New Global Consortium Formed to Promote Ultra-Wideband Technology

Four of the world’s leading companies in access, secure connectivity and mobile/CE device solutions, have announced the launch of the new FiRa Consortium. The new coalition is designed to grow the Ultra-Wideband (UWB) ecosystem so new use cases for fine ranging capabilities can thrive, ultimately setting a new standard in seamless user experiences. The four founding members include, Swedish conglomerate ASSA ABLOY Group with subsidiary HID Global, NXP Semiconductors, Samsung Electronics, and Bosch

The name, FiRa, which stands for “Fine Ranging,” highlights UWB technology’s unique ability to deliver unprecedented accuracy when measuring the distance or determining the relative position of a target. Especially in challenging environments, UWB technology outperforms other technologies in terms of accuracy, power consumption, robustness in RF connection, and security, by a wide margin. Sony Imaging Products & Solutions Inc, LitePoint and Korea's Telecommunications Technology Association (TTA) are the first companies to join the newly-formed organization.

The starting point for UWB technology is the IEEE standard 802.15.4/4z, which defines the essential characteristics for low-data-rate wireless connectivity and enhanced ranging. It is the aim of the FiRa Consortium to build on what the IEEE has already established, by developing an interoperability standard based on the IEEE’s profiled features, defining mechanisms that are out of scope of the IEEE standard and pursuing activities that support rapid development of specific use cases.

The unique capabilities of UWB promise to make it an essential technology in many areas including:

  • Seamless Access Control – UWB can identify an individual’s approach toward or away from a secured entrance, verify security credentials, and let the authorized individual pass through the entrance without physically presenting the credential.
  • Location-Based Services – UWB offers highly precise positioning, even in congested multipath signal environments, making it easier to navigate large venues such as airports and shopping malls or find a car in a multi-story parking garage. It also enables targeted digital marketing campaigns and foot traffic data. Retailers can present customized offers, government agencies can tailor their notifications, and entertainment venues can personalize recommendations during events.
  • Device-to-Device (Peer-to-Peer) Services – By providing precise relative distance and direction between two devices, UWB lets devices find the relative location of each other even without infrastructures such as anchors or access points. This allows people to easily find one another in crowded spaces or find items even when placed in hidden areas. 

Due to its low power spectral density, UWB offers little to no interference with other wireless standards, so it is well suited for use with other wireless technologies, including Near Field Communication (NFC), Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. There are also adjacent markets that leverage UWB in other ways, especially automotive. The FiRa Consortium’s commitment to a complete ecosystem means it will work with other consortia and industry players to develop approaches and define parameters. The Consortium members will have the chance to influence industry trends, gain early access to technical details, certify interoperable products, expand the UWB ecosystem, and share expertise.