Apple's iBeacon used a class of Bluetooth low energy (BLE) device that broadcast their identifier to nearby portable electronic devices. According to a new Apple patent discovered in Europe today, Apple is considering the use of Ultra-Wideband (UWB) radio technology for a future version of iBeacon, which the patent refers to as "Node Anchors."
While smartphones and tablets garner most of the attention these days, electronics design is moving more and more to the next generation of smaller devices, which comprises wearable devices and the Internet of Things. Devices are steadily shrinking, from appliance-sized to pocket- or wristwatch-sized, and correspondingly, power and size requirements are getting increasingly important. At the same time, data-rate requirements are often less significant—smaller devices tend to send and receive sensor data and instructions, not the HD video that typically goes to bigger screens.
Increasingly, designers of wearable and Internet of Things devices also want to be able to precisely track location. Some devices are designed to be found by other devices; some move around (like robots) and need to know where they are so as not to bump into walls; some carry out various actions based on their location. UWB is about precision tracking. With indoor mapping apps getting closer to market for indoor malls, Apple may be considering the use of this particular radio technology.
Apple notes in their summary that embodiments enable communicating Ultra-Wideband (UWB) devices to collaborate with each other by exchanging pulse shape information that can be used for a future ranging exchange. The receiving UWB devices use the pulse shape information to improve the ranging accuracy. The improved ranging accuracy can be used in complex multipath environments where advanced estimation schemes are used to extract an arriving path for time-of-flight estimation.
To determine pulse shape information to be shared, some embodiments include determining location information of a UWB device, and selecting the pulse shape information that satisfies regional aspects.
The pulse shape information includes a time-zero index specific to a received ranging signal that is used by UWB receivers to establish timestamps for time-of-flight calculations. Some embodiments include measuring performance characteristics and selecting different pulse shape information.
Embodiments include a system, method, and computer program product utilizing a pulse shaping interoperability protocol for Ultra Wideband (UWB) communications. Some embodiments include receiving pulse shape information from another electronic device, where the pulse shape information is used in UWB communications between the electronic device and the another electronic device, receiving a ranging signal that uses first pulse shape information, and determining a distance between the electronic device and the another electronic device based at least in part on the pulse shape information and the ranging signal. Determining the distance includes calculating a time-of-flight associated with the ranging signal. The pulse shape information includes a time-zero index that may be a sample of a main lobe of the pulse shape information (e.g., a first sample or a center sample of a main lobe of the pulse shape information.) The pulse shape information also satisfies one or more regional aspects associated with location information of the electronic device.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 above is an example system implementing a pulse shaping interoperability protocol for Ultra-Wideband (UWB) communications; FIG. 2 is a block diagram that illustrates an example system implementing a pulse shaping interoperability protocol for Ultra-Wideband (UWB) communications.
The UWB devices in FIG. 1 can be portable or mobile, and can determine relative positions and/or distances with each other. Some UWB devices may be stationary and together they may determine absolute positions or geographic locations. For example, anchor nodes l 70a l 70c may be transponders in fixed locations, such as on a ceiling in a building or a shelf in a store.
One or more of the anchor nodes may be used in conjunction with an iPhone to improve the accuracy and reliability of ranging activity. In some embodiments, the devices may triangulate and determine a geographic location that may be used to provide local direction information (e.g., a user may obtain directions to find a particular item in a store or supermarket that may be presented on an iPhone.
In respect to FIG. 1 Apple further noted that it's an example system (#100) implementing a pulse shaping interoperability protocol for Ultra-Wideband (UWB) communications.
The example system may include but is not limited to UWB devices such as wireless communication devices (iPhones # 110 and 120), vehicular transponder device (#130), entry transponder device for doors (#140), a household device (#150 thermostat), pet leash tag (#160), and anchor nodes l70al70c (iBeacon 2).
Other UWB devices-which are not shown in FIG. 1 for simplicity purposes-may include other computing devices including but not limited to laptops, desktops, tablets, personal assistants, routers, monitors, televisions, printers, and appliances.
Apple's patent application was originally filed back in July 2017. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.