DecaWave preps for expansion, next location chip.

September 03, 2015 // By Peter Clarke
Even though ultrawideband fabless chip company DecaWave Ltd. (Dublin, Ireland) has only recently raised funding of $4.5 million the company is planning for another substantial round as it looks to develop future lower power chips.

DecaWave develops RF transceivers for indoor location and communication based on pulsed UWB wireless. In June the company announced it had closed a funding round from "Angel" investors that brought its total funding since its formation in 2004 to $30 million. "We raised $4 million in second quarter of 2015 from angel investors but the plan is to raise another $10 million to $20 million," Mickael Viot, marketing manager of DecaWave, told EE Times Europe.

This additional funding would be used to create multiple chip design teams working in parallel and to address application-specific versions of its generic micro-location technology, said Viot.

DecaWave's first chip, the ScenSor DW1000, is a CMOS ultra-wideband RF transceiver IC based on the IEEE 802.15.4a standard that supports data rates of 110-kbps, 850-kbps, 6.8-Mbps, and 27-Mbps. It is manufactured for DecaWave by TSMC in 90nm CMOS and 6mm by 6mm QFN package. It operates at frequencies in the range 3.5GHz to 10GHz and provides an accuracy of +/-10cm and peak current consumption of about 120mA, said Viot.

The company announced the ScenSor back in 2009. It took until 2013 to get the part in production, said Viot. However, since November 2013 DecaWave has sent out more than 1,000 evaluation kits, 7,500 location modules based on the chip and 300,000 chips to more than 250 customers.

Such chips can be used in beacons and objects and when multiple distances are measured from beacons with known locations that can be used to triangulate an object's position. The application space is large including locating and tracking people and their objects and collision avoidance of drones, and robots in factories. Potential applications also abound in agriculture, smart cities and smart homes.

Viot reckons DecaWave is well placed to help drive - and benefit from - an imminent revolution in micro-location applications where billions of objects will be embedded with UWB transceivers to enable security and to provide additional functionality. An example is a design win Decawave has in an automobile key fob to provide an additional layer of security by only allowing a radio source that is close, to open the vehicle. This is scheduled to appear in 2017 although Viot declined to name the automobile maker.

Low-cost ZigBee and Bluetooth LE chips are being used for location applications but these protocols are designed for data streaming not for location, said Viot. "So with narrowband RF and say 20MHz of bandwidth you end up with less accuracy. The raw data gives 15 to 20 meters of accuracy and then you have to do a lot of filtering and averaging of that data to get below that." That becomes a power inefficient approach and in any case for many Internet of Things applications and wireless sensor nodes significant digital computer power may not be available, added Viot.

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