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New RTLS Module to Cut Active UWB Tag Cost

The DWM1004, Decawave's latest module, offers a low cost and low power consumption in a 30- by 15-millimeter package, for use on assets by small and midsized companies.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 29, 2019

Real-time location system (RTLS) adoption is still high-cost for small to midsized companies looking to manage their assets, and active tags can be among the most expensive aspects of such a solution. That's been an entry barrier for many companies that want to track their assets or tools in real time, according to ultrawide-band (UWB) semiconductor company Decawave.

To address that high cost, Decawave has released the latest version of its DWM1000 series modules, priced at less than $10 apiece, that are small, low-power RTLS transmitters without a need for high processing or added functionality. The new model, known as DWM1004, is currently being tested by some of Decawave's customers, with solutions expected to be made available to end users by the end of the year.

DecaWave's DWM1004 module
The DWM1000, released in 2014, was Decawave's first UWB active RFID module to ease the development of RTLS tags (see DecaWave Intros Ultra-wideband Active RFID Module). Subsequently, the DWM1001 module was released last year with features such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), an accelerometer and high processing power to enable edge computing.

Like its predecessors, the DWM1004 complies with the IEEE 802.15.4 UWB standard and is designed to ease the development of hardware for solution providers that offer RTLS technology for locating assets. Users of tags incorporating the modules are expected to include manufacturers, logistics providers, health-care facilities and farms. But the latest module is lower in cost, the company reports—without BLE functionality or a high memory processor, it can be small and cost less than $10.

The demand for RTLS-based technology has been growing, according to Mickael Viot, Decawave's marketing VP, who says his company has sold several thousand evaluation kits, adding, "So we know there's a lot of demand." However, small to midsized companies face challenges when it comes to implementing RTLS technology for managing assets.

The tags that beacon their location to gateways for RTLS solutions can be expensive, and that, he says, has served as a barrier to adoption, especially for companies that don't buy the tags in high volume. The cost of designing, gaining certification and finding a manufacturer is simply too high, Viot says. "So we decided to offer a module that is tailored to specific applications," he explains, for which a lost-cost tag with a small form factor is needed, without the extra features that the DWM1001 models offer.

The DWM1004 is designed with an STMicroelectronics STM32L0 MCU that beacons its unique ID number at pre-set intervals and goes dormant when not beaconing. It has less processing power and consumes less energy than the DWM1000 and DWM1001 units. The module comes with an accelerometer to identify when a tag is in motion, enabling that tag to beacon, or to beacon more often, based on its movement.

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