LONDON – Startup fabless chip company BeSpoon AS (Le Bourget du Lac, France) and the CEA-Leti research institute (Grenoble, France) have demonstrated an impulse radio ultrawideband (IR-UWB) integrated circuit able to measure distances to within a few centimeters' accuracy.
And the circuit can do this at a range of 880 meters using standard regulations on UWB transmission and at a range of 3.6 kilometers using emergency situation UWB regulations. The record-setting distance was 3,641 meters.
IR-UWB has been recognized as a suitable location technology for indoor applications, where global positioning by satellite does not work. This suitability is both in terms of robustness and accuracy and a number of companies are developing impulse radio chips. It measures distances to within a few centimeters’ precision and is not affected by walls or people passing by. However, the technology is perceived to have challenges with range and integration and cost, which BeSpoon and Leti claim to have overcome.
BeSpoon measures distances between two transceivers by computing the time it takes for pulse signal to perform a round trip. Measurement is done to within 125 picoseconds, the time it takes light to travel about 3.75 centimeters. Importantly these measurements are taken at very low digital clock rates avoiding the power consumption of high-speed processing, BeSpoon said. Once the distance is computed it is straightforward to localize objects using triangulation or other established techniques.
As well as performing precise time measurement BeSpoon's IC copes with issues such as clock instability.
The chip, which was designed jointly by BeSpoon and Leti, features a complete IR-UWB transceiver implemented in CMOS and able to perform accurate distance measurements. The chip combines RF front-end and digital baseband and is designed for a straightforward integration within smartphones or set-top boxes. The chip was manufactured for BeSpoon and Leti by STMicroelectronics NV (Geneva, Switzerland) although BeSpoon declined to identify the manufacturing process technology.
Furthermore, BeSpoon has demonstrated the capability to comply with the strict regulation of IR-UWB, and yet operate up to 880 meters distance in line of sight. BeSpoon and Leti claim to have a world record distance measurement at 3,641 meters, in compliance with the regulation for emergency situations.
"Indoor location is only beginning and, very soon, robustness and precision will be key to offering great new services," said Jean-Marie André, BeSpoon CEO, in a statement. "Mobile geofencing is another exciting development of our technology."
BeSpoon was founded in March 2010 by a team from Purple Labs, which had designed cell phones and smartphones. BeSpoon is self-funded to date and has operated a joint lab with Leti in Grenoble for the development of its chip.
A few cm accuracy at 880 metres with UWB IR is close to 2 orders of magnitude improvement on the previous state-of-the-art. Saying it is not novel/surprising is like saying that a GHz pentium running at 70mW is not novel or surprising.
Ever since ill-fated IEEE802.15.3a UWB fiasco, I've been fascinated with possibility of the pure impulse radio. It is glad to hear there are people still exploring this technology.
By the way isn't "IR" short for Impulse Radio could be confusing with InfraRed?
Not particularly impressive, considering acam of Germany's TDC-GP22 and -GPX chips, which get down to mm accuracy (sub 30 ps). And they're cheap ($20 ish). TDC is straight LIDAR; the chief advantages of UWB are noise immunity and non-line-of-sight use. Time Domain also compete here on UWB, but they are pricey ($2K per Tx/Rx).