Single-chip, UWB radar offers a scalable sensor development platform

Single-chip, UWB radar offers a scalable sensor development platform

New Products |
By Graham Prophet

The XeThru Developer Platform is based on Novelda’s second-generation X4 ultra-wideband (UWB) impulse radar system-on-chip (SoC). With this technology, OEMs and system developers can implement sensors that can detect small movements, determine presence and room occupancy, and monitor respiration and other human vital signs with unprecedented accuracy and discrimination. The patient/infant monitoring application has been a key sector for Novelda, and remains a principal target. The UWB radar return can detect movements of the order of 1mm or less, through dielectric materials such as bedclothes, so can detect respiration or heartbeat at a distance.


Supporting various host environments, such as MATLAB, Python, C++ and C, the XeThru platform provides everything developers need to rapidly start prototyping their radar application designs. The hardware bundles an X4 SoC with an MCU board and a PCB antenna, while communications software provides an API layer that enables access to the full functionality of the SoC, and open source reference code allows the use of digital signal processing libraries to extend system performance.


Integrated into a single chip, the X4 UWB impulse radar SoC combines a transmitter, which can operate at centere frequencies of either 7.29 GHz or 8.748 GHz for unlicensed operation in worldwide markets, with a direct RF sampling receiver and a fully programmable system controller. The X4 SoC delivers some key performance improvements over the previous design: its frame size is now configurable for different applications and the range, for simultaneous observation, has been increased from 1m to 10m. That is, the output is a ‘frame’ that contains a signal from every reflection out to (for example) 10m. (Those unfamiliar with radar terminology might think of it as analogous to a time-domain reflectometry trace in test & measurement terms.) It is 10x faster and much more suitable for presence detection; its on-chip advanced power management functions enable low-power duty cycle control and dramatically reducing power dissipation; and its higher level of integration reduces external component BOM costs by more than 50%.


“The real benefit of the XeThru X4 Platform is in kick-starting the development of more advanced radar sensing applications, allowing customers who aren’t radar experts to do more than simply build a system with off-the-shelf sensors”, said Cornelia Mender, CEO, adding, “That said, we will also be upgrading our own presence detection and respiration sensors to take advantage of the enhanced performance of the X4 chip. And for customers who start with our X4M03 hardware and want to go straight to production, we will be offering the X4M02 as a single-board module that is 100% code compatible but at a lower cost in higher volumes”.


The company notes three areas which cause difficulty for newcomers to the technoogy, and says it has accommodated all of them. First is the task of handling and routing the GHz-range signals; the impulse power is very low and careful matching from CMOS chip to antenna is needed. Then, the UWB waveform needs a flat response across its full ‘spread’. These factors are dealt with by provision of prototyping and low/medium volume assembled boards, and by layout assistance for OEM production. Then, there is the task of interpreting the data this is where the API to any host computing syste comes in.


Intended to aid the development of sensors based on UWB radar technology, the components of the XeThru Developer Platform include:

– X4M03 Radar System – three interconnecting circuit boards that provide all the hardware required to prototype a target application – the X4SIP02 radar subsystem (the X4 chip mounted on a small daughter board), the X4A02 antenna board, and the XTMCU02 MCU board.

– XeThru Module Connector – a software suite allowing access to all X4M03 resources and streaming data through an API. XeThru Module Connector is distributed as a DLL / Shared Object and runs on WIN / Linux / MAC operating systems. The API is supported by Matlab, Python and C++/C.

– XeThru Embedded Platform – open source reference code, supplied as an Atmel Studio 7 project, that will run on the X4M03 and allow developers to implement their own radar module firmware, taking advantage of an API layer that provides access to the full parameter control of the X4 SoC and the ability to process data using standard DSP libraries.


As a UWB radar solution the X4 Impulse Radar SoC has been optimized for occupancy and respiration sensing applications and provides sub-mm accuracy with a simultaneous observation range up to 10m. Operating at below 10 GHz allows it to see through obstacles and its ultra-high spatial resolution allows the detection of multiple objects. Specified for industrial temperature range applications from -40C to +85C, the chip includes advanced power management features to ensure low power consumption (typically < 120 mW).





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