What is it?

Standing for Ultra Wideband, it is a wireless technology used for the transfer of data over short distances in a similar way to Bluetooth. Unlike Bluetooth, the speeds in which the data is transferred can be far superior, with up to 100 times that of current Bluetooth devices.

What are the variations of the technology?

The variations of the technology would only be down to exactly how this technology is implemented and for what purpose it is used for. The speeds obtained can also be a key difference, as it could vary somewhat over great distances.

Why should I care?

The possible maximum throughput of Ultra Wideband as a technology is much greater than existing technology seen around today.

With enough interest from large companies already in the wireless data comms sector, it is hoped it could very well be the next wireless standard to be used. This is instead of the likes of Bluetooth - which even includes the latest version unveiled last week.

Already stated is the very fast speeds, but also the radio licenses for operating at the frequencies necessary are already in place and have been for some time. Meaning there is no heavy trial, testing and qualifying period needed.

What's a good example in practice?

One of the latest Ultra Wideband devices to be seen is the personal storage device Leyio, launched in the UK last week. This portable device can transfer data over UWB to another Leyio device up to 10 MBps with a reach of 10 metres.

The transfer speeds of a Leyio is 100 times faster than Bluetooth and 4 times that of Wi-Fi (802.11g), which in itself is a good solid speed for any type of data sending. Leyio also has a 16GB capacity, two USB ports and an in-built removable 2GB USB flash memory card for sharing data not over UWB.

Ultra Wideband has even been used in applications involving radar, where the signal sent is penetrated by objects close by and reflected by objects further away – this has been used to detect objects behind walls.

Is there a competing technology that I should be aware of?

Last week the Bluetooth Significant Interest Group, made public the specifications of the upcoming Bluetooth 3.0 standard. This could be a serious competitor, just as the upcoming Wireless USB standard and products could be too which uses UWB as a basis.

The new Bluetooth is said to be using a near Wi-Fi variation, creating a much wider range than the 10 or so metres of UWB, with an expected throughput of 24Mbps. Although UWB is capable of 80Mbps, as an established and proven technology Bluetooth could very will lead and win the battle when it finally comes down to it.

Ultra Wideband is effectively used for just short distances of the 10-metre variety, whereas the likes of Wi-Fi has a much larger reach, whilst it’s not competing with UWB it’s often measured up against it in speed.

What is in store for the future?

Just as with any emerging technology it’s the uptake by various companies, along with the way it's implement that will drive the standard and its further adoption.

It was hoped that the new standard of Bluetooth version 3.0 would either run from UWB or use it in some way – enabling a better usage of Ultra Wideband and further endorsing the technology. Unfortunately UWB wasn’t included in the specifications made available, possibly leaving a drastic dent in what could have been a useful addition in the Ultra Wideband arsenal of abilities.

It's hoping companies such as the INS group with Leyio, could start the ball rolling with UWB in a new direction, with other companies taking heed at its overall usefulness and possibly thinking of including it as a wireless standard.

As a technology, the short reach and the vast possible throughput of UWB could mean it could be of great use in transmitting larger volumes of data at close range. Sending the likes of HD video from camera to PC and streaming high quality sound to speakers are all possible ways of implementing the standard.