Miniature tracking chip features high accuracy

Irish start-up DecaWave has developed a tracking chip claimed to be more accurate and cost competitive than other comparable technologies such as RFID and Wi-Fi.

DecaWave claims its 7mm2 chip, which is based on the UWB 802.14.4a IEEE standard, is smaller than any others on the market due to a patented set of algorithms.

It can be integrated into a mobile phone or small wearable device and reputedly deliver information about a target’s location, whether indoor or outdoor, with an accuracy of +/-10cm regardless of any obstructions and whether or not it is moving.

The company says this could be used for a variety of applications such as locating soldiers on the battlefield, tracking the movements of firemen in a burning building or sourcing medical equipment in a hospital.  

Ciaran Connell, chief executive of DecaWave, told The Engineer one of the major advantages of the chip is that it consumes less power.

‘It can run off a single watch battery for 10 years,’ he said.

Connell added that the company will be ready for mass production in the fourth quarter of next year. Each tracking tag will incorporate the chip, which is manufactured by TSMC in Taiwan, an antenna plus battery and cost approximately $5 (£3).

Connell said the technology can locate a target from a 45m distance indoors through obstructions and within 90m if it is within the line of sight. ‘That’s unprecedented,’ he added.

In outdoor applications it can work from a 500m distance, granting there are no major obstructions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEpNbdzWmWU

Business

Connell said DecaWave has hundreds of possible customer leads and has already caught the attention of LG Innotek of Korea, which invested €200,000 (£175,000) in the company earlier this year as a strategic agreement on future module production for mobile phone applications. A further €800,000 was invested by LG this year, according to Connell.

The benefit of the agreement with LG is that the module will already come FCC (US Federal Communications Commission) approved. Connell added that LG will also help DecaWave break into some of its existing customer base and sign deals with companies such as Samsung, Nokia, Apple, Google and Motorolla.

DecaWave will continue to sell chips for more low-volume orders in the range of 500,000 tags a year.

Finance

Since 2004 DecaWave has been financed by a combination of private angel investors that have contributed almost €4m. The Irish government’s ‘Enterprise Ireland’ has provided €850k after taking an equity stake.

In September 2010 DecaWave secured bridge financing of €2m to allow the company to complete testing of its first sample chips and encourage a further €6m investment that will enable DecaWave to bring its products to mass production.

Connell said a final €4m worth of investment will see the company go cash positive by 2013.

Competition

The company is now seeking to prove its technology, one-tenth the size of existing products, is the most innovative technology for global security.

DecaWave is one of 13 selected finalists vying for £326,000 investment to develop their business at the Global Security Challenge to be held in London on 11 November.

The prize money is provided by the Technical Support Working Group (TSWG) of the US Department of Defense.