RealTime IT News

Buzz at the International UWB Conference

At this week's third International Ultrawideband Conference in Boston (hosted by Uraxs Communications in cooperation with the FCC and NTIA), the focus is on handling ITU-R regulatory issues and advancing global standards.

Gary Anderson, CEO of Uraxs and Chair of the U.S. Organizing Committee for the ITU, says progress is being made. "One of the main goals is to try to bring Europe up to speed as to what we've done," he says. "We think this time around the European Community is a little more receptive to the adoption of what the FCC has already initiated in this country."

Any concerns about interference, Anderson says, are unfounded. "Some of the biggest opposition comes from the satellite people and the GPS people, but even that seems to have been alleviated somewhat time this time around," he says. "There really aren't any interference issues--but there is opposition that claims interference."

One of the presentations at the conference is a GPS demonstration by the Aerospace Corporation specifically designed to show that the levels that have been approved by the FCC for ultrawideband will not interfere with GPS signals.

[After publication of this article, Aerospace's Philip Dafesh contacted us with this correction: "This demo illustrated that the levels approved by the FCC for ultrawide emissions across the GPS band can appreciably degrade indoor use of GPS in the presence of ultra-wideband systems...while UWB is an exciting new technology, care should be undertaken in the future implementation of ultra-wideband technology to guard against increases in this maximum allowed UWB emission level."]

"What was deemed an imminent threat a couple of years ago is being accepted this time around," Anderson says.

Ultrawideband's many strengths include the fact that it works in buildings where GPS and cell phone signals fail, it requires very little power, and it offers a secure digital transmission. "It lends itself well to mobile communications and to very robust applications," Anderson says.

Uraxs' new offering, a Remote Unified Messaging System to track and monitor children, relies on ultrawideband as well as other technologies. "I'm looking to interoperate and coexist with the other technologies, and utilize the existing infrastructure, to avoid buildout," Anderson says. "From the mobile device to the first receiver would be ultrawideband, and then there's many options from that point on."

With dozens of companies actively working on market ready prototypes, Anderson expects to see ultrawideband products released commercially either in Q4 2004 or Q1 2005. Potential applications range from home entertainment systems to automotive solutions--Mercedes-Benz's SARA Group is demonstrating a collision avoidance system at the conference this week.

"With that system, Mercedes is using ultrawideband sensors and radar equipment in the grille for collision avoidance," Anderson says. "The sensors are on all the wheel hubs, controlling the braking, throttling, and everything else. It's much more efficient and accurate than some of the other technologies that have been developed in the past."

The point, Anderson says, is that ultrawideband technology supports a huge number of different applications. "Different companies have even developed similar applications that operate in different ends of the spectrum," Anderson says. "For example, Aether Wire has a system that operates below 1 GHz for location and ID tags, whereas Multispectral has similar systems that operate at about 6 GHz."

Those companies are now competing fiercely to be first to market with a wide range of different products. "I think we're going to see a steady ramping up once we start getting market-ready silicon," Anderson says. "The race is on, and there's going to be a big play early on for market share."