Usage of UWB is growing fast with shipments of chips in the millions. Indeed, people in Europe and the US are already interacting with UWB without knowing it. If they own certain luxury cars, their key fobs already use UWB to securely unlock the vehicle. If they work in manufacturing, their factories are increasingly using UWB for tracking parts, tools and people. If they go to a museum, their electronic guides may be using UWB to enable precise guidance and commentary. These and other use cases are starting to show the utility of UWB. But, if you really want to see where UWB is going, and experience the myriad uses of the technology, there is only one country in the world to visit – China.
As in the West, in China, UWB is in factories. However, the scale of modernization and new factory building driven by the ‘Made in China 2025’ is huge. It dwarfs similar initiatives in other countries such as Industry 4.0 in Germany. Accurate location is at the core of the China initiative. With its class-leading capabilities, UWB is essential in factories across the country.
Worker safety is a key role for UWB in factories, but in China, UWB helps enable safety far beyond the factory walls. In construction, UWB is integrated into BIM systems. This means site managers know who is on site, where on the site they are, at what time, for how long, helping ensure no-one is breaking site rules. Similarly, UWB is increasingly found in mines, offices and hospitals in China, enabling increased safety, efficiency and traceability, with even greater positive safety implications.
Safety isn’t the only way that UWB is impacting businesses in China however. In retail, UWB enabled tags are replacing old school wired tethers. These allow for detailed tracking of high value assets such as electronics and enable significant improvements in loss prevention. They are also driving a revolution in retail analytics. By enabling the journey of a customer to be tracked through a store, creating new marketing and sales opportunities.
Those same capabilities are being used even more broadly as well, as China builds out its infrastructure and creates ‘smart cities’. The dramatic growth in urban areas in China means they need to be efficient to work effectively. You see the impact of this in may places. UWB is being used in building the new metro systems. It is in smart parking applications, to identify available spaces, and also in billing for use. And it enables smart highway toll systems that can identify speeding and other driving infractions beyond the tollbooth. The ambition and sophistication of these projects is breath taking.
Just as amazing is the rise of robotic navigation enabled by UWB. In China, the deployment of robotic technology is extensive. Not just in warehouses, but with greeting robots in retail stores and robot waiters in restaurants. On a more personal level you see the introduction of follow-me suitcases, golf carts and strollers – all of whom know exactly where their owner is so they can follow faithfully.
Even with so many examples, it feels like we are just scratching the surface of how UWB will be used. With UWB soon to appear in cellphones, use cases are only going to expand, particularly for consumers. So, welcome to the future of UWB – already in China and coming to a city near you soon!