Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) Location Tracking

UWB indoor positioning systems can locate assets, inventory and people in real time to within 30 cm or even less

Manufacturing - production line

Ultra-wide band (UWB) tracking for precise indoor positioning

Ultra-wideband (UWB) is a wireless communication protocol, similar to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. UWB indoor positioning systems can locate assets, inventory or people in real time to within 30 centimetres or even less. UWB technology can be used to track the precise location, movement and interaction of items in defined spaces. Systems using UWB can accurately pinpoint a 3D location of a tagged item, which makes them ideal to locate stock on warehouse shelves.

What's the difference between UWB and other tracking technologies?

Compared to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and active RFID, UWB uses a higher frequency of between 3.1 and 10.6 GHz and involves multiple frequency bands rather than a single band.
This helps overcome the issue of multipath, which occurs when radio waves bounce off walls, objects, or the floor before reaching a receiver. Active RFID tags, which use 433 MHz to broadcast, may cause the signal to bounce around and reach the receiver at a different time than a signal transmitted straight to the receiver. This multipath effect reduces the location accuracy of a 433 MHz active RFID system, and makes it less suitable for some applications. 
UWB can overcomes this multipath effect by using different frequency bands, making it much more precise in locating a tagged object. 

How does UWB work?

Each asset, stock item or person to be tracked is fitted with a UWB tag, which normally contains a battery and broadcasts its unique ID. UWB anchors are installed in the area to be monitored in fixed locations often on the ceiling or on the wall. 
To calculate the locations of tags, UWB uses the time it takes the signal to travel from transmitter to receiver, providing highly accurate distance information.
In order to achieve this, anchors synchronise their internal clock via ethernet cable or Wi-Fi and then listen for pings from the UWB tags. Once synchronised, they record the time when a signal was received and pass it to a backend server which calculates the tag position based on the time difference of signal arrival at the anchors.
UWB signals are transmitted with low power, which prevents interference with other systems using the radio spectrum such as mobile phones and radios.

Typical applications of UWB

UWB technology is ideal where high location accuracy is required to track assets, inventory or people for manufacturing, logistics and other indoor environments. 
Production line

WIP Management in Manufacturing

Placing UWB readers along a production line and fitting tags to relevant work-in-progress (WIP) assets (on the product itself or on the container) can provide real-time visibility of the production flow to report on productivity and identify bottlenecks. Assembly lines can be segmented into zones using geofencing to flag events. Data collected can also provide information on line flow control, FIFO compliance or rework management.

forklift truck in warehouse

Forklift Tracking and Stock Location

Thanks to the location accuracy of UWB positioning systems, they can offer substantial benefits in warehouse management and automation. For large warehouses filled with hundreds of thousands of different stock items, the technology can help avoid misplacement of goods and enable staff to quickly and accurately locate items. This cuts down time spent looking for items, and reduces labour costs. Tracking the movement of forklifts can provide valuable data for analysis to avoid bottlenecks and improve efficiency.

workers in hazardous environment

Worker tracking and productivity

UWB technology can be used to accurately track worker position and product progress in real time, supporting project management. Setting up geofencing around dangerous areas in the factory or other workplaces, can help avoid accidents by creating alerts when workers enter non-permitted sectors. Data collected via UWB can also provide information for analysis and future planning such as time spent in specific areas.