Freescale is one of the leaders in a new kind of digital technology called “ultrawideband” that’s being described as the next big consumer wireless technology, thanks to its ability to pump out massive amounts of data.

But even though some ultrawideband devices will come to market this year, the technology is still hobbled by regulatory challenges and a long-running clash between two incompatible ultrawideband systems. According to Bob Heile, the Attleboro physicist who leads a wireless standards-setting committee for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), “Right now, it’s 10 percent technology and 90 percent politics.”



Most radio devices send out a signal over a narrow band of frequencies. For example, WiFi data networks use a small set of frequencies in the 2.4 gigahertz range. But ultrawideband works by broadcasting over a much larger chunk of the radio spectrum — from 3.1 to 10.5 gigahertz — all at the same time. As a result, even a low-powered ultrawideband radio signal can carry huge amounts of data.



Ultrawideband technology has other powerful attributes. Because the signal can penetrate solid objects, police forces and armies use the technology in radar systems that can see through walls. The precise digital pulses of an ultrawideband radio make it possible to locate a transmitter with an accuracy of a few inches, so automakers are working on ultrawideband detectors that can spot oncoming cars and prevent collisions.



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