FiRa Consortium explains benefits of Ultra-Wideband technology
In a recent post we announced that several key Industry Players established the FiRa Consortium to drive the application of Ultra-Wideband Technology (UWB). We reached out to the FiRa consortium to find out more about this initiative and learn what benefits UWB can bring to security applications. We had the pleasure to speak to Ramesh Songukrishnasamy.
Can you briefly introduce yourself, your organization and your occupation?
My name is Ramesh Songukrishnasamy. I am the Director and Treasurer of the FiRa Consortium, and also SVP & CTO of HID Global.
FiRa is a brand new consortium. Can you tell us who the initiators are and what they are hoping to achieve?
The sponsoring members of FiRa are the ASSA ABLOY Group, which includes HID Global; NXP Semiconductors; Bosch and Samsung. The consortium champions the capability of Ultra-Wideband technology to set a new standard of frictionless user experiences across a range of use cases. The initial goals of FiRa are to develop compelling UWB use cases, ensure seamless UWB interoperability, and promote UWB ecosystems.
Ultra-wide Band (UWB) is in itself not a new technology. Why would you say now is the time to take the next step in applying it?
While UWB is not a new technology, the standardization of UWB with IEEE 802.15.4a and the currently under development 802.15.4z amendment is new. UWB technology is the backbone for solutions that detect the precise location or presence of connected devices and objects. FiRa’s name comes from this powerful new solution of Fine Ranging. It is a shift from using UWB for data communication to hyper-accurate, secure sensing. Getting key players together in a consortium means the potential of UWB will be developed in an interoperable ecosystem from the get go, rather than as a mish mash of individual products.
How does UWB compare to existing long-range RFID technologies? What would you say the advantages of UWB are?
Compared to other technologies, UWB stands out for its ability to precisely localize devices and objects down to 10 cm regardless of line of sight. UWB also has the benefit of immunity to radio frequency interference, so it performs better in high traffic areas like airports or hospitals. Existing technologies also lack the security to protect ranging data exchange inherent to UWB.
Can you tell us what the current status is of availability of chipsets, products or systems?
FiRa compliant UWB solutions are not yet commercially available. The UWB technology will be demoed at upcoming trade shows and FiRa ultimately plans to showcase a suite of use cases.
What do you expect will be the first type of applications where we will see UWB applied?
FiRa identified three main use cases that will help UWB become an essential technology for connected devices: hands-free access control, location-based services, and device-to-device services. Each of these three categories has applications spanning many industries, including smart homes and cities, consumer goods, retail, and healthcare.
How many companies have FiRA joined so far? What is your anticipated projection for the years ahead of us?
FiRa currently has seven participating companies. In addition to the sponsor members (ASSA ABLOY Group, which includes HID Global; Bosch, NXP, and Samsung), Sony Imaging Products & Solutions Inc., LitePoint, and the Telecommunications Technology Association (TTA) have joined the consortium. All consortium members are focused on identifying new use cases and solutions for UWB technology. Other plans and partnerships will be announced in the future.
Are there any particular future plans that HID Global has with UWB that you can share with us?
UWB is one of the technologies specifically suited for HID Global’s vision of a seamless access control environment. HID will continue to take a multi-pronged approach in realizing our vision by leveraging all appropriate RF technologies.
Is there something else related to this topic that you would like to share with the security industry?
Yes, the success of UWB secure fine ranging will depend on an interoperable, holistic, and inter-connected ecosystem:
- Interoperability between several devices requires compliance and certification programs.
- Close collaboration with other industry organizations is essential, such as IEEE, Wi-Fi Alliance, Car Connectivity Consortium and others. As such FiRa will focus on UWB use cases utilizing the available 6-9GHz spectrum.
- Companies that bring extensive ecosystem know-how, leadership positions in targeted market verticals, broad technical and system expertise as well as strong presence and experience in other consortia relevant to UWB.
- Carrying another name – FiRa (Fine Ranging) – helps to overcome UWB’s stereotype as an old communication technology and instead emphasizes it’s transformation towards a secure fine ranging and sensing technology.
- Strong market outreach and education.
HID decided to participate in the creation of the FiRa Consortium because no other industry organization is providing this required focus.
More information about UWB and the FiRa consortium can be found at the FiRa Consortium website.
Thank you very much for the information. Good luck with your business in general and with the FiRa consortium particularly. SecIndGroup.com will follow the progress with great interest.