Engineering 101

Social Distancing Wristwatch Uses Ultra-Wideband Chipset

Renesas and Altran have announced that they have co-developed a wearable solution for social distancing based on Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology. Earlier this year, Renesas announced it had licensed UWB technology from 3db Access AG, a fabless semiconductor company specializing in secure UWB low power chips to augment Renesas microcontrollers (MCUs).

The platform’s form factor, a wristwatch, combines the Renesas Synergy S128 MCU featuring HMI capacitive touch with licensed secure ranging UWB technology. Unlike other social distancing wearables based on technologies such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Renesas’ UWB chipset with Low Rate Pulse (LRP) claims to be able to operate on ten times lower power consumption than competing UWB chips and measure distances with an accuracy of 10cm or less – the precision necessary for social distancing applications.

The wristwatch’s safe distance is user-configurable; the wearer is alerted by LEDs and haptic feedback when a second device is detected within this range. Renesas will begin sampling the UWB chipset during the second half of 2021.

As co-developer and system integrator, Altran will leverage the UWB-based platform along with other internal assets to develop additional wearable solutions for social distancing as well as related location-based applications for clients across a broad range of markets. The social distancing wristwatch will be showcased in Altran’s innovation lab.

“After months of global pandemic shutdowns, people will want to feel safe when they return to work, school and social settings in close proximity to others. I’m pleased our collaboration with Altran is about responding to the COVID-19 pandemic with the first LRP UWB social distance wristwatch solution,” said Roger Wendelken, Senior Vice President, Head of MCU Business, IoT and Infrastructure Business Unit at Renesas. “Renesas plans to expand to more use cases in the future such as access control, asset tracking and geofencing.”

“This has been a unique and rewarding project, collaborating with Renesas to bring the first LRP UWB-based social distancing wristwatch to market,” added Scott Houghton, President of Altran’s Semiconductor & Electronics, Industrial & Consumer business. “We’re excited to introduce this platform to other markets; its form factor, power efficiency and accuracy make it an excellent fit – in both COVID and non-COVID applications– across our vertical industries.”

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