Could there yet be life for Ultra Wideband (UWB)?

Long term readers of IncisorTV’s scribblings will remember that back in the early 2000’s, a miraculous technology was emerging that was going to change the wireless world. Super fast data rates, low power – heck, it could even see through walls. This was Ultra Wideband, which was, at one time, going to be the high-speed data channel for Bluetooth, but was killed in that sphere – and in the wider universe – by industry in-fighting and politicing. Now, NXP would have us believe that there is still a future for UWB.

NXP’s view is that Ultra-wideband (UWB) is a secure wireless technology that delivers very precise, very accurate location readings down to the centimeter and can determine the direction of movement. Designed into a mobile device, such as the smartphone in your back pocket, the smart key in your jacket, or the control panel of your vehicle, UWB lets you move through space with greater freedom and gives you new ways to interact with people, objects and your environment. UWB puts you in control and lets you be you, without having to fiddle with physical devices, keys or codes.

Make hands-free access a reality

A UWB-enabled door lock, installed on a car door, a warehouse entryway, a conference room or your front door can detect your approach and automatically unlock when you’re near enough to open the door. There’s no need to insert a physical key, enter a pin code, tap a card or take your phone out of your pocket. The lock can tell if you’re approaching from the inside or the outside of a building and respond accordingly. It can also automatically relock as you move away from the door. UWB lets you safely share access credentials so you can let everyone in your household use the family car or give temporary access to a guest or a service person.

NXP tells us that UWB is a safer way to provide entry since it’s more precise than the other wireless technologies currently used for secure access. In particular, UWB is not susceptible to relay attacks, which involve intercepting and amplifying the signal. Any UWB signal that attackers succeed in capturing and boosting will take too long to respond to the UWB lock’s acknowledgement signal, making it clear to the lock that the responding device is actually farther away, not closer. With immunity to relay attacks, UWB locks deliver greater safety and security.

Enable precise item tracking down to centimeter level

We’ve all lost keys, remote controls and gadgets, then lost more time looking for them. UWB-enabled objects can be pinpointed instantly, highlighted on a digital map of your house and found in seconds. No more hunting behind cushions or in cupboards and drawers for your keys or earbuds. With UWB on your side you have a second set of eyes that will always know where to look. And if you’ve ever struggled to find your car in a huge parking lot, you can also say goodbye to being lost, with an instant guide to where you parked.

You’ll never have to pick out a face from the crowd

Meeting someone at the airport? Need to find your rideshare driver in a line of cars? Wondering which café table your friends are at? According to NXP, secure device-to-device communication using UWB lets you know exactly where someone is, so you can find them—and they can find you—without delay.

The vision of a Smart Home that adapts to you

NXP believes that your home can be both smarter and more sustainable. With UWB your phone can serve as a contextual remote control to your smart home devices, and in even more sophisticated setups, UWB-enabled sensors can respond to your movements, turning on lights and speakers when you enter a room and turning them off again when you leave. Your presence determines the settings so you can feel right at home and still save energy, without touching a button or hitting a switch.

Be your own guide

Exploring new places has never been easier or more satisfying, says NXP, since UWB brings GPS-style location services indoors. Find your favorite cup of coffee in a new shopping mall, explore an art gallery without getting lost or go directly to your gate when catching a flight. The same kind of turn-by-turn directions you rely on when you’re outside, in your car or on a city street, are now available indoors, in any size of building.

NXP told IncisorTV that it is tethering consortias and partnerships to ironclad industry focus and foster interoperability for UWB so that new use cases can evolve.

Whether this push for UWB will be more successful than the first remains to be seen. Here at Incisor Towers, we are genuinely interested to find out.

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