What is Ultra Wideband (UWB) and why Apple and Samsung are betting on technology

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Imagem: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC are well-established specifications on smartphones. And as far as Samsung and Apple depend, UWB will be next.

Samsung’s chief technology officer, KJ Kim, described the company’s view of the UWB, or Ultra Wideband. For the executive, this is a transformative technology that can help facilitate wireless data transfer and update specific functionalities for smart homes through features such as Samsung’s future digital key.

Like Bluetooth, UWB is a short-range wireless communication protocol based on radio waves. The UWB supports data transfer speeds that are much higher than other wireless standards, and most importantly, it allows accurate tracking and environment detection that can allow a device to recognize and map its surroundings immediately.

In 2018, Samsung helped create the FiRa Consortium, in partnership with NXP and HID Global (which has since expanded to include 45 other organizations), to explore and promote various uses for Ultra Wideband.

At the beginning of the second semester, Samsung launched its first two phones equipped with UWB: the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the Galaxy Z Fold 2. The South Korean is using the function mainly to enhance Android’s Nearby Share feature, which is the Android equivalent of Apple’s AirDrop, and increase the speed and accuracy of sending files wirelessly to other devices. The SmartThings Find feature has also gained the ability to generate an augmented reality display to help you locate other Galaxy devices in your home.

In the near future, Samsung plans to use UWB in smart home appliances, such as digital key locks to communicate more quickly and securely than with current Wi-Fi or Bluetooth implementations. And if we look to the future, Samsung and other manufacturers hope to turn to UWB to support internal mapping functions that can guide you to specific stores or kiosks in locations, such as a mall, for example.

I must mention that Samsung is not the only company that thinks in this direction. Companies like Xiaomi plan to use UWB to connect to a wide range of smart home devices, including fans, air purifiers, vacuum cleaners and more.

And of course, there’s Apple. The iPhone 11 was launched with a UWB chip, primarily to help facilitate transfers via AirDrop. The technology was expected to play a big role in the rumors about AirTags, which are supposed to help locate lost devices, especially those that may not be connected to Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. A new rumor suggests that the new HomePod Mini, which should to be announced at this Tuesday (13th) event, it will support UWB to track your location and that of other U1 chip devices (which is what Apple uses to add UWB support to your devices), and to connect to other media gadgets and home devices, while adding HomeKit support for certain products.

While companies are still figuring out how to truly maximize UWB resources, this will certainly be an important addition to today’s wireless technologies. It is a potential replacement for certain specifications that currently depend on Bluetooth, which, as we all know, often suffers from security flaws.

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