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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

Because the tag consumes almost no power while dormant (the accelerometer consumes a small amount of energy during such times) and requires less power to transmit, the battery life can be between seven and nine years with 1,000 beacons per day. This long battery life provides a significant reduction in the cost of ownership, Viot says, since it eliminates the need for frequent battery checks and tag replacement. The expense of labor hours required to locate tags, check them and replace batteries can be higher than the value of the tag itself, he says, adding, "We remove this cost."

The tag can be read via standard UWB gateways that would receive its unique ID and employ UWB's time and distance of arrival (TDoA) to calculate the tag's location. Decawave's existing customers (RTLS solution providers) have conducted early testing on the new modules and will now be able to design their own products to allow their customers to track goods with small active RTLS tags when asset tracking is needed. In the meantime, Viot says, companies looking to utilize RTLS technology with robotics or other systems requiring high processing of data on the edge could use the DWM1001. In other words, he says, scenarios in which the tag does not need to know its own location are best suited for the DWM1004.

Companies that will benefit from the DWM1004 module-based tags, Viot reports, include logistics firms and warehouses that must track pallets, manufacturers that need to manage assets or tools, and farmers looking to monitor cattle. The module measures 15 millimeters by 30 millimeters (0.6 inch by 1.2 inches), which enables the tag to be small enough to be attached to a hand tool, on the side of a pallet or in a cow's ear.

Location accuracy, as with the other DWM1000x modules, is approximately 15 to 30 centimeters (6 to 12 inches) in 2D or 3D, based on raw TDoA data, while additional computing in cloud-based software could provide further granularity. For companies tracking tools, pallets or cattle, Viot notes, the reliability of the tags is the greatest priority, as opposed to tight location granularity. "Our goal is to enable the mass adoption of UWB-based RTLS systems," he states. In the long run, Viot says, he envisions the module enabling the development of UWB tags that are affordable and readily available for end users.

The module comes with Decawave's DW1000 chip with a data rate of 6.8 Mbps, so that it reduces airtime, thereby minimizing power consumption and the risk of interference. Its STM32L0 MCU comes with 32 kilobits of memory, enabling tag designers to embed Decawave's TDoA tag software, or their own, as well as added features such as tag transmission rates. The module provides encryption to ensure the security of data in transit between a tag and a gateway.

The DWM1004 is expected to be certified by September 2019 to meet Federal Communications Commission and ETSIregulations, Viot adds, sparing developers the time and cost that would otherwise be required to gain approval from U.S. or E.U. regulatory bodies. That means the time to release new products could be reduced considerably, he says. "We're reducing the time to market," Viot states. "Someone could buy the module tomorrow and complete a tag within a couple of months."

Later this year, the company plans to release a UWB active tag that includes the DWM1004 module and an IP67-rated casing with a battery holder.

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