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Will Ultra-Wide Band Drive the Future of IIoT?

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Sanjay Gupta, Vice President and India Country Manager, NXP Semiconductors

Internet of Things (IoT) has transformed our lives through devices like wearables, virtual assistants, cars, and many smart gadgets. The use of IoT is not only restricted to the consumer landscape but is widely used in the business domain as well. This technology has revolutionized the way industries operated and utilized data. Industrial IoT (IIoT) applies the digital interconnectivity through smart sensors and advanced data analytics in the manufacturing, production, transportation, mining, and other industrial domains. The businesses in manufacturing and production segments have rapidly adopted IIoT to gain competitive advantage.

The IIoT market is expected to increase at a rapid pace as automation emerges to be one of the key transformation goals for CIOs. This helps manufacturing units to manage production levels to meet the demand of the market. Additionally, there has been a strong focus by the government on increasing domestic manufacturing capabilities of the country.

According to 6Wresearch, India Industrial IOT Market size is projected to grow at a CAGR of 15.5 percent during 2020-2026. This growth will further boost with the advancement in wireless technologies and remote monitoring in factories and overall supply chain.

UWB: New horizon of wireless tech
A crucial part of implementing IoT at industrial level is the wireless technology. While several wireless technologies exist, Ultra-wide band (UWB) provides the precision, security, and real-time localization capabilities unmatched by other tech, like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. UWB has existed since several decades, however, its use was restricted to military applications till late 1990s. Now, UWB technology is taking the wave of transformation ahead in IIoT.

Currently, the fourth industrial revolution is redefining the way manufacturing and production environments operate. Termed as Industry 4.0, it aims to bring in automation and a convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). It includes cyber-physical systems, IoT, advanced big data analytics and cloud computing. To support this transformation, there is an increased requirement of high-precision location services that can support smart autonomous industrial entities. UWB is the perfect candidate to propel Industry 4.0 forward with its significant benefits over other wireless technologies.

Through UWB, one can transmit large amounts of digital data for comparatively shorter distances over a wide spectrum of frequency bands. It enables high-bandwidth transmission with significantly low power consumption, robustness against interference and centimetre-level accuracy performance. UWB offers lower latency (end-to-end) and low package loss rate to support emerging industrial applications. It also provides higher degree of independence to environmental conditions as compared to other technologies.

UWB Assisting in Diverse Industrial Environments
Industrial environments usually have high degree of operational complexity and the accuracy of UWB positioning can prove to be beneficial in Industrial IoT scenario. With the advent of Manufacturing 2.0 that integrates web applications, mobile technology and software-as-a-service (SaaS) into existing processes, a reliable solution like UWB is necessary to support this transformation.

Even in COVID-19, it can be used in contact tracing – an important aspect to monitor and control the spread of the pandemic. UWB can help in tracking the user location, proximity detection, and distance alerts to avoid infection.

UWB can be used in diverse applications like inventory management, smart grids, fleet management, safety in human-robot operations and asset tracking. UWB-based positioning systems can provide advantages like deployment flexibility, and competitive performance-cost ratio. UWB provides necessary flexibility with the ability to operate in mixed indoor-outdoor environments, enabling superior localization accuracy with either global or relative positioning.

Autonomous mobile robots have been implemented across multiple industries – warehouse transportation, delivery solutions etc. – and UWB can improve the efficiency of these systems through long-term autonomy and persistent localization. UWB can also enhance onboard odometry approaches (like LIDAR) for simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) while reducing the error.

UWB systems can be of valuable assistance in industrial environments like warehouses, production areas and manufacturing workshops. It can be applied to ensure positioning, data transmission and safety assurance of human-robot collaboration within a warehouse setup. Drone-based inventory management can also be done using UWB localization.

Remote environments, like mining, are highly complex and hence the available localization methods are limited. UWB can assist in personnel tracking in such areas. In a construction environment, it can help in better safety monitoring and fleet management thereby contributing to increased productivity.

In agricultural environments, the technology has the potential to emerge as an affordable and better option in place of GPS for sensor or precisely locating agricultural robots and environment monitoring.

Even in COVID-19, it can be used in contact tracing – an important aspect to monitor and control the spread of the pandemic. UWB can help in tracking the user location, proximity detection, and distance alerts to avoid infection.

UWB positioning systems can provide competitive solutions for asset and personnel tracking, with the ability to be integrated into various intelligent industrial systems. UWB technology has vast potential for widespread implementation in IIoT across different industries and domains. It has the tremendous benefits of one of the lowest power footprints and high-precision location capabilities that would certainly pave the way for increasingly wider adoption in future.

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