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Tec Trek Podcast: What is Ultra Wideband?

Yatri and TJ are joined by Petr Sedlacek of Sewio Networks to discuss ultra wideband, a new wireless technology with the potential to change how we track, stream, and communicate.


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Episode Transcription

TJ: And ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to Tec Trek. My name is TJ. And as always, I'm here with...

Yatri: Yatri. How's it going, guys? Thanks for tuning in.

TJ: Yeah. I hope everybody's doing good. So, today, our question is very much...it's less of a theoretical question, it's something that's happening now, it's something that has taken foothold, and it's hopefully gonna illuminate a new, I guess, is the right word, but emerging technology. And so, today's question is what is ultra-wideband? What is ultra-wideband? So, that's what we're gonna start with. That's what we're gonna go for today. We've got a great expert coming in later, we'll introduce him in just a few, who's gonna be able to shed some light on this topic for us.

So, ultra-wideband. It's, kind of, become a hot button topic because of the increased usage and things that are really visible. Obviously, I'm talking about smartphones. We're talking about Samsung and we're talking about Apple. They've both pushed it pretty heavily in their current generation of phones. I remember when the iPhone 11 came out, that was one of the big pushes, was how AirDrop was gonna be affected by ultra-wideband. And it was gonna, I forget the exact marketing terminology that they used, but I remember that being a pretty big deal.

And so, what we wanna talk about today is, is what actually is it? What can it be used for? What are the possibilities? What are some of the limitations? And that's, kind of, what we're gonna cover, and hopefully some more, in this episode. So, ultra-wideband is similar to Bluetooth in the sense that it's a wireless technology that uses radio signals. And some applications, it's simply just transferring data between devices. And it uses a wider range of frequencies, a broad spectrum, I guess, which gives it a higher bandwidth. It runs something like, what, 500 megahertz? Is that what I read?

Yatri: Above.

TJ: Above. Okay. So, that's like the minimum. That's like the basement we're talking about is 500. Okay. Which is crazy. Like, that's crazy high. Which, in theory, leads to, I'm guessing, less interference with other forms of wireless communications. I'm not really sure. Our expert will shed some more light on that.

Yatri: As an example, I think, I believe originally it was used for radar imaging?

TJ: Yeah. Yeah. I was reading about that too. Like, through the wall sonar and stuff, which is crazy. Like, that's awesome. Terrifying, but awesome. Oh, and that's actually, kind of, interesting too, right? Now, this is, sort of, disconnecting from ultra-wideband, but many years ago, Yatri and I, there was a product carried in Spytec that allowed you to listen through walls. Imagine if you could put it on something and just get sonar imagery through walls.

Yatri: It's a little frightening, but yeah, that's...

TJ: It's a little frightening. Now, this product that let you listen through walls, it was absolutely, it was crap. I mean, it was, for lack of a better term, it was as a stethoscope that you put on a concrete wall and you could, kind of, hear. It was not great.

Yatri: It was better than a cup to the wall.

TJ: That's true. Yeah. Yeah. I guess that's true. So, going back to the spectrum and the higher frequency, obviously, with a higher bandwidth that leads to theoretical better speeds, but it also uses a lot less power, which is one of the big things. Ultra-wideband, similar to Bluetooth, has a lot of indoor applications where you're limited in a lot of other frequencies. So, you're connecting via beacons and things of that nature. And so, the ability to use less power leads to less maintenance, which, in theory, leads to broader application.

A lot of times, that's in consumer electronics and industrial electronics. These days, battery is the limitation. Power is the limitation. And so, it's always good when less power is being used. Now, what is the downside? Because of the higher frequency, it, obviously, it's gonna travel through walls a little bit less efficiently, and the range is not quite as good. So, our distances are less good. But it's, kind of, funny. Like, we mitigate that, I think, a lot of times with use case, you know? If it doesn't travel through walls, well, that's fine. We'll do it inside the walls. We'll do indoors so we don't have to worry about outdoors. It's, kind of, that, sort of, building blocks solution, I guess.

Now, how exactly does the technology work? So, ultra-wideband devices send out signals called pulse radio, I think it...or it used to be called that, I don't know if it still is, pulse radio, over large bandwidth in all directions. Then another ultra-wideband device picks up the radio and is able to calculate its time and angle of received, which allows you to get positioned. Which is really interesting. And it's similar to...is it similar, Yatri, to Bluetooth technologies that we've seen like Tile and things like that?

Yatri: It's somewhat just some newer implementations of 5.1, sort of, how 5.1 enables location. But I think the key difference here is that because of the way it pulses, you get pulse position or time modulation. And so, you can do some interesting things with either/or.

TJ: That's kinda cool. That's pretty neat. Okay. That makes sense. That checks out. That checks out. Me and my limited knowledge. As you guys can, I'm sure, tell, Yatri is...by far knows a lot more about this type of stuff than I do. Definitely. So, I'm leaning on him today. Leaning on him. So, obviously, what makes ultra-wideband different from our normal radio communications like Bluetooth and that sort of thing, and Wi-Fi, is the high frequency.

It can send out signals at a very high rate, reaching to giga pulses, which, if there's a giga in front of anything, that means a lot per second. That means that ultra-wideband is extremely positionally accurate simply because of how often it's signaling, I'm guessing. And the ultra-wideband equipment devices can find direction and precise location down to the centimeter, according to my materials here. Which, that is a hardcore statement. Like, for reference, standard GPS, what would you say, Yatri, 75 feet?

Yatri: With the changes they've made, I think you can get down closer to 15 feet.

TJ: Okay, 15 feet. Okay. Okay.

Yatri: Well, I guess like, what, that's two to three car lengths, right?

TJ: Yeah. Okay. All right. That's... And that is... And I would call that, like... So if I'm a marketing guy and you tell me "Hey, this GPS device is accurate down to 15 feet," I am going to run with that and be like, "This is so accurate. Like, your mind...your head's gonna explode. It's so accurate." And this here, we're talking down to the centimeter, which is crazy. Like, and just that alone, from a position perspective, especially, keep in mind, we're talking about close quarters, indoors. You know, if you start talking logistics tracking and things like that, you're now able to, if you're running a manufacturing warehouse, so let's say you build forklifts, you're able to track a single part down your assembly line.

Yatri: Yeah. You can track parcels anywhere they are. It's pretty crazy.

TJ: Yeah. It's crazy. Whereas, a lot of times previously, that sort of location equipment, you're talking about, is it in the building? Like, that's what we're able to track. Like, is it in the building? And this, we're gonna be able to see where is it at on the actual assembly line? Which is really cool.

Yatri: And even within, even within buildings, when you look at things like beacons or Wi-Fi or Bluetooth-based location technologies, generally speaking, they're not doing what this is. You're not getting... You're getting a sense of maybe how far they are from a central point with a variation of several feet. Like, this is an order of magnitude, I think.

TJ: Well, and a lot of times, I mean, correct me here if I'm wrong, again, I'm not the expert on this, but a lot of times, the way, or at least what I've seen, some of the practical applications of the Bluetooth and the beacon system is a tether system. So, it's less of even position location, it's less of knowing where something is and knowing more so where it's not.

Yatri: Yeah. Or what it's attached to.

TJ: Yeah. So if it's connected to a beacon and you've got a maximum distance, I'm just throwing a number out here, of 25 feet, if it goes to 26 feet, all you know is it's not 25 feet or closer to the beacon. That's it. You don't know where it is.

Yatri: Yeah. Usually, what you have is you have several beacons set up and you can, sort of, track it as it disconnects from one and moves to the other.

TJ: Yeah. So, you can just daisy chain it. So, it's like, "Okay, if it's not connected to this, it is connected to this. I know where that is, so I can find it."

Yatri: It's tracking someone's route based on which tolls they had to pay, right?

TJ: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. It's like it's utilizing... Well, no, it's exactly that. It's using speed cameras to see where a car went instead of being able to track the car. Whereas this is much more you can actually get position location because it's a different technology basically.

Yatri: Yeah.

TJ: All right. What do you say we bring in our expert, Yatri? Does it sound like a plan?

Yatri: Let's do it.

TJ: All right. So, guys, we're gonna bring in our expert. His name is Petr Sedlacek. He's the VP of Sales in North America at Sewio Networks. And they're a manufacturer of real-time location systems for indoor tracking. Welcome, Petr. How are you doing?

Petr: I'm good, thank you. Thank you guys very much for having me here. I'm very excited.

TJ: Oh, so are we. So are we. This is such an interesting subject because we talk a lot of times, obviously, we're in the GPS business, we won't get into that too much, but we talk a lot of times about bridging that gap of outdoor GPS tracking and indoor tracking. And that's something that is, I think, incredibly appealing and has so many wide use cases. So, now, Petr, I'd love to turn it over to you. Just talk a little bit about yourself, your experience, and what you do now, and what you've done in the past.

Petr: Absolutely. Yeah. Happy to. So I stumbled upon, let's say, this technology back in 2015. That's when I was in college. And I was studying electrical engineering and I was focusing on wireless technologies. I always found you know, the wireless, kind of, fascinating how it works the wave propagation and all that. So back in college, we came across ultra-wideband technology and it was really something I've never heard of before. So, I thought it was really quite interesting.

And also, back in the day one of the founders in the company where I work now, there was an ability to have a master thesis based on this kind of technology. They founded the company back then. It was really you know, at the very beginning. And I had a chance to do some hardware, software development for them and actually get to know more about how it works and everything. So, that excited me a lot.

Also, because at the university, a lot of the other theses were really, let's say, theoretical, and this was really something that was really, really practical and it could be used one day so I just jumped at the opportunity. And back then, it was...the topic was about actually combining GPS with ultra-wideband.

TJ: Yeah. Yeah.

Petr: Yeah. It was pretty cool. It was like... We had this small-size GPS that was super precise. You can get really down to centimeters of accuracy. So, it's pretty cool.

TJ: That isn't... That's incredibly cool. That's incredibly cool.

Petr: Yeah. Yeah. So, it made sense to combine these, and just like you said, to have one technology for outdoor parts and one technology for the indoor part. So, I was doing some development around that. And I spent a lot of time just getting familiar with the world of real-time location, indoor, outdoors the various techniques all that, you know? So, yeah.

I mean, it felt like a completely new world, you know? Because until then, we were you know, studying stuff I don't know, mobile communications and those traditional systems, and this was really something absolutely new and exciting. When I left college, I immediately joined the company because, yeah, I just wanted to be near it, so to speak.

TJ: That's incredibly cool. It's so interesting to me, the idea of, sort of, taking two technologies and merging them into one, sort of, seamless thing. And I guess that's, kind of, probably still where the challenge is, is how do you seamlessly transition something where, let's say, I'm tracking, I don't know, let's just go logistics, I guess, and I'm tracking a shipment, a box, and it's traveling across the country, how do we seamlessly transition from we're tracking on the truck outdoors to, oop, I'm in the warehouse now, and now I need to see where it is centimeter by centimeter. That's, I think, a really cool, cool thing.

Yatri: Yeah. Coupling technology is really, really difficult, whether it's on the end-user side or whether it's on the implementation side with something like this, it's just hard to do that in general.

TJ: Because at some point, there has to be a handoff, kind of.

Yatri: Yeah. Even in real life, handoffs are difficult. Anyone who watches football can tell you this.

TJ: Exactly. Yeah. Fumbles happen all the time. Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Petr: The handoff is actually a really good point because the downside of the GPS was that when you get close to the building, so you basically didn't see half the satellites, let's say, and yeah, you just completely lost the precision. So, you'd have to have some, let's say, ultra-wideband readers outdoors deployed as well and do this, kind of, more seamless handoff.

So, back in the day, we didn't really go for it because there was an issue with the battery because the GPS was just consuming so much battery that the tech would die within six hours or something like that, so. But this is four years back, which is ages ago in technology world, so I assume that it has moved on quite a lot since then. But yeah, it was really interesting.

TJ: Well, yeah. And that's a great point. Like, our headquarters are in Manhattan and we have that exact issue, sometimes the tracking is sometimes you'll see it, and it won't be a massive problem, but it'll show just across the street. Like, you lose that exact precision that you, kind of, count on. So, the idea of having to position the receivers, the ultra-wideband system outdoors, just to catch it before it goes in is pretty interesting.

And I love that you bring up battery. We talk about battery a lot on here because I feel like that is such a limitation for almost every technology that we talk about. It's "Yeah, we could do that, but it would be the size of a house because you would need a battery the size of a house."

Yatri: It's insane. I mean, we discussed briefly, on our last episode, dealing with integrated circuits, how thankfully things are changing because we have a lot more going on in the power efficiency department these days. That's what we've seen a lot in the past couple of years. But we're still waiting on that battery technology to catch up, aren't we?

TJ: Yeah. Still... I'm telling you, graphene. They've been telling me graphene is the battery future for the last I don't know, I think I saw that when I was in middle school. So, it's been 20 years. But it'll be there. It'll get there. Actually, that... Okay. This is real sad, 20 years ago was definitely not middle school, I was in high school. So, now I'm gonna go cry in a corner while we finish up our ultra-wideband discussion here. Okay, great.

So, our next little thing that I wanna talk about and ask you about, Petr, so ultra-wideband was authorized for public use in 2002. And you know, most of our, sort of, new emerging technologies, it was developed for the U.S. Army and it took a long time before it finally came to, sort of, public use. So, I'd love for you to talk about why is it an exciting technology for business customers and regular consumers today?

Petr: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. So, you brought up a good point that it's now 19 years since that legislation went through and it's been really a long time since it's started to be used more often, let's say, or more on a daily basis. Important to note is that the 2002 release was FCC only. So, basically only U.S., you know? So, the rest of the world there's pretty much nothing. Then you have a 5-year pause, and then in 2007, there was a first IEEE Standard, you know? So, that was another major milestone.

So, those five years in between, there have been some proprietary, let's say, technologies that some companies have been using UWB, but it's been strictly proprietary, very niche applications. Like, typically, for example, for armies and stuff like that. And then another milestone came, I believe, in 2012. That's when the first, let's say, open chips arrived from a company called Decawave back in the day. And this was really a game-changer because until then, you really had these let's say, units of companies out there that had their own proprietary implementations of this based around FPGA or something like that. So also, the locators themselves were quite chunky and bulky. And these guys were the first to put it on a chip. So, this was really a big thing. And it was an open platform. So, that was a game-changer.

TJ: Oh, yeah. Because, I mean, I'm assuming, before that, everybody, you had to build your own hardware, and then you had to focus on the implementation and usage side. And you talk about having to split your resources.

Yatri: Here, you have a complete package, you have supported software, and an API to, kind of, work with so you can design what you want with it, ready to go. You don't... You can just mess with it on your own time on the weekends if you wanted to.

TJ: Is this, kind of, now, Yatri, again, I'm gonna lean on you here, is this, kind of, similar when we went to our first CES, which was seven years ago now, was this similar when we went...? Remember when we went to the IoT section then, there were three different competing standards at that time?

Yatri: Yeah. So, those standards, sort of, came out, but they all have their own open, sort of, platforms.

TJ: Okay. Okay. Got you. Got you. Got you.

Yatri: This is a little more similar to the ESP32 boards and things like that for IoT people. These are the same boards that are in a lot of these IoT devices, but they're just blank, stripped down, and you can develop for them or get them easily. Like, enthusiasts often go for things like that because it's relatively inexpensive because the cost has already been brought down by the market, you know?

TJ: Okay. Very cool. Very cool. All right. Back to it. Back to it. So, 2007, we've got our first open-source board.

Petr: Yeah. Yeah. 2007 was the standard actually. And it took five years to get the chip out there. So, that was the first MVP. And you can see you know, majority of the UWB companies out there today, they were founded around the time, 2012, 2013, and 2014, including us. And then the development started to be a bit more rapid. So, if you look at the past, let's say, three years, you can really see a lot of things happening. In 2018, there was a basically first consortium, so to speak, for standardization called Ultra-Wide Band Alliance. So, that was a first attempt to do some additional regulation.

So, because in 2007, they released the first standard, but this was really describing how the technology should work. But it didn't address legal regulations in the country. So, in U.S., you have the FCC. In Europe, you have ETSI CE markings. But then every country has, kind of, their own legal legal things that you need to consider. So, these guys basically came together and they started to work on some new standards that would be more interoperable and would make it simpler for the technology to be more adaptive for local authorities and so on.

So, yeah, you have Ultra-Wide Band Alliance. Then shortly after, there was a new consortium called FiRa, which stands for Fine Ranging. So, today, it's formed from the likes of Samsung and Cisco and so on. And I'd say this is the biggest standardization. It's pushing things forward right now. The last one is Omlox. It's an industrial standard for...it's really aimed for industry, primarily for industrial clients interoperability, even between technologies so that you can combine BLE and UWB. It's adding abstract layer on top of all these technologies to make them more interoperable.

So, during these, let's say, last three years, there's been a huge push on further standardization and really bringing the technology to consumers. And you can really see the first fruits. You already mentioned it, you know the latest iPhones, iPhone 11, iPhone 12, Apple HomePod latest Samsung phone. Also, Xiaomi has integrated the technology as well. Plus, besides Decawave, that has been really the only chip manufacturer, you now have NXP, who joined the game last year. You also have microchip coming in. So, yeah, I mean, it's becoming more and more mainstream and we will see more and more of these devices out there. That's for sure.

TJ: That's super exciting. And I love what you're saying about these different, sort of consortiums helping with the standard. And the industrial one is incredibly interesting because instead of thinking of UWB as an improvement on a BLE beacon system, it's just different. It's just a different layer with the same objective, which is visibility into a previously pretty and... I mean, I guess think about it, in industrial manufacturing, previously, to get visibility into your product line, you had to go walk the line.

Like, you had to have people on the ground walking the assembly line, manually checking, doing spot checks, or whatever the case may be, depending on the industry. Now, you can, kind of, set up these two different technologies, in theory, I'm guessing stitched together by software almost to make them almost readable in the same sort of interface. And that just gives you so much greater visibility into your business. That's so cool. And it's something I think that, sort of, leads us into our next question, which is how will ultra-wideband change and benefit IoT?

Because what I get out of it, as somebody who, again, is not an expert on this, it makes non-smart things smart, if that makes sense, at a much larger scale than what my Wi-Fi wall plugs do. It's a much larger scale than that. It's a much more nuanced and difficult problem to solve. And this is a very specialized tool to solve that problem. So, that's the next question. In your opinion, how do you think ultra-wideband will change IoT?

Petr: Yeah, that's a very good question. I'd say you have to look at it from two perspectives. So, one would be, let's say industrial and these, kind of, niche applications where the technology actually has been for a long time now, just the general public doesn't really know it. Like, for example, if you look at NFL, NFL has been using ultra-wideband for I don't know how many years, five, maybe even six years, but nobody really knows it.

I mean, you watch TV and you see the stats from the players, that's actually from ultra-wideband. But nobody knows that the technology is being used, you know? So, if you look at these niche applications, I mean, the technology is pretty well known in those segments, in those areas, but it will bring the change definitely to the consumer market, which so far hasn't really benefited from these positioning technologies. And that's because, like you said before you know, you just didn't have that level of accuracy.

Like, if you were considering, I don't know, BLE or Wi-Fi just based on signal strength, you have, let's say several meters of accuracy, which is not satisfactory for a lot of the things that you wanna do. Like, for example, if you wanna find your headphones somewhere a 5-meter accuracy probably won't help you that much, right?

TJ: Yeah. It'll tell you what room they're in.

Petr: Yeah. Yeah. At least, you know? But still, it's you know, it's lacking that next-gen feeling that you actually know where it is. So, I really think where it can change the market is for people to be using it really on a daily basis without even thinking about it, you know? For an average consumer he doesn't need to know that it's ultra-wideband. He just needs to have that functionality, right? He needs to go to his car, unlock it with his phone and he doesn't need to know that it's ultra-wideband doing it, right?

TJ: Absolutely. And that actually brings up a great, sort of, thing in my head, at least, of how ultra-wideband is, from a consumer perspective, at least from my idea, it's almost to the point now where it needs the marketing pizazz now is all it needs. It needs the thing that is, "Hey."

Yatri: It needs to be branded a certain way, right?

TJ: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.

Yatri: So, part of, okay, so part of how we look at standardization and look at it...we look at abstractions, right? Like, there's no difference to your computer if you use a Wi-Fi card or plug an Ethernet cable, right? But you know what Wi-Fi...you hear the word Wi-Fi, you look for that word, you know what it means, regardless of its Wi-Fi 5 or 6 or ac or n or whatever, right? Most consumers aren't gonna know the difference there, but they hear the word "Wi-Fi" and they know. And it's really that transformation of UWB into something like that.

TJ: Yes. It's the transformation into an easy daily activity that they're unaware of, that the average consumer is unaware of, but it provides a quality-of-life benefit that they can't live without, right? Like, that little thing of... Like, the car locks is an interesting thing. You know, doing something like that where I can, if I've got my phone on me or whatever, I can walk out to my car and instantly, it's unlocked, I can start it you know, whatever the case may be, little things like that that the car manufacturer can give a super snazzy name to and they can really push forward, I think is something big. Well, Apple did it. That's what AirDrop is. You know what I mean? They're pushing AirDrop like crazy. And if it catches on it's Apple, so it's the marketing on it is on point.

Yatri: That's the beauty is that if you're in the ecosystem, it works. And Google's coming out with theirs as well. And there's so many different applications for it. Because I think ultra-wideband goes up to 600 megabits per second plus in ideal situations. That's something, you know?

TJ: Yeah. I mean, and the idea also that it has, and this is gonna sound, kind of, silly, but the idea of, I guess, cable as quick file transfer, data transfer, for lack of a better term, has still got that magic feel to it, right? Like, for your average consumer, the ability to point my phone at your phone and send you something that's awesome. Most consumers are like, "Yeah. Yeah. That's my 'Star Trek' communicator now." And so it has that magic to it. You just gotta get adoption.

Yatri: The beauty there is also is it doesn't require anything else. You know, it doesn't matter, you could do it on a subway, you could do it at a concert, you could do it while shopping, you know?

TJ: That's a great point that I think we didn't touch on at the beginning is that's one of the other big differences with ultra-wideband, is both of the consumer objects, so the two phones are the receivers. There doesn't have to be anything else there. It's just those two talking to each other, which is...that makes life...like, that makes it way more, I don't know, I think applicable from a customer perspective, a consumer perspective. It can be smaller in scale. It can be more personal, I guess.

Yatri: Yeah. Yeah. That's a good way of looking at it. Well, so, you mentioned, TJ, kind of trying to find a marketing angle to it, you know? For me, I think a lot of it has to do with abstraction. But I think the question is what kind of technology shifts paradigms? What does it take to make a technology able to shift paradigms like that? Why might UWB be one of those technologies?

TJ: What do you think, Petr?

Petr: Yeah. I think what I mentioned earlier you know, bringing something extra sense that you basically didn't have before, the devices or your phone, whatever, basically you had these technologies for example, Bluetooth. You know, Apple started with iBeacon and so on. It is being used still nowadays, but it doesn't bring you know, that extra level of the benefits that you mentioned before. And this is really something where you don't need to pull your key out of your pockets to unlock your car the same, if you go to work the door unlocks automatically, you know.

If you move... If you're in your home and I don't know, stereo, for example, is aiming at you based on where you're walking in the room and so on. And stuff like that, that will, for example, for you be...you know you'll be using it on a daily basis you know, that's what really...this is the kind of technology that can really bring things to another level. Because it's nice to have some improvements, but if you don't really use it seamlessly and really you know, with some extra customer experience, then...yeah. And I think that UWB is capable of just that. Yeah.

TJ: What you're talking about, use in the home, right, you just described every sci-fi movie set in the future. How our residence works. Think about it. You walk into the house, the lights turn on in the room that you're in, the screen lights up. When you leave the room, it all turns off. I mean, that's what we're talking about here. I'm watching "The Expanse" right now. And it's a great show, if you haven't seen it. But that's exactly what happens in all the residences. You walk in, they walk through a room, the lights all come on, the TV turns on. They walk out of the room, everything turns off. I mean, that's practical application.

Yatri: Like "Star Trek", right?

TJ: Yeah. Well, yeah. Exactly. Yeah.

Yatri: It just knows where you are and it just anticipates your movement. And you can do that with something that's that precise. As you edge just over a certain threshold, it opens the door. And that threshold could be an inch.

TJ: Now, let's talk to our expert here. So, in that instance, theoretically, what is the infrastructure requirement, right? Like, if I want that in my home, let's say for the lights, I'm gonna have to have UWB-enabled light bulbs or fixtures, one of the two, right?

Petr: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. You just have to have the chip in there and that's it really. You don't need any extra infrastructure to do that. It's just, you can use your phone as, kind of, a app to control all that. So, yeah, it's centered around that. Like, for example, if you take Apple, they're using the HomePod as, kind of, the centerpiece around the smartphone.

And yeah, if you have the UWB in there and all the additional devices... Like, for example, if you guys would be interested, if you check out Xiaomi and UWB, they have a nice video. Like there's a guy in the room and he points the phone at the TV, and the TV automatically detects that it's pointing at him, you know? So, it switches...you know, it changes what is shown on TV. Then you point it at a...I don't know, the fan, for example and...

TJ: Yeah, exactly. Anything. Like, that's the beauty of it is it can be so personal. Yeah. Now, I mean, I guess the next step is you just make every consumer electronics manufacturer, put a UWB receiver and a chipset on there, and we're good to go.

Petr: Then we're good to go. Exactly. Exactly. But yeah, I mean if you look at Samsung and Xiaomi, they are really open in this. Like of course, Apple doesn't share anything because they're Apple.

TJ: Because they're Apple. Yeah.

Petr: But yeah. But if you check out Samsung and Xiaomi, if you just Google those guys and put UWB, they have really detailed videos where they, kind of describe their vision for the technology and where they see it going in the future. And what I wanted to mention earlier, it's really funny when we started to go to trade shows back in 2014, 2015, nobody knew the technology. I remember being on a stand somewhere and showing how it works. And this guy came over, for example, he was like, "Yeah, that's great. I can put this on my wife and see where she is, you know?"

TJ: Why is that always the go-to for location technology? Like, that is immediately what it's every time.

Petr: Either the wife or the dog, you know? He was like... You know, everybody was like, "I can track my dog." But yeah, I mean, nobody really saw the benefit, you know? And today it's being promoted by the likes of Samsung and so on. And these giants have visions for this kind of technology, which is really something.

TJ: Yeah. And I mean, it definitely makes sense. I think as consumer technology has, sort of, expanded in the last seven or eight years, it's been all about these large companies trying to get you into their ecosystem, right? You know, they want you to have the phone, the TV, the fridge, the whole nine yards. And this is almost like the next step of that, the highway that, sort of, stitches all those things together in a more seamless way.

You know, we're gonna, in theory, I'm, sort of, speaking to a hopeful future here for this, we're gonna go, instead of me having an app that can control all my devices, I can just, kind of, do it seamlessly without having to interface directly with the app, which I think is...it seems like not that big of a deal, but I do think that that's something that could be huge. Like, for instance, if you could interface...and this is such a little thing, but it's something that happens to me, every day, I have to come into my office, I fire up my PC, I set everything up, I get my computer...my other computer going over here.

If I could do that by simply sticking my head in the room and waving my phone in front of my desk and everything turned on and I could go make my coffee I would be invested in that immediately. Like, even though it's saving me no time, the cool factor, first off. The ability to...

Yatri: Never underestimate the cool factor.

TJ: Oh, yeah. The cool factor is more important than any time savings. Because the other thing I'm thinking is after work, it's time to play video games at this computer. I want the chair, I wanna be able to sit down. And when my bodyweight presence, it sends, everything powers up. It's gonna be great. I'll have to find some kind of spaceflight sim. But anyway.

Petr: Actually, I just wanted to mention that now that you've talked about the presence. And so, there's actually, you know Lenovo is starting to integrate UWB as kind of a radar. So, it detects presence at a computer. So, you don't need to...you don't have let's say distance or X, Y position, but you just have the chip. And it's really like a radar. So, it basically detects whether you're sitting in front of the laptop or not.

TJ: Okay. That's awesome. So, it can almost... It's how it's gonna save power, I'm assuming.

Yatri: It's like a smarter version of... You know, a lot of phones have the ability to stay on while you're looking at it?

TJ: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Yatri: It's a smarter version of that that's better.

TJ: It's a more efficient use of that instead of trying to use the camera.

Yatri: Yeah, exactly.

Petr: Yeah. Yeah. So, it really has some cool let's say, alternative applications. Like, because if you look at BLE and Wi-Fi, they've been primarily standardized for communication. And later on, we started to use them also for location. But the ultra-wideband is for vice versa. And it was established for location and you can use it for communication, other stuff as well. And one cool application that I wanted to mention is there's a company out of Canada and they're using ultra-wideband for streaming uncompressed audio to your headphones.

Yatri: Oh, my. That would be so much better than Bluetooth. Oh my God.

Petr: Yeah. Which is really cool because really you can use the high bandwidth and do that. So, it's...you know, that was a really cool application.

TJ: That kind of is a paradigm shift in the audio file, sort of, world.

Yatri: It'd be the first thing that's high enough bandwidth that would probably satisfy most audio files.

TJ: Yeah. Exactly. Right now, audio files are using studio monitors or high-end... They're not using anything wireless. Wireless is garbage in that world because it just doesn't have the ability to give them the sound. But this, you'll sell...whoever develops that first will sell a pair to every audiophile...I mean, think about it, headphones, raw, uncompressed data, and I could walk around the room?

Yatri: I'm also trying to think of other interesting use cases. Like, so, for example, if you set your phone down, your phone usually has NFC. If you have an NFC in your table or in one of the stickers somewhere, you can program an app that tells it, "Oh, okay, well, this is attached to my car mount, so turn on all the car functions, blah, blah, blah." That requires so much effort and input from someone to do.

And having these big backers allows you to come allows you to come up with, sort of, universal technology in those industries that work the way they should. Kind of like Bluetooth and audio, you know? I mean, for most normal people, I think the first thing they think of when they hear Bluetooth is probably audio because either they have headphones or a speaker these days.

TJ: Oh, yeah. I think you're right. I think if you ask the average consumer, they're still thinking of the 1-year Bluetooth headset from 2002. Like, that's the first thing they think of with Bluetooth. But what you just said, Yatri, is perfect. So, my car, I can do Android Auto, but I have to cable for Android Auto for it to actually work. They just need to put a ultra-wideband receiver in my car. And when you get in, it throws it onto the car screen. And you don't have to...no cables, no, nothing. Like, that, ooh, now that is good.

Yatri: I would even love something on my...like, built into laptops where it's okay, I need to pull a file or I need to transfer something, you just set your phone on it and you have the file.

TJ: That's gold. Now, Petr, this...I need your expertise here because this is a very specific use case. Is there a world, are we able to fully stream a screencap from a phone? Say, for instance, right now, we're in this meeting, I need to share with you something off of this phone. If we had a Mac or something, would we be able, ultra-wideband, to just push the screen onto the computer to share it with you?

Petr: That's a good question.

TJ: Because that would be, kind of, cool too. Because now we're in the "Minority Report" where we're sharing things and throwing it all over the place. In case you haven't been able to tell, Petr, we build based on sci-fi movies. That's our entire point of reference.

Yatri: I recently found out that the Prime Directive from "Star Trek" wasn't invented in "Star Trek" but it was actually from a sci-fi novel written years prior.

TJ: Oh. We need to read it then. All in the air right now. All right. Fantastic. Now, all right, guys, as we approach our time limit here, what do you say we dive into the lightning round. So, these are three rapid-fire questions. We'll all three answer them. We don't have to give it a ton of thought, but we do have to explain it a little bit. So, first one, technology development or innovation that you personally find the most interesting.

I'll go ahead and go because I'm gonna say a silly one. It's not new, but it's the...I think the one that has changed, sort of, how I interact with my stuff. Wireless charging has completely changed. I've got wireless charging pads. I've got Qi chargers everywhere in my house now so I can just drop my phone and charge it. Like, I know that that's not a new technology, but as far as the way it's impacted my household, it's crazy. Yatri, what have you got?

Yatri: I think for me, I'm loving how much people are studying ergonomics these days a lot more. And so, you see a lot more innovation with things like, not just keyboards and chairs, but things like the way curved monitors are around. And I think we're gonna see more of that going forward with just keeping in mind how the human body plays a part in a lot of this stuff.

TJ: Yeah, sure. Sure.

Petr: For me personally I'm a big, let's say...I love cars. I like driving them. You know, I'm just a big car guy. And what I love is, you mentioned it already, of just mirroring your phone. I think it's just such an improvement. Like before I had my old cars and all of those had those built-in infotainment systems which were super limited. You only really could connect to your Bluetooth in there so you could play some tracks and you could take calls and...you know?

And when I bought a new car one year ago, it has Apple CarPlay, right? So and I connected my phone and it was like...and my first thought was like, "Why did it took so long to have this awesome technology in there, right?" I mean, you can use Waze, Google, you don't anymore need the car's infotainment system. Like, it's useless practically because, I mean, there's nothing better than either Android or iOS the car manufacturers can do it better than those guys. So...

Yatri: It's not going obsolete in like six months.

Petr: Exactly. Exactly. And with iOS, you just get a new update or something, and yeah. So I remember the first time when I turned it on and I was like, "This is super cool, super easy to use. Like why wasn't it here you know, four years earlier?"

TJ: Absolutely. And it's so funny because so we got our car, I guess three years ago now. But same thing we can use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And it still has OnStar. And I'm like, "What? Nah, I don't really need you anymore. Like, I've got my phone literally connected to the car."

Petr: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Plus, today, you can...some of the cars already have it wireless. And if not, you can buy this module that you just put into USB and you can connect wirelessly. So you start a car and that's it. So, yeah. That's totally cool.

Yatri: All right. Next question. What is your favorite TV or movie robot?

Petr: That's a good one.

Yatri: There's so many to choose from.

TJ: There are so many to choose from. Yeah. Yeah. All right. I'm gonna pick mine now only because we rewatched the movie this weekend, and that's gonna be TARS from "Interstellar." I think it's hilarious. And I think I love the idea that it's not...like, a lot of times, movie robots they're still bipeds. It's like, yeah, it's still a human. This, in no way. It's the block that can change shapes and he moves around. And that's my favorite robot.

Petr: Yeah. For me personally, I'm a...you know, especially when I was a kid, I loved "Star Wars" so, for me, it would be probably R2. I just...

Yatri: I am gonna go with the ship from "Futurama."

TJ: Love it.

Yatri: I mean, Bender's great, but we all know it's all about...

TJ: Yeah. Bender's great, but it's all about the ship. Yeah.

Yatri: You've seen that episode.

TJ: Exactly. Exactly. All right. Now, this one is favorite mode of public transportation. Go.

Petr: Train.

TJ: Train?

Petr: Absolutely.

Yatri: TJ, what about you?

TJ: Oh, we don't really have public transportation in LA, so I can't really pick. I would say probably train. The New York subway system, I mean, it catches a ton of flack, but I do, kind of...oddly enough, I miss it from having lived there for many years. Like, I do miss riding on the subway. So, I'm gonna say subway.

Yatri: Yeah. I mean, as much as I love the subway, actually I love the ferries, so.

TJ: Oh. God, I should have chosen the Staten Island ferry. It's amazing. Ferries are great.

Yatri: I used to take the Red Hook ferry to IKEA.

TJ: Oh, see, I never did that. See, we had a car in Brooklyn. So, when we went to the IKEA in Red Hook, we drove like a bunch of idiots. It was terrible, but...

Petr: Yeah, he chose the coolest one. Yeah.

TJ: Yeah, the cool...yeah, dang, yeah. He won.

Yatri: Well, listen, I mean, the second we get hover cars, we all know what all of our answers are gonna be, right?

TJ: Well, hey, now, if it's not public transit that you've ridden on, we could do the hover boat that go, well, I don't know if it still does, that used to go from Dover to France. Like, it used to go from Dover to Calais or something.

Petr: Oh, yeah, yeah.

TJ: Yeah, yeah. That's what we should have picked. We're all incorrect.

TJ: Yeah, exactly. Way cooler. Way cooler. And as soon as we get public shuttle transits to the moon, that'll be the actual winner. All right, guys, that brings us to an end of our questions and thoughts today. Hopefully, you guys gained something, some insight into ultra-wideband. Huge thank you to Petr Sedlacek, our special guest today, who was able to tell us a lot about it that we definitely didn't know. Thank you guys so much for listening to Tec Trek. My name is TJ.

Yatri: I'm Yatri.

TJ: And thank you so much again. To hear more episodes, subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Yatri: And to find out more, visit us at spytec.com.

TJ: Thanks so much guys. Take care.

Petr: Thank you, guys. It was a pleasure to be here.