IEEE RWS 2011: UWB Technology- Past, Present, and Future

I’m participating in a panel discussion: “Ultra-Wideband(UWB) Technology: Past, Present, and Future” at the 2011 IEEE Radio and Wireless Symposium today, Wednesday January 19 at 11:50 – 13:00 in room Solana ABCD. Organized by Dr. Faranak Nekoogar (author of Ultra-Wideband Communications: Fundamentals and Applications), my fellow panelists are slated to be Dr. Richard E. Twogood of Dirac Solutions and Dr. Farid Dowla of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. This post presents the abstract for the panel discussion as well as some background to serve as a starting point for discussion.

Abstract: In this panel discussion, leaders of UWB technology from industry, research, and academia will share their views and visions on the evolution of ultra-wideband technology, with an emphasis on what has transpired in the recent past. The discussions will include the past achievements in military radars, the FCC approval process and its impact, and the also directions that this technology is currently moving towards. The panel discussion will also highlight current UWB innovations, including important applications such as location awareness, underground imaging and tomography, and wireless communications in hostile environments. The panel speakers will address the impact of UWB technology for short-range high-bandwidth wireless communications, as well as RF tags with high-resolution position location capabilities. The panel will also review the standardization issues of the technology.

Historical Popularity and Importance of “UWB”

Google offers a couple of handy tools for assessing the popularity and importance of UWB. First is a “timeline” search of the term. The number of UWB “hits” on Google peaked in 2002 when the technology was first approved by the FCC. UWB popularity has been on the decline since 2007. The timeline search also presents the top links for each year.

A Google timeline of search term "UWB" shows a peak in 2002 with steadily declining activity since about 2007.

Google also provides an “NGram” viewer tool. This tool tracks the popularity of a term in all the English (and other) language books scanned by Google. The NGram plot shows what percentage of  words cataloged match the search term for a particular year. The ever fascinating  Information Is Beautiful blog has a great discussion of Google NGrams. The NGram below compares UWB to several comparable wireless acronyms (link) in all English language books from 1990-2008:

A Google NGram analysis of UWB and other comparable wireless acronyms, 1990-2008 (with 1 year smoothing applied).

Here, the frequency of the term “UWB” peaked around 2005 with perhaps a bit of a decline after 2007. The popularity of “UWB” is comparable to that of “WiFi.” Both terms have recently been eclipsed by “WiMAX.”

UWB Vendors

Following is a list of UWB vendors specializing in data and communications products:

These UWB companies specialize in real-time location systems (RTLS) products:

Apologies if I have missed anyone. Please leave a comment if I need to add to the list.

Recent UWB News

The long FCC approval process was finally concluded just a couple of months ago. The introduction of UWB was also slowed by arduous standards fights. Nevertheless, a number of UWB companies including Alereon, Veebeam, and Wisair have chipsets available that are incorporated into consumer products. Also, Ubisense, Zebra, and Time Domain offer UWB-based RTLS products. Here are some recent ÆtherCzar posts to explore:

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