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Summary form only given. In February 2002, a law-and-order of the federal communications commission (FCC) gave the "green light" (spectral mask in the range 3.1-10.6 GHz) for commercial applications of ultra wideband (UWB) systems. Since this recent FCC release, UWB has emerged as an exciting technology whose "time has come" for wireless communications, and local area networking. Conveying information over ultra-short waveforms, UWB technology allows for very accurate delay estimates providing position and localization capabilities within a few centimeters. The scarcity of bandwidth resources coupled with the capability of IR to overlay existing systems, welcomes UWB connectivity in the workplace, and at home for indoor and especially short range wireless links. However, to realize these attractive features, UWB research and development has to cope with formidable challenges. This plenary will provide the fundamentals of UWB communication systems, driving applications, recent developments, and open problems.