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New Consortium to Spread UWB Adoption and Standardize Security

A handful of technology companies have created the FiRa Consortium to develop a standard for UWB security, in order to boost the development of interoperable deployments using what the group calls fine ranging and positioning capabilities.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 04, 2019

A group of technology companies have launched an organization known as the FIRa Consortium to promote the growth of ultra-wideband (UWB) technology and create security standards for seamless, interoperable deployments. Consortium working groups have begun the planning process to create a set of security-based standards that will ensure UWB transmissions are not intercepted, and to help further build opportunities for UWB for access control, asset management and peer-to-peer device solutions.

The consortium was founded by ASSA ABLOY, as well as technology companies HID Global, NXP Semiconductors and Samsung Electronics. Businesses that have joined the consortium include Bosch, test solutions firm LitePoint, Sony Imaging Products & Solutions and the Telecommunication Technology Association (TTA), an IT standardization organization.

Ramesh Songukrishnasamy
The group named itself the FiRa Consortium based on a feature that UWB offers, which it terms "fine ranging"—the ability to capture the locations of UWB devices with high location accuracy. That means access control can be more precise (with very specific and short read ranges) in order to prompt access to doors or other enclosures, and to provide highly accurate location data for asset management and location services. "UWB gives you the ability to very actively range the position of a device," says Ramesh Songukrishnasamy, the FiRa Consortium's director and treasurer, and HID Global's senior VP and CTO.

By carrying the fine ranging nomenclature, Songukrishnasamy says, the group hopes to help overcome a misperception that UWB is an old communication technology. Whether or not the technology is referred to as UWB, he notes, it offers two benefits over other wireless communications technologies: very precise location detection and greater RF security to protect data exchange. Consortium members hope to standardize security measures, while further promoting and educating users about the technology's benefits.

UWB has been in use for decades, Songukrishnasamy says, and some standardization has already taken place. The IEEE's 802.15 Enhanced Impulse Radio (EiR) Task Group 4z, for instance, has added new capabilities to the UWB-based physical layer transceiver (PHY) and media access control (MAC) portions of the standard, which ensures that different UWB technologies can operate together (see UWB Alliance Aims for Interoperability).

The FiRa Consortium hopes to build on that effort. The group will collaborate with other industry organizations, such as IEEE and the Wi-Fi Alliance, to promote and enable UWB use cases, utilizing the available 6 to 9 GHz spectrum.

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