Back in 2019, Apple introduced a U1 chip with the iPhone 11 that got UWB or Ultra Wideband technology mainstream. Since then Apple has incorporated UWB in AirTags, Apple Watch and the HomePod mini. Not just Apple but other companies too use UWB in their devices. Here we explain all you need to know about Ultra Wideband technology
What is Ultra Wideband technology?
Think of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
. They are short-range wireless communication protocols that work through radio waves. Ultra Wideband is a similar communication protocol but it operates at very high frequencies. UWB is useful in capturing spatial and directional data. So if you have a smartphone or smartwatch that is closer to another UWB device, it calculates the time of flight (ToF) between the devices.
How is UWB different from other wireless tech?
UWB — like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi — is about wireless connectivity. However, UWB has better positioning capabilities and the radio frequency security is also better. What UWB does is that it sends and receive data packets and add an extra layer of security as well which makes it more secure. UWB gives more accurate and precise location tracking and the range it provides is much better than other wireless technology.
Ultra Wideband technology and Apple
Apple was one of the first movers with UWB and its U1 chip. The Apple devices that use UWB are iPhone 11 series, iPhone 12 series, iPhone 13 series, AirTags, Apple Watch Series 6 and HomePod mini. What UWB and U1 chip do in Apple devices is that it offers precision location tracking. It’s handy not just to find lost devices but also makes AirDrop better and faster. An iPhone with UWB will know which other iPhone or Apple Watch is closest to it. The AirTag is another device that uses the U1 chip and using a system called Precision Finding, it helps locate the tracking devices.
Samsung’s use of UWB technology and the devices it works on
Samsung too incorporates UWB in its devices. Available in premium Galaxy S20 and S21 series of smartphones, Samsung describes UWB as “a continuously scanning radar that can precisely lock onto an object, discover its location and communicate with it.” Cars are equipped with UWB these days and Samsung phones can be used as digital keys as well. Samsung too has a tracking device called Galaxy SmartTag that uses UWB for precise location tracking.
What’s the future use of UWB and how it can be leveraged
Samsung says that for any organisation involved in manufacturing, UWB could be an essential part of digitising production and logistics. “UWB could help seamlessly digitise warehouses, shop floors and process chains, stabilising internal processes and optimising productivity,” says Samsung in a post on its website.
Google has added UWB support to Android 12 which gives other companies to use the technology in their smartphones. However, it is not a tech that could come to budget phones as of now. Apple will continue to use it has been reported that UWB could be a part of Mac devices as well. Other companies too will make a play for it and we may see the use of UWB grow in the next few years.