Apple's new iPhone 11 devices include a U1 chip with ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. It's not a new technology, but it's the first time it's installed in a modern smartphone. It's not just about iPhones: Android phones could also benefit from UWB technology.
What can the Ultra-Wideband be used for?
Apple did not bother to mention this feature when releasing the iPhone 11, but this is stated on the Apple website. As Apple says, ultra-wideband technology offers a "spatial awareness".
Initially, Apple only ad a UWB feature: When the iOS 13.1 update arrives on September 24th, "AirDrop still improves with sensible suggestions." In other words, you can point your iPhone on the iPhone from someone else and AirDrop will know that you probably want to send it items. . Today, your iPhone simply uses Bluetooth to understand who is around you. He does not know who you are looking at or where exactly they are.
In other words: this feature allows an iPhone – or any other smartphone that implements it – to accurately detect the location of other objects in the physical space. This is something that is missing on smartphones today.
How it works?
Like Bluetooth and WirelessUltra-wide band is a wireless communication protocol that uses radio waves.
Ultra-wide band offers high bandwidth with low power consumption, but it only works over short distances. That's why other wireless technologies such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are always useful: their range is longer. Unlike "narrowband" technologies, UWB transmits data over a wider frequency (greater than 500 MHz).
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are unreliable ways to detect distance and position. Of course, a device with a stronger signal is probably closer than the one with a weaker one, but that's all you can detect – and it's not perfect because the signals could be amplified to fool the system . Rather than depending on the strength of the signal, the iPhone will measure the round trip time of the signal to determine the distance that separates it from another device. Through multiple antennas, UWB can also measure the angle from which the signal originates. A precise angle combined with a precise distance means that your iPhone can locate an object in a reasonably accurate position in the space.
The exact details of Apple's U1 chip and ultra-wideband operation are unclear, as there are different versions of the standard. Apple has not yet revealed all the technical specifications. But Infsoft, which provides indoor positioning services for industrial environments using ultra-wideband, indicates that the accuracy of its system is between 10 and 30 cm, against 1 to 3 meters with Bluetooth tags or between 5 and 15 meters with Wi-Fi.
What does one do in the iPhone 11?
This technology is part of the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. Better prioritize people nearby for AirDrop sharing is only the first feature that UWB will allow. according to Apple"It's like adding another meaning to the iPhone, and that will lead to amazing new capabilities."
The greatest capacity that comes to my mind is the tracking of physical objects. Apple would work alone material tracking tags. Attach one to an object (like your key ring, wallet or purse) and you can use your phone to track the position of the object. These would use UWB, although Apple has not officially announced the product yet.
Today & # 39; hui, trackers like Tile use Bluetooth. When you are nearby, you need to "call" the tracking to find it and locate it by listening to the sound played. In the future, UWB could allow an iPhone to detect a tracker much more precisely without the sound. In other words, your iPhone can show you that your bunch of keys has probably fallen into the couch cushions and maybe even show you the location on the screen for help of Augmented reality.
It's just a use. Jason Snell writes that the U1 chip is "the beginning of an ultra broadband revolution". Smarthome technology could know exactly where humans (UWB-compatible phones) are at home. Devices other than trackers could better integrate with augmented reality applications. A phone can be used to enter the car without a key. The car can use UWB to make sure you stand next to it before opening its doors. Ultra-wide band could make a lot of new cool things possible.
What about Ultra Broadband on Android Phones?
This feature first appears on Apple's new iPhones, but nothing prevents Android phones from implementing features similar to ultra-wideband. Android phones often take the example of Apple – just witness the disappearance of headphone jacks and spreading notches. New gesture controls in Android 10 are yet another example.
Of course, sometimes, Apple follows Android phones too – consider NFC, on which Android took the lead before being added to the iPhone years. But if UWB proves to be useful, we expect Android phone manufacturers to follow suit and include it. Bring this ultra-wide band revolution.