UWB4Industry: Self-sufficient UWB-based industrial sensor networks

Ultra-wideband (UWB) technology has recently attracted significant attention since smart phone manufacturers like Apple announced its integration into their next generation’s smart phones. Currently, they focus on tracking applications since UWB is known as one of the most precise localization methods far superior in terms of accuracy and speed compared to competing technologies (Bluetooth, GPS, etc). Moreover, it is very energy efficient, secure, and robust.

But UWB can also be used for wireless communication especially for short range data transmission (up to a few 10m). It can therefore be exploited for wireless sensor networks (WSN). It has several advantages over established radio standards used for WSNs such as Bluetooth, ZigBee, LoRa, and industrial WirelessHART. The IEEE 802.15.4-2011 UWB standard uses an extremely large bandwidth of up to 1 GHz, which is associated with a pulse-like transmission. This yields properties that address the problems of common radio technologies for WSN already at the physical level. The advantages include:

  • UWB hardly interferes with competing radio networks based on WLAN, WirelessHART, Bluetooth, ZigBee, etc.)
  • It is robust against jamming (sabotage due to e.g. broadband noise)
  • it can penetrate better through some materials due to its broad frequency range
  • Reflections tend to improve communication (advantageous in highly reflective environments such as industrial halls with lots of steel)
  • It allows for low and very high data transmission rates with a single technology with very high energy efficiency supporting self-sufficient operation

UWB thus enables ultra-reliable, interference-resistant, secure, and inexpensive WSNs that are operated in an energy-self-sufficient manner and can address a very broad spectrum of industrial sensing applications. It is a promising key component for the digital transition in production, logistics and maintenance within the framework of industrial Internet of Things (IoT) and Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS).

Our UWB4Industry project provided a proof-of-concept regarding the suitability of UWB for industrial WSN and its applications, e.g., condition monitoring or industrial high precision measurements. It can even operate self-powered in some cases. For this purpose, a UWB-based WSN demonstrator consisting of sensor nodes, access point, data evaluation platform, local evaluation algorithms and energy harvesting methods was developed, set up and evaluated. This makes UWB4Industry one of the first attempts to implement an industrial WSN with UWB. The findings are to be gradually converted into marketable ultra-reliable WSN solutions for industry in follow-up activities.

The project was carried out within FFG’s first call “Silicon!Alps” and funded by the State of Carinthia through the Carinthian Economic Fund (KWF), the Province of Styria and the Styrian Economic Promotion Agency (SFG). The project was conducted between February 2018 and October 2019. The project partners were: Lakeside Labs GmbH (lead partner), University of Klagenfurt, JOANNEUM RESEARCH Forschungsgesellschaft mbH, Messfeld GmbH, CAMPUS 02 Fachhochschule der Wirtschaft GmbH, and Dewesoft GmbH.

Financal support by: