Here’s another wireless technology that will try to complement or compete with other wireless technologies for the various markets – ultra wide band (UWB), which will operate on unlicensed frequencies.
There are five companies worldwide currently developing this technology, one of which is RAD-Bynet group’s Wisair.
UWB technology features very short distances (the size of a room), saves on power, and has the potential to transmit data at over 100 Mbps. The potential of a cheap, fast wireless technology is fairly large, but UWB will also have to meet stiff competition in the future from other wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth and WLAN, that are already in the market.
That may be the reason why Wisair does not speak of competing with other wireless technologies, but of complementing them, for example in cases where Bluetooth in unable to provide the necessary speed. Wisair believes that every technology will eventually find the niche suitable to its cost and performance.
In any case, it is unclear when the UWB standardization procedures will be completed. What is clear is that the regulatory arrangements in the US will soon be solved, and the technology can be sold, even if a standard to enable the components of different manufacturers to communicate with each other has not been arranged.
Second time around
Wisair is currently managed by president and CEO David Yaish. Yaish is former CEO of CTP Systems, acquired by DSPC in 1996, which itself was acquired by Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) in 1999. Yaish left Intel in February 2001 and began to look for a new field.
After a number of meetings with Zohar Zisapel, who was interested in wireless, the two decided to start a new company in UWB field then coming into existence. Zisapel and Yaish served in the same Israel Defense Forces intelligence unit. When Yaish was demobilized, Zisapel proposed they “do something together”, but nothing came of it. Now, the second time around, Yaish decided he should take advantage of the opportunity being given him.
Due to the newness of the its technology, Wisair is currently focusing on technology development, while at the same time defining the target markets. Until all the regulatory issues are solved, it is not even clear what bandwidth will be assigned to UWB technology. Yaish prefers not to mention specific figures, but in principle, frequencies of a few Gigahertz of broadband are involved, around a frequency of “several Gigahertz” at very low power.
What is clear is that due to the low power level used by the technology, it will have very little radiation, similar to that emitted by household electrical appliances (according the US Federal Communications Commission part 15b standard). This fact alone is likely to boost the technology, given the public’s increased awareness of home radiation.
US regulatory activity is slated for completion in a few months, while Japan and Europe are also beginning to work towards getting approval. Yaish says that only after regulators grant approval will it be possible to know what applications can be used for the technology, because if restrictions are placed on the technology, it will have a substantial effect on the surrounding applications.
Yaish is not terribly concerned at the many ifs surrounding the technology’s future. “There is both opportunity and risk here. If this technology takes off, we have a chance to become one of the leaders in the field,” he says, adding another if to the equation.
In any event, there are two main applications to be considered. The first is short-range communications (because of power limitations) at high speed, in which a number of video and data channels can be transmitted simultaneously. The second concerns short-range location based technologies. According to Yaish, UWB is capable of location-based identification of a device at a high resolution of 10-15 cm.
In addition to high speeds, low cost, and low energy consumption, Yaish notes another feature of the technology – its signal spreads well in an obstacle-laden environment that lacks a line of vision. This refers to short ranges in the home or a small office.
Still another field Wisair is trying to promote is home networking, in which the number of players is still greater than the number of customers. All the wireless technologies are trying to enter the home networking field, UWB among them, but Yaish says that at this stage, the company is not wedded to the home networking application.
All the companies in the world in this field are at the technology development stage, and all are now awaiting regulatory approval. Yaish points out that each of the companies competing also deals with other applications, some of them military, and adds that it is impossible to compare the companies’ positioning, since they are all just getting started.
In comparison with other wireless technologies, however, Yaish asserts that UWB is positioned differently. Not only are the speeds greater, they also define the applications. “Bluetooth can work up to certain speeds, and an attempt was actually made to push it into speeds at which is not capable of operating. Whichever way you look at it, the whole package provides a cheaper solution, consumes less energy, and has a better spread capacity.
”Furthermore, from a commercial standpoint, you’re using the existing spectrum. Unlicensed use of the frequency range is planned, because spectrum is expensive. We are designing in advance applications that we know other technologies are incapable of providing. The technology will be fairly inexpensive to use.”
Enough capital for a year
Wisair plans to develop a chip set, and at this point wants to complet development of its prototype during the summer. Yaish says the company does not need to raise more capital; the Zisapels’ initial investment will suffice for at least another year.
”There are investors interested in investing in a young company like ours,” Yaish states. “At this stage, the cash burn rate is low, and if you believe in the potential, it’s the right stage to invest in a company.”
”I think it’s a good time to found a start-up,” Yaish continues, “providing you have good investors like mine (here Yaish expounds on the cooperation he gets from the Zisapel brothers in administration, personnel, legal assistance, and most importantly, in marketing channels and connections). The set-up costs are low and the employees cost less and are of better quality. A company like ours is now only developing technology. There’s no sales pressure. When we have a product, we hope to catch the market at a time when it’s getting on its feet.”
Founded: April 2001
Founders: David Yaish, Zohar and Yehuda Zisapel
Product: A chip set utilizing ultra wide band technology
Competition: US companies PulsLink, MSSI, Extreme, Time Domain
Shareholders: Zohar and Yehuda Zisapel, employees
Previous financing round: Estimated $2 million
web site: None
Published by Israel's Business Arena on January 31, 2002