FAQ about ultra wideband (UWB)

The article aims to answer all frequently asked questions about Ultra Wideband (UWB), particularly if you are interested in UWB technology for positioning. If you can’t find the answer you are looking for here, please contact us and we’d be happy to help.

What does UWB stand for?

UWB stands for Ultra Wideband.

What is UWB technology?

The name UWB used to be associated only with a radio transmission technology that uses a wide band of frequencies to carry information.

Today, in 95% of the cases the name UWB technology is used to refer to a high accuracy positioning technology. The other 5% comprises of many different UWB applications such as UWB radar, industrial signaling, short range data transfer, etc.

How does UWB work?

UWB basically contains 2 types of devices: The UWB Anchor and the UWB Tag.

The UWB Tag is what you attach to an Asset: a spare part, a pallet, a piece of equipment, a person, etc. A Tag is typically the size of a match box, but can be bigger or smaller, depending on how long the battery needs to last.

UWB Anchors are devices ranging from the size of a deck of cards, such as is the case of RedLore Anchors, up to the size of a shoe box. They need to be installed throughout the facility, typically 15m or 50’ apart. The location of the UWB Anchors is fixed and recorded in the positioning system.

The UWB Anchors capture the signals from the UWB Tags. The message from a single UWB Tag is captured by multiple UWB Anchors. The time it takes the signal to travel from the Tag to the Anchor is recorded (Time-of-Flight). These travel times are an accurate indication of the distance between a UWB Tag and its nearby UWB Anchors, so the position of UWB Tag with respect to the UWB Anchors can be accurately determined.

How accurate is UWB positioning?

UWB is accurate down to 10 cm or 1/3’. On average you may expect 50 cm or 1.5’ accuracy, and nearly always sub-1 meter (sub-3’).

Can I use UWB for tracking assets and people?

Yes, as UWB determines the location of the UWB Tags and everything they are attached to, a trail is automatically monitored of how things move in the environment.

RedLore UWB Tags typically have a motion sensor on board, so a new position is only recorded when the UWB Tag is moving. This helps extend the battery life of the UWB Tag.

How does UWB compare to other positioning technologies?

You may have heard of other positioning technologies such as WIFI RSSI, Bluetooth RSSI and Bluetooth Angle of Arrival (AoA).

Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI) based technologies, whether based on WIFI or Bluetooth, are10 to 30 times less accurate than UWB, typically around 3 to 5m (10 to 16 ft). For many applications they do not offer enough accuracy to justify the investment. E.g., when looking for a piece of equipment, it doesn’t help if the equipment is identified as in a room on the other side of the wall if the adjacent rooms do not share a common hall.

Bluetooth Angle-of-Arrival (AoA) does better than RSSI, with a best-case accuracy of 0.5m or 1.5’, roughly 3x less accurate than UWB.

Are Bluetooth Beacons used for positioning and is that the same as Bluetooth-RSSI positioning?

Not at all. And, yes, unfortunately things can get confusing.

A Bluetooth beacon is a small device that sends out a simple message on a regular time schedule. For example, a Bluetooth beacon in a retail store may sent out the message “Soft drink on sale today -10%” every second. A phone in the proximity of the beacon, up to a few meters (10’) away and with the right app installed, can capture the beacon, and display the message on the screen.

So, a Bluetooth beacon can inform a smartphone or another device of its proximity, but that is not a positioning solution.

Can RFID do the same as UWB?

Not at all, although the technologies are often compared.

UWB is explained above.

RFID (“Radio Frequency Identification”) is a technology whereby battery-less (= passive) RFID Tags are energized by a nearby RFID Reader, typical a few meters (10’) away. The RFID Tag then uses the captured energy to send its unique identification number back to the RFID Reader.

Because of their limited capability and battery-free operation, RFID Tags only cost a few cents.

The need for a close proximity between the RFID Tag and the RFID Reader is a consequence of this battery-free design. It is also the reason why RFID cannot be used to position devices in a building or on an outdoor yard: Chances are small that the RFID Tag is in view of an RFID Reader at any given moment. Outfitting an entire warehouse with RFID readers is both cost-prohibitive and technically not possible.

Does RedLore’s LOCUS solution use UWB?

Yes.

RedLore’s patented LOCUS technology is the only UWB solution that is fully wire-free: The infrastructure devices, called the Anchors, do not need external power and no data wiring. This cuts down significantly on installation cost and burden.

Do I need to install infrastructure in my facility to make UWB work?

Yes, you need to install Anchors (which some companies call readers, access points, base stations, etc.) throughout the facility.

With RedLore technology is it sufficient to install an Anchor every 15m or 50’. When you are installing outdoors, then distances can be even further?

See also Question “How does UWB work?”.

Do I need to install anchors on a perfect square grid?

No, with RedLore technology you simply install the Anchors where there is a natural spot to stick them, such as on a wall, a ceiling, or a post. This is different from many other vendors, who are picky about how and where Anchors are installed.

Do I need to wire the anchors together in a network?

No, with RedLore UWB the Anchors are entire-free. You simply install them, and they will self-form a network amongst themselves. Even when you change your infrastructure and add Anchors, the new Anchors will automatically connect to the existing network. We like to call it “Plug & Forget”.

RedLore’s patented Anchor technology is the only technology in the world able to provide wire-free infrastructure.

Do I need to power the RedLore Anchors?

No, RedLore’s unique LOCUS UWB solution works with wire-free Anchors, running on a battery for 10+ years.

How long do the Anchor batteries last?

The Anchor battery will last for more than 10 years with typical use. After 10 years you pop in a new battery and you are good for another 10 years. We like to call it “Plug & Forget”.

RedLore’s patented Anchor technology is the only technology in the world able to provide battery-powered wire-free infrastructure.

What are the advantages of RedLore UWB?

RedLore’s patented LOCUS UWB-powered solution is the only one in the world to offer high-accuracy with wire-free anchors. It saves up to 90% in installation time and cost.

In addition, RedLore LOCUS offers both UWB and RSSI-based positioning in the same network: UWB offer the highest accuracy in the market at an affordable price point. RSSI-based positioning offers lower accuracy positioning at the lowest possible cost. Hence multiple use cases can be combined in the same network, depending on the use case-specific accuracy.

How long does it take to install RedLore LOCUS?

Experience shows that it takes about 1 day to install RedLore LOCUS in a 20,000m2 or 200,000 sq. ft facility.

Are UWB antennas bulky and prone to damage?

No. UWB antennas are tiny, smaller than 2cm or 1”. They are integrated within the product and invisible from the outside.

Can I used RedLore’s UWB solution outdoors?

Absolutely. We have water-proof anchors and tags for outdoor applications, such as a construction site, a laydown yard, or a shipyard.

Is there a relationship between UWB and 5G?

Only indirectly. UWB is a local area network, typically spanning the size of a building up to an industrial site. 5G is a cellular technology, well known from its use in mobile phones, used to connect a device to a cell-tower which can be multiple kilometers or miles away. Messages then flow from the cell tower to the internet.

UWB and 5G can be combined in the same deployment, as is typically the case on a RedLore LOCUS deployment: The UWB positioning data is sent to the cloud via a 5G cellular device, from where it sends information to the dashboard. The 5G connection to the cloud enables staying away from the on-site IT network, which is typically how the local IT security people prefer it for security reasons.

Is UWB standardized?

Yes, UWB is standardized under IEEE 802.15.4. There are multiple chip manufacturers that sell chips compatible with this UWB standard.

A chip, however, is not a product. Product manufacturers integrate the UWB chips in their product, and in the process make many configuration choices which render products from different vendors incompatible.

In which industries are RedLore’s UWB-based LOCUS solution used?

RedLore’s LOCUS is used in logistics, manufacturing healthcare, retail, and construction industries, among other industries. Basically, every industry and application where it is important to know where things are, can benefit from it.