Successful testing of UWB sensor network in industrial setting

Wireless communication is becoming increasingly important in industrial companies, as production processes frequently have to be adapted and optimized. Laying new cables each time would reduce flexibility. Together with the companies Messfeld and Dewesoft and the research institutes JOANNEUM RESEARCH DIGITAL and FH Campus 02, the University of Klagenfurt and Lakeside Labs GmbH have now tested a UWB network in an industrial setting.

Some wireless technologies like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth suffer from certain disadvantages: They either transmit only small quantities of data or they consume a relatively large amount of energy. Industrial settings also present other challenges: for example, the signals might be disrupted by reflections from steel surfaces or walls.

To provide production companies with a fresh option, the researchers in Klagenfurt are now using UWB (ultra-wideband), a relatively old technology that has experienced a renewed upswing in recent years. Project manager Andreas Kercek explains the advantages: “UWB can transmit large data volumes due to its physical properties. The signals do not interfere with each other and are robust to external interference. UWB consumes modest amounts of energy.”

Christian Bettstetter, Professor for Mobile Systems and Scientific Director of Lakeside Labs GmbH, goes on to explain: “Until now, the technology has been used first and foremost for positioning; Apple, for example, has now integrated a UWB chip into its iPhone 11 for the first time”. What is new, is the use for communication purposes. If the technology can be made viable for industrial companies, many of the hurdles these companies face can be overcome.

The experiments recently presented in the journal IEEE Access have shown that data transmission works reliably in a network with several sensors and radio interfaces. The tests were carried out in a genuine industrial setting. “The challenge now is to translate the findings into a marketable product”, Andreas Kercek concludes.

Schmidt, J.F., Chernov, D. & Bettstetter, C.: Towards Industrial Ultra-Wideband Networks: Experiments for Machine Vibration Monitoring. IEEE Access, Volume 8, (2020):

This project received support from the Carinthian Economic Development Fund (KWF), the federal state of Styria and the Styrian Economic Development Agency.