INDOOR POSITIONING Ultra-wideband as a key wireless connectivity technology in 2021
ABI Research's 2021 Trend Report identifies the one key Location Technology market trend that will deliver in 2021 - and the one that will not. In addition, the global technology market consultancy forecasts that 300 million ultra-wideband devices will be shipped in 2021.
The foundation has been laid for Ultra-Wideband (UWB) to become a mainstream wireless connectivity technology across many consumer and IoT applications, enabling accurate indoor location and positioning with context aware information and precise analytics in real time. The year 2021 will be a critical juncture in UWB's rollout and increased adoption.
ABI Research's new whitepaper lists 37 trends that will shape the technology marke and 31 others that, although attracting huge amounts of speculation and commentary, are less likely to move the needle over the next twelve months. "For success in 2021, especially after a very challenging 2020, one must understand fundamental trends early, and take a view on those trends that are buoyed by hyperbole and those that are sure to be uncomfortable realities. Now is the time to double down on the right technology investment," says Stuart Carlaw, Chief Research Officer at ABI Research.
What will happen in 2021
"UWB's rollout and increased adoption is due to wider chipset availability, adoption across multiple segments, and the formation of a healthy UWB ecosystem across the entire supply chain," explains Andrew Zignani, Wi-Fi.
While historically, the technology has been used primarily within high-accuracy RTLS applications, 2020 has propelled UWB into various new markets. To date, arguably the biggest news was Apple's decision to develop and use its own UWB technology in its iPhone 11, iPhone 12, and iPhone SE devices. In addition, Samsung now supports the technology in its Galaxy Note 20, and Xiaomi added UWB to its Mi 10 series. Apple has also integrated the technology within its latest Apple Watch Series 6 and HomePod Mini speaker, demonstrating the importance of the technology going forward. Xiaomi also recently demonstrated UWB leveraged within a variety of smart home devices, such as fans, lamps, and smart speakers, highlighting the growing potential of the UWB ecosystem.
Once embedded within a sizable installed base of smartphones, new opportunities will emerge within the mobile accessory space, alongside wider consumer electronics applications. "Though it is difficult to predict which will be the largest markets exactly, it is clear that UWB is here to stay and that a strong ecosystem of devices is emerging," Zignani says.
What won't happen in 2021
LEO Satellites Will Not Yet Overtake GEO Operators' Dominance:
"The promise of ubiquitous, high-capacity, low-latency connectivity of mega-constellations has initiated a potential changing of the guard within the satellite industry," says Miguel Castaneda Industry Analyst at ABI Research. Likely disruptors, such as SpaceX and OneWeb, are ramping up development and production of their Low Earth Orbit (LEO) solutions to offer affordable and universal connectivity solutions.
There are, however, major obstacles that will hinder the ambitions of these LEO companies from coming to fruition, especially in 2021. " LEO companies must still improve commercial feasibility by overcoming the cost implications of deploying large-scale satellite fleets," Castaneda explains. The cost advantages of LEO deployments, such as Amazon's Kuiper (intending to launch 3,000 satellites) and SpaceX's Starlink (estimated 42,000 satellites by 2025), are neutralized as GEO/Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) deployments only require, at most, 10 satellites for global coverage. There are also other considerations that LEO companies must confront, including the need for more ground system infrastructure, proper orchestration of seamless switching/hand-offs of up to thousands of beams (due to the narrower spot beam capabilities of modern high throughput satellite systems), and navigating the varied landing rights of different countries.