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Move over NFC, Samsung and UWB are taking over

Here’s a little preview of the future via Samsung, which said today in a blog post that says it expects UWB to be one of the “next big wireless technologies”. 

What’s UWB?

  • UWB, or ultra-wideband, looks like the next big thing as it allows for fast data transfer over longer ranges, with precision location services baked in.
  • UWB chips are now present in several new smartphones, like the iPhone 11 series and the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
  • And the reason is that the technology looks intensely useful. Better Bluetooth is a simple mostly right answer, but another example would be much better NFC, as well, given accuracies can be down to centimeters.
  • So, what does it mean? Samsung’s examples of using UWB technology: finding your car in a parking lot, or unlocking your front door as you approach it.
  • Yes, using Bluetooth and NFC could maybe work as well for these examples, but UWB is going to dramatically amplify and simplify the possibilities.

Coincidentally, Xiaomi has also posted its own take on UWB earlier today. (Probably, it’s not a coincidence at all — it’s very possible Apple is going to show off UWB applications tomorrow in its event, including the launch of AirTags, its take on Tile devices for keeping track of the location of things. So, here are Samsung and Xiaomi with the pre-emptive strike)

  • Xiaomi’s video isn’t in English so forgive me for missing some of it, but what it does show is someone using a Xiaomi phone to control devices such as a smart light, smart display, fan, and smart TV, just by pointing it at the devices.
  • In other words, there’s no identification or connection. Like an IR blaster, but more universal, and like Bluetooth in the data transfer options, but without having to pair.
  • The video clip also shows off a smart lock automatically unlocking the door as it detects the phone within a ~1 metre/~3 ft radius. Again, no interaction required.
  • This is also the technology likely to be used in cars as phones use digital keys. Apple’s own Car Key tech uses UWB but with NFC as well for phones and cars without the tech.
  • In any case, it’s looking very likely that Apple will show off the tech tomorrow, so we’ve seen preemptive strikes here from leading competitors.
  • Huawei would usually be in the mix, but for its tech troubles. Back in 2015, Huawei said UWB was too costly to popularize, at the time. How things change!

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