Renesas and Altran develop UWB social-distancing wearable

  • November 18, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

Japanese electronics company Renesas is working with French engineering firm Altran to develop a wearable for social distancing based on ultra-wideband (UWB) technology.

Earlier this year, Renesas licensed UWB technology from 3db Access, a fabless semiconductor company specialising 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 BluetoothLow Energy (BLE), the UWB chipset with low rate pulse (LRP) is said to operate on ten-times lower power consumption than other UWB chips and measure distances with an accuracy of 10cm or less, the precision necessary for social-distancing applications.

“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,” said Roger Wendelken, senior vice president at Renesas. “I’m pleased our collaboration with Altran is about responding to the Covid-19 pandemic with the first LRP UWB social distance wristwatch. Renesas plans to expand to more use cases in the future such as access control, asset tracking and geofencing.”

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 wearables 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.

“This has been a unique and rewarding project, collaborating with Renesas to bring the first LRP UWB-based social-distancing wristwatch to market,” said Scott Houghton, president of Altran’s semiconductor 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.”

Altran has more than 50,000 employees operating in over 30 countries. It is part of Cap Gemini, which offers consulting, digital transformation, technology and engineering services. With Altran, the group reported 2019 combined global revenues of €17bn.