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1.11 UWB Applications

The trade-off between data rate and range in UWB systems holds great promise for a wide variety of applications in military, civilian, and commercial sectors. Chapter 5 contains a detailed discussion of UWB's present and future applications. For now, we present a brief summary of UWB applications to complete our introductory discussion.

As explained in Sections 1.9 and 1.10, the FCC categorizes UWB applications as either radar, imaging, or communications devices. Radar is considered one of the most powerful applications of UWB technology. The fine positioning characteristics of narrow UWB pulses enables them to offer high-resolution radar (within centimeters) for military and civilian applications. Also, because of the very wide frequency spectrum band, UWB signals can easily penetrate various obstacles. This property makes UWB-based ground-penetrating radar (GPR) a useful asset for rescue and disaster recovery teams for detecting survivors buried under rubble in disaster situations.

In the commercial sector, such radar systems can be used on construction sites to locate pipes, studs, and electrical wiring. The same technology under different regulations can be used for various types of medical imaging, such as remote heart monitoring systems. In addition, UWB radar is used in the automotive industry for collision avoidance systems.

Moreover, the low transmission power of UWB pulses makes them ideal candidates for covert military communications. UWB pulses are extremely difficult to detect or intercept; therefore, unauthorized parties will not get access to secure military information. Also, because UWB devices have simpler transceiver circuitry than narrowband transceivers, they can be manufactured in small sizes at a lower price than narrowband systems.

Small and inexpensive UWB transceivers are excellent candidates for wireless sensor network applications for both military and civilian use. Such sensor networks are used to detect a physical phenomenon in an inaccessible area and transfer the information to a destination. A military application could be the detection of biological agents or enemy tracking on the battlefield. Civilian applications might include habitat monitoring, environment observation, health monitoring, and home automation.

The precise location-finding ability of UWB systems can be used in inventory control and asset management applications, such as tagging and identification systems—for example, RFID tags. Also, the good performance of UWB devices in multipath channels can provide accurate geolocation capability for indoor and obscured environments where GPS receivers won't work.

The high-data-rate capability of UWB systems for short distances has numerous applications for home networking and multimedia-rich communications in the form of WPAN applications. UWB systems could replace cables connecting camcorders and VCRs, as well as other consumer electronics applications, such as laptops, DVDs, digital cameras, and portable HDTV monitors. No other available wireless technologies—such as Bluetooth or 802.11a/b—are capable of transferring streaming video. Table 1-4 compares UWB technology and other currently available data communications standards.

Table 1-5 summarizes UWB applications in data communications, radar, and localization.

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