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Samsung is betting big on UWB for next-generation wireless technology

Illustration for the article titled What is UWB and why are Apple and Samsung suddenly so interested?

Photo: Sam Rutherford

Wifi, Bluetooth and NFC are well-established specifications in modern smartphones, and if Samsung has its way, UWB will be next.

Samsung Chief Technology OFficer KJ Kim illustrated Samsung’s point of view UWB, or ultra-wide band, on the company website, describing it as a transformative technology that can help facilitate wireless data transfer, upgrade smart home technology via functionality like Samsung’s upcoming Digital Keyand even help with inland navigation.

Like Bluetooth, UWB is a short-range wireless communication protocol based on radio waves. However, unlike the Bluetooth, UWB supports much higher data transfer rates and, more importantly, it enables precise monitoring and sensing of the environment which can allow a device to recognize and map its immediate surroundings.

Illustration for the article titled What is UWB and why are Apple and Samsung suddenly so interested?

In 2018, Samsung helped create the FiRa Consortium in partnership with NXP and HID Global (which has since expanded to include 45 different organizations) to explore and promote various uses for UWB. ISbefore this fall, Samsung has released its first two UWB-equipped phones: the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the Galaxy Z Fold 2. Samsung mainly uses UWB to enhance Android’s nearby sharing feature (which is the Android equivalent of Apple’s AirDrop) and increase the speed and accuracy of sending files wirelessly to other devices. The company The SmartThings Find function is also the ability to generate an AR display to help you locate other Galaxy devices around the house.

In the near future, Samsung plans to use UWB with smart home devices such as digital key smart locks to communicate faster and more securely than you can with current Wi-Fi or Bluetooth implementations. And if we look ahead, Samsung and other device makers are hoping to use UWB to support internal mapping features that could potentially guide you. to specific shops or kiosks in places such as a shopping mall.

Now I should mention that Samsung isn’t the only company thinking this way, because aside from FiRa Cosortium, companies like Xiaomi are planning on using UWB to connect to a wide range of smart home devices, including fans, air purifiers, robotsvacuum cleaner and more.

And, of course, there is Apple. The iPhone 11 launched with UWB, mainly to facilitate AirDrop transfers. UWB was also expected to play an important role according to Apple’s rumors AirTags, which reportedly help you locate lost devices, especially those that may not be connected to Bluetooth or wifi. A new rumors suggest than the new HomePod Mini (expected to be announced later this week) will support UWB to track your location and the location of other devices equipped with a U1 chip (which is what Apple uses to add UWB support to its devices) and to connect to other devices multimedia and smart home gadgets, potentially adding HomeKit support to certain products as well.

An important note: T.used UWB in Various Samsung and Apple products are not the same as Verizon’s 5G UWB network, as 5G UWB is simply Verizon’s trademark for its mmWave 5G cellular service. (Confused, I know.)

While companies are still trying to figure out how to truly maximize UWB’s capabilities, it is destined to be an important addition to the wireless capabilities of today’s gadgets. It’s a potential replacement for some features that currently rely on Bluetooth, which, as we all know, often suffers from a wide range of security holes.

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