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Tracking with Ultra Wide Band (UWB)

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    Tracking with Ultra Wide Band (UWB)

    UWB is a technology that has the ability to provide precise distance between two UWB clients and when multiple stationary clients are implemented then the location of a mobile client can be determined via triangulation. This is the technology used by Apple and Samsung for their AirTag / SmartTag to support specific identification of location of items holding their tags.
    Decawave (now Quovo) is the company that provides the UWB microchips. Decawave provides a development kit. Makerfab (China) ESP32 UWB(Ultra Wideband) | Makerfabs provides an ESP32 with the UWB chip integrated. They have recently introduced the next generation Decawave DW3000 product ESP32 UWB DW3000(Ultra Wideband) | Makerfabs. This is advertised to be able to communicate with the Apple AirTag. The first generation product DW1000 is not compatible with Apple or Samsung products but is able to be used to setup a network of stationary and mobile devices where the mobile device position can be tacked.

    My testing was done with a pair of MakerFab modules. One as Anchor and one as Tag. The reporting is via MQTT per the Topic setup in the Tasmota MQTT configuration. It reports the Tag ID as part of the Topic. The payload will be the distance from the reporting Anchor node in feet. E.g., Topic UWB/1234 Payload 5.5 from the Anchor about how far Tag 1234 is away from the reporting Anchor. If Tag 1234 no longer reports to the Anchor for a five second period, then the Anchor will report a distance of -1. If during the five second an acknowledge with updated distance is received, then the prior lack of report will be ignored.

    For testing the Tag was power by a battery pack and moved to various locations. MQTT reports of new distance were responsive and reasonably accurate. For optimum accuracy there is a calibration procedure. This was beyond the scope of my evaluation.

    The datasheet for DW1000 specifies distances typically in the 100-to-200-meter range. My experience with the MakerFab ESP32 board implementation is a range of no more than 10 meters indoors with line of sight. I did not observe much difference between low power and high accuracy configuration parameters.

    My original intent was for the ESP32 to be an Anchor and Apple AirTag to be the Tag. If an ESP32 board needs to be mobile, then I do not see any practical use for the DW1000 in a HA-related tracking application. While the ESP32/DW3000 is now available from MakeFab, I do not plan on repeating the evaluation with the newer product and an AirTag. The ESP32-DW3000 product was just released. It is not clear how much of the DS1000 library can be used with the DW3000. The MakerFab documentation seems to use the DW1000 library, but it could just be a copy/paste error in the documentation.

    The bottom line for me is that I do not see a practical HA use for the DW1000 chipset. The DW3000 with Apple AirTag could have a benefit for situations where the AirTag is tethered to the person/animal/item being tracked. The precision of measurement is where the UWB technology shines.

    A more complete description of the project and links to source and object files can be found in Section 20.26 of mcsMQTT user manual at

    Support for AirTags would be pretty sweet.
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      Thanks Michael. I love seeing your projects, and especially your reporting on less positive results so others can learn from them.


        Thanks for testing and reporting!