What is ultra-wideband technology and how does it work

Ultra Wideband or UWB is a technology that is still new to devices such as phones and tablets, but has been used for decades. Previously, the technology was limited to military use and had a narrow usage bandwidth. However, as the technology became more accessible, UWB technology was first introduced in phones by Apple.

Apple in 2019 introduced a U1 chip in iPhones which allowed iPhone users to use location features with revamped precision and accuracy. Gradually, various other high-end smartphones have seen the prevalence of this technology, for example, in the Samsung S20 and S21 handsets. So, let’s take a little deeper understanding of ultra-wideband technology.

What is Ultra Wideband Technology?

Ultra wideband is a radio protocol that allows wireless communication using radio waves. Another technology operated on the same protocol and has been a default feature of phones for a decade now. Any guesses?

Bluetooth is the technology that mirrors the functionality of ultra wideband. However, the only difference between Bluetooth and UWB is that UWB operates at very high frequencies (3.1-10.6 GHz) and consumes less power. UWB, like Bluetooth, is a short-range medium of communication, but the information it processes is highly accurate due to the wide frequency bandwidth it is able to support.

How it works?

This form of wireless communication has radio waves as its backbone which keeps the technology robust. It is a UWB transmitter and a UWB receiver. The transmitter emits billions of radio pulses on the frequency in which it operates. The role of the receiver is to transform these pulses into data bits.

Its accuracy in calculating distance and subsequently locating a device stems from its ability to calculate the time taken for radio waves to reach the receiver and then calculate the distance between the transmitter and the receiving end. Considering the bandwidth and the number of pulses it is able to send, UWB technology is capable of processing around 25 megabits of data per second.

Where does it work?

With the advent of ultra-wideband technology in phones, such as iPhones and Samsung S20s, the ecosystem in which these devices operate is improving dramatically. For example, Apple, after introducing UWB through the U1 chip, introduced this feature in AirTags, Apple Watches, HomePod Mini, etc. This has made the Apple ecosystem very efficient. As a result, it has now become easier for devices to communicate with each other with increased efficiency.

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Maria D. Ervin