The COVID-19 pandemic is almost as real and devastating to the world today, June 2021, as it was a year ago. Despite the ongoing vaccination efforts, the virus is still widespread around the world. Social distancing is one of the best ways to be protected before mass vaccination is successful. Large companies are planning on the need for social distancing in the future, as pandemics are expected to become more common.
To that end, companies are still investing in cutting-edge products and solutions that will help these efforts. One of these solutions is a wearable solution that helps people maintain social distancing using a wrist band.
Pictured above is a wearable device/platform and prototype developed by Renesas in collaboration with Altran. Renesas announced it had licensed ultra-wideband (UWB) technology from 3db Access AG, a fabless semiconductor company specializing in secure UWB low power chips to augment Renesas microcontrollers (MCUs). There are many similar devices.
Ultra-wideband (UWB), a 132-year-old communication, is now being revitalized for wirelessly connected devices over short distances. It is most often used for location detection indoors where GPS does not work. Many industry observers claim UWB could prove more successful than Bluetooth because it has superior speed, is cheaper, uses less power, is more secure, and provides superior location discovery and device ranging.
The wearable is designed to alert wearers when another nearby device is detected. The platform’s form factor, a wristband, combines the Renesas Synergy S128 MCU featuring HMI capacitive touch with the abovementioned secure UWB technology. Renesas’ UWB chipset with Low-Rate Pulse (LRP) is claimed to have an accuracy of 10 cm or less. The wristband’s safe distance is user-configurable; the wearer is alerted by LEDs and haptic feedback when a second device is detected within range.
It is a message-and-reply system, which requires all participants to wear the band. LRP is largely immune to reflected signals, which would cause errors in distance measurements. It detects the time to receive the initial signal, which arrived directly, and ignores the reflected signals. Bluetooth is often used to detect distance, but UWB is about 10 to 100 times more accurate.
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