There are lots of technologies used for indoor positioning, but not all of them provide high accuracy. The Sirin Software team decided to conduct some research to figure out which tool is the best choice for such purposes. Our final verdict is UWB (ultra-wideband) – keep reading to find out why.
We will start from the very beginning, describing the UWB concept, and follow with installation instructions and a price review based on our expertise – so, you’ll get the answers to the most frequently asked questions.
What Is Ultra-Wideband (UWB)?
Ultra-Wideband (UWB) is a wireless technology with low power consumption that can transmit large amounts of data over short distances. We mentioned high accuracy for a reason: UWB measures the time needed for a signal to travel between the transmitter and receiver. Using this data, the tool calculates the distance in centimeters.
The alternative to this technology is iBeacon, and this is often used for indoor positioning. Beacons work via Bluetooth, and this is their biggest advantage – Bluetooth is a good old technology available to any smartphone user. But no beacon can provide you with precise location data.
Ultra-wideband appeared on the market in 2005, but it was very expensive and used only by specific industries at first. What has changed? The Decawave company started selling affordable UWB chips in 2015, so now we can offer amazing opportunities to our clients.
How Does UWB Work and Where is it Used?
So, let’s find out what makes ultra-wideband technology a unique solution on the market. First of all, when mentioning UWB, we always mean short signals but a broad spectrum. In other words, you have a tool that transmits data signals through a huge number of channels. The frequency, in this case, is over 500 MHz.
Users (for example, customers at a shop) should carry a UWB tag with them – it will track their position. This tag has a transmitter inside that is usually powered by a small battery.
This is how UWB can be used in business:
- Wireless tools and solutions: wireless USB, HD video sharing, printing, monitors;
- Next-level Bluetooth;
- File transmission with a PC;
- Peer-to-peer connections;
- Precise location detection.
If you want UWB tools to serve you well, you need to install them properly. To use all the benefits, it’s better to turn to a professional team – experts will advise you on the correct placement of all devices. Generally, there are two main aspects to consider.
First of all, you have to decide what’s the best place for a tag (this is a small device attached to a moving object or a person’s body). This part is essential because smartphones don’t have such hardware inside. The Sirin Software team developed a UWB system for a shop, so a good solution, in that case, was to add tags to baskets or shopping carts.
Anchors are “boss” devices receiving data from tags. There are several installation rules to ensure a system works at its best:
- The maximum distance between two anchors is 25 meters. They can easily be fixed on the shop’s walls, for example.
- The distance between the floor and the anchor should be 5–5 meters.
- The minimum distance between the anchor and the wall or ceiling should be 15 centimeters.
According to these simple measurements, you need four anchors if you have a 25×25 m room – this is the maximum distance you can allow for. As for other calculations, experts will easily tailor new technologies to your business space.
How to Implement a UWB System
Our experience shows there are four essential steps to implementing a UWB system. We’ve developed our own flow for such projects at Sirin Software.
1. Feasibility Study
We deal with hardware, and we have to be sure everything’s in the right place and works perfectly. That’s why the feasibility study comes before the development stage.
Stages of the feasibility study:
- We use the TREK1000 evaluation kit by Decawave to analyze how the “full-time” UWB system would work in this specific situation.
- Using this kit, we review the results: high precision, low power consumption, and the data received from the tags.
- Finally, we optimize the data and device placement.
2. PoC Development
Is this idea really worth investing in it? We’re going to figure it out using a proof of concept (PoC). We’ve already conducted initial testing; now it’s time to take the final steps towards the engineering stage.
- What needs do we satisfy? We already know the profile of the target audience – now we have to be sure we’re giving new opportunities to the customers.
- How does the new solution meet a particular “pain point” of the target audience? We have to figure out how exactly our offering solves the issue.
- What’s the initial look of the product? In our case, we build the new product’s architecture and create the blueprint for placing anchors and tags.
The answers to these questions are important for both client and developers. Once we fully understand the project’s goals and we have a draft of the final result, we can be confident our solution will meet the client’s needs.
3. Engineering Prototype Development
The first two steps make management and development processes clearer. Experts from Sirin Software have solid expertise in creating complex high-quality solutions, which is why we’ve been interested in UWB technology since it became available for businesses of any scale.
4. Product Delivery
We deal with both software and hardware, which means we have to be sure our clients and their employees know how to use every button of the final product. We also provide support for such projects to be sure the process goes smoothly and satisfies the agreed needs.
How Much Does a Custom UWB Solution Cost?
The price tag is surely the biggest deterrent factor when it comes to UWB development. You have to pay for at least three anchors and numerous tags – their number depends on the specific needs.
Price for off-the-shelf tools:
- $45 per tag;
- $290 per anchor.
It’s a widespread belief that custom solutions are more expensive, but we’re sure custom UWB solutions help our clients reduce their budgets.
Price for custom tools:
- $15 per tag;
- $125 per anchor.
In the end, the price for the hardware can be reduced to a half or a third of initial estimates with a professional team by your side.
If you’re an active market player, it’s fascinating to change the game sometimes. UWB technology is beginning to make its way onto the mass market now, but it has already conquered its niche in object tracking. At Sirin Software, we’ve had the chance to confirm that ultra-wideband is the most accurate wireless tool for distance tracking.
With custom tags and anchors developed according to your requirements, you can outrun competitors and get closer to achieving your strategic goals. We have no doubts that UWB will soon surprise us with a new application scope, and you can already have a reliable partner implementing the latest trends in your business.
Share your vision of the new UWB technology with our team!