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UWB's Powerful, Low Power Solutions

Integrating the components around which so many emerging solutions revolve depends on being able to support them. Expanding the POS to let consumers make transactions in new ways can't become reality without a robust foundation.

A market convergence is happening with PCs, consumer electronics and cellular telephony; once all very separ-ate, they're now merging functionalities. This will soon have a major impact on transaction processing, said Stephen Wood, President of WiMedia Alliance, an organ-ization founded in 2002 to promote ultrawideband, or UWB, technology.

UWB is a radio technology that's been used in radar and imaging applications for 20 years. In March 2005, however, the Federal Communications Commission

(FCC) settled a regulatory issue raised in a commercial dispute, effectively allowing UWB's wide scale introduction to the market. The technology is approved for use in the United States, but other countries have been less eager to adopt it.

UWB works across a very large swath of frequencies, 3.1 to 10.6 gigahertz; the broad radio spectrum compensates for its low power requirement, Wood explained. "We generate less power intentionally that your PC or TV does accidentally," he said.

Its larger bandwidth enables the reliable transfer of large audio, video and graphics files; feature length movies can be downloaded from a source in less than two minutes. UWB will play an important role in the future of payments by broadening the possibilities of mobile commerce. The technology's broad-range functionality and characteristics make it especially effective at integrating diverse components in many processes.

For example, UWB provides a very high bandwidth solution that enables the transmittal of large files without draining battery power. What this means, Wood said, is that we'll begin to see a blending of functionalities, with computational capabilities on mobile platforms or the ability to visit kiosks, for instance, to load movies and MP3 files onto cell phones to transfer onto home systems.

"UWB is important in all of this because these [processes] need a high bandwidth and high-speed way to communicate," he said. "Very large files can take 30 minutes to download and consumers won't wait. UWB enables the ecosystem to come together and creates a mobile platform that is sufficiently powerful enough to become an e-commerce platform. It enables all these functions to merge onto one platform. As soon as we create a mobile computational platform that includes a large amount of memory, the kinds of things they will do will be explosive. Transactions are a key part of it," Wood said.

Wood doesn't believe that UWB will replace Wi-Fi as the ubiquitous wireless technology. "UWB doesn't conflict with Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, which are ranges best suited for specific applications," he said. Instead, "UWB handles the transfer of really heavyweight stuff that would be originated by other radio technologies."

Big things have happened since the FCC's March decision that will help spread UWB's implementation. The WiMedia Alliance has gained support from some big names in technology, including Intel, Samsung, Hewlett-Packard and Philips; Microsoft joined the organization's Board in May with the intention of incorporating the technology in its operating systems. Bluetooth also decided to support UWB to take advantage of its extra bandwidth.

Phase one of UWB's implementation will conclude later this year or early next year, Wood said, with products shipped and worldwide regulatory approval. Once the UWB standard is adopted globally, Wood believes manufacturers of mobile devices, and even POS equipment, will embrace it enthusiastically.

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