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Impulse radio ultra-wide band IC takes the lead on accurate geo-positioning

December 31, 2013 // Julien Happich

Impulse radio ultra-wide band IC takes the lead on accurate geo-positioning

Fabless semiconductor company BeSpoon and CEA-Leti have just demonstrated an Impulse radio ultra-wide band (IR-UWB) integrated circuit able to measure distances within a few centimeters of accuracy.

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During their experiments with early prototypes, the companies have established what they claim to be a world-record operating range at 880m when following IR-UWB's standard regulation and 3,641m in compliance with the regulation for emergency situations.

The chip jointly designed by BeSpoon and Leti features a full IR-UWB CMOS-integrated transceiver that is able to perform accurate distance measurements. The standalone chip (RF front-end and digital base band) was designed to be smartphones-friendly in the sense that it could leverage the components already available on most smartphones to become operational, allowing OEMs to design-in the new capability for only the cost of the new chip.

CEA-Leti had worked on UWB for the past 12 years, initiating its first research program on the topic in 2000. It is only after a decade of explorations and dead-end pruning that some results became commercially exploitable, explained Pierre-Damien Berger, a researcher at CEA Leti.

This is when Jean-Marie Andr, now BeSpoons CEO, got convinced that the technology could yield new functionalities and new services around very accurate geolocation. It took another three years of investigations under a joint research program established with CEA-Leti for BeSpoon to cover the gap between its initial proof of concept and product industrialisation.

From the very beginning, there were several companies interested in this technology, but few had the expertise to cover the last mile, from academic results to a real product explained Jean-Marie Andr. Now we have several big names among our strategic partners, large system integrators who are currently exploring different use cases and who would be our first customers if we can supply them the chips in volume.

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