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Marketplace Left to Define UWB

Enterprise users are taking a wait-and-see attitude to forthcoming ultrawide-band (UWB) short-range wireless technology now that the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) has dissolved the 802.15.3a Task Group.

UWB -- in case you've forgotten, dear reader -- uses simpler and higher-performance RF-to-digital conversion techniques than conventional narrowband radios. This makes the technology suitable for a huge range of battery-powered devices and mobile applications such as RFID tagging, warehouse sensor networks, and unwiring the enterprise desktop. The catch is that at high data rates, UWB is limited to a relatively short range.

The deep-sixing of the working group means that two competing vendor bodies are going to be duking it out in the marketplace with different variants of the technology. And -- wouldn't you know it -- MultiBand Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing UWB, supported by the WiMedia Alliance, and Direct Sequence-UWB, supported by the UWB Forum aren't interoperable.

During its short life the 80215.3a Task Group could never drum up enough votes to proceed with working on either specification. But at this week's IEEE meeting in Hawaii, the group voted itself right out of business.

Most users contacted by Unstrung are happy to let the market decide in this case.

"I've been kind of watching to see what would happen," says Bo Mendenhall, senior information security analyst for health sciences at the Univ. of Utah. "Probably the thing that we would look at it for immediately is some kind of location tracking, like RFID."

Mendenhall thinks that some good old-fashioned competition might actually get UWB products to market faster.

"I think overall some of the IEEE working groups have set time lines back," he says. "Letting people fight it out in the market might help us find out which technology is going to succeed faster."

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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