Unlocking the full potential
of ultra-wideband technology

Imec at Holst Centre has succeeded in combining machine-learning algorithms and innovations in chip design to achieve cm accuracy and low-power ultra-wideband (UWB) localisation. The technology marks a breakthrough in a wide range of domains, from secure keyless access and AR/VR gaming to industrial asset-tracking robotics and digital health.
Technology explained

With a track record of over 15 years in ultra-wideband research, imec at Holst Centre is at the forefront of UQV technology, which is perfectly suited to support a variety of high accuracy and secure wireless ranging use-cases. Think of the ‘smart lock’ solutions commonly used in automotive – automatically unlocking a car’s doors as its owner approaches, while locking the car when the owner moves away. While UWB is inherently more difficult to compromise than some alternatives, its potential has largely remained untapped because of its high power consumption and larger device footprint. The breakthrough innovation that imec at Holst Centre has introduced this year marks an important step to unlocking the technology’s full potential. Imec’s brand new UWB radio chip consumes 10 times less power and fits an entire radio transceiver with three receive chains in an extremely compact 1mm2. Complementing these hardware developments, we have come up with algorithmic enhancements that significantly improve UWB’s wireless ranging performance in challenging environments, such as factories or warehouses. We have already demonstrated a factor-two improvement compared to existing approaches.

Societal benefits

The recent hardware and software breakthroughs mean that there is a great potential for these nextgeneration, low-power and high-accuracy UWB chips, from secure (keyless) access and AR/VR gaming to asset tracking robotics and digital health. But UWB chips can also be utilised in a wide range of other use cases such as improved digital contact tracing and safe distancing during pandemics, such as Covid-19, using small and privacy-preserving devices.