning of 2020. There are some rumors that the Android system is only waiting for this change and will be very soon. It is the best time to think about ultra-wideband with seriousness. Still, there are more advantages to using UWB technology.
So what is next? Now we are watching the development of ultra-wideband. But it is pretty obvious that new technology is waiting around the corner. UWB is helping with monitoring systems, the flow of cargo and customers, or how to locate the product. Now everyone is talking about 5G technology, but how long would it be to wait for its successor? We could only forecast how quickly we will be talking about new solutions.