Open the smart home and other fields, about the future plan of Apple’s UWB chip


On the iPhone 11 mobile phone released earlier, a brand new chip U1 was introduced. The U1 chip is an ultra-wideband DW1000 chip designed by Apple itself. But for Apple, this is not the only way it can take advantage of the development of ultra-wideband technology, Apple may set off an “ultra-wideband revolution”.

Patent description of UWB chip

The Apple-designed U1 chip uses ultra-wideband technology to sense space, so the iPhone 11 can know the precise location of other U1-equipped Apple devices around it. It’s like adding another sense organ to the iPhone, and that brings incredible new capabilities.

Because Apple’s chip design is different from the DW1000, it uses the same standards and is compatible with third-party devices that use the Decawave chip, allowing the chip to provide precise radiolocation capabilities down to 10 centimeters.

The patent specification further states that with the use of accelerators and actuators, the UWB system can easily determine how the user device is held. But it can also use its various sensors to help determine the exact location and orientation of the device.

The U1 chip (or all UWB ultra-wideband chips) uses a variant of WiFi technology with a frequency range not found in other products. In the ultra-wideband spectrum, it can utilize 500MHz wide channels.

This is a huge improvement over WiFi’s 20MHz bandwidth and Bluetooth’s 2MHz bandwidth. As a result, bandwidth, speed, and latency can be greatly increased.

It would be a big move for Apple, but it’s not the only way it can take advantage of UWB’s growth.

Apple could use UWB in smart home technology, augmented reality, mobile payments, keyless entry into cars and even indoor navigation. Some examples might include a home audio system playing, which follows the user as he moves around the various rooms, or a keyless entry system that automatically locks or unlocks when the user approaches.

UWB chips open the way to higher bandwidth

The ultra-broadband transmission distance is within 10 meters, and the transmission speed is as high as 480Mbps, which is 159 times that of Bluetooth and 18.5 times that of the WiFi standard. The demand for ultra-broadband UWB for indoor positioning is rapidly rising, especially for mobile payments, which require more accurate indoor positioning.

For example, if you have UWB in your mobile phone and a UWB chip on the door handle of your home, you will not need a key to open the door in the future. As long as you walk to the door with your mobile phone, the door will automatically open and close. It can be imagined how convenient the application of UWB in smart home can be in the future.

UWB chips open up a road with higher bandwidth for Electronic devices, but there are not many application scenarios that make them tepid. However, with the addition of Apple, the outside world began to pay attention to UWB chips. In addition, the manufacturing difficulty of such chips is low, and there will be broader prospects in the future.

High-precision positioning services will become a necessity

In the era of the Internet of Everything, high-precision location services have become a necessity. Only by clearly grasping the location of each device on the Internet of Things can it be possible to build an accurate Internet of Things network and provide services based on location.

High-precision positioning services and high-precision map services are a natural combination. In the future era of autonomous driving, high-precision positioning and high-precision maps are indispensable.

High-precision positioning has broader application scenarios, including IoT devices, human positioning, and machine positioning. It has wider applications in the fields of intelligent driving, smart cities, industrial upgrading, and public safety.

As mentioned earlier, high-precision positioning includes outdoor positioning and indoor positioning. It can provide accurate, stable and reliable positioning in bad weather, non-line-of-sight scenarios and other vehicle-mounted sensors with weak satellite signal coverage.

Due to the occlusion of the building, the satellite signal is very weak or even no signal indoors. At this time, UWB positioning is needed. Due to the strong penetration ability of UWB, accurate positioning can be carried out indoors and underground, and it is easy to locate the communication system. First, it is easy to provide data services based on location.

Consumer Opportunities for UWB Indoor Positioning

For practitioners in the positioning industry, as the world’s best-selling consumer electronic products, equipped with UWB chips, this is a very positive signal, which means that high-precision positioning technology may usher in an explosion at the consumer level.

The description of the application of UWB technology on Apple’s official website is to deliver files over the air. , Apple will officially announce the service based on UWB technology. But this has opened the door to the application of UWB technology from industrial to consumer.

Whether it is indoor positioning or outdoor positioning, there are huge business opportunities due to technological progress and the needs of social development. If it is said that outdoor positioning is still the world of big players, because this is a service that needs to be provided by laying a national positioning network and calling the Beidou global positioning system and ground enhancement base stations of national resources.

In contrast, indoor positioning may usher in a wave of entrepreneurial opportunities. Of course, the opportunities belonging to the hardware such as the technical layer and the chip layer will appear first. After all, there are very few UWB chips in China. After the hardware bonus period, the opportunity of the application layer may appear. Of course, the application layer will also face the current LBS service providers. competitive pressure.

UWB technology civilian market size

① Based on the characteristics of UWB, it also has a very wide application space in the civilian field. For example, the elderly care industry, power industry, medical industry, chemical industry, factories and warehouses, parking lots, judicial industry, museums and other fields, preliminary estimates, UWB’s civilian market size is nearly 30 billion.

②UWB has only discovered and developed some product applications in recent years, so its market has been a fast-growing market in the past one or two years. In 2018, the entire domestic UWB market size was about 1.1 billion, and it is expected that the entire market size will be close to 12 billion by 2020.

③ According to statistics, the market size of the global implementation of positioning systems will increase from US$3.19 billion in 2018 to nearly US$9 billion in 2023. As Apple’s mobile phone implants positioning technology into mobile phones, it may also trigger a boom in the use of ultra-high frequency precise positioning in the civilian market.

④UWB has strong anti-interference ability. For example, you can charge without parking on the highway. There is no problem with UWB.

Smart home will accurately sense people and devices

With smart home technology, security and functionality can be enhanced if devices can accurately sense the location of devices and people.

So sooner or later Apple will add UWB support to the Apple Watch, because we don’t carry our phones all the time, but our wrists are always around.

Imagine a home sound system that can change the room where the music is playing at any time, depending on the listener’s location. If you know that the smart lock can only be opened when you are standing next to it, it will automatically lock when it detects that you are indoors.

Augmented reality is also an area of ​​great interest for Apple, where UWB can also come in handy, providing precise locations for devices and accessories. So it can be used for platitudes like opening doors with UWB-enabled badges, or even allowing office buildings to provide indoor navigation.

HomeKit will use UWB chips to improve

HomeKit requires all devices to be connected to a central network, and while it does offer some level of location awareness in the setup, it’s not granular enough to work by room.

If HomeKit can better determine a user’s location within a building, it could enable more advanced features, such as turning on lights or fans in a room when a user enters it, one of the goals of the smart home.

In the patent, the power socket has a built-in processor chip, and the processor controls two modules, one is the power module and the other is the communication module. Power modules are configured with multiple autonomous power supplies that can be turned on or off based on remote commands. The communication module can communicate with other head units in the house to send data between the devices.

The socket can also have multiple accessories, such as a multi-antenna array to communicate with multiple host units to calculate the phase angle of the communication data, a magnetometer to act as a compass, and an accelerometer to detect orientation.

Using these components, it enables the building’s central system to generate floor plans, using radar, IEEE 802 communication protocols, ultrasonic methods, and ultra-wideband (UWB) radiolocation to determine the relative location of each outlet and group them into room for mass control.

Likewise, adding UWB to sockets not only allows sockets to communicate with each other and determine their location in 3D space, but also detects the presence of a nearby iPhone, enabling fine-grained home location capabilities.

Of course, a wall unit doesn’t have to be an electrical outlet. According to Apple’s idea, the components embedded in the wall can also include light switches, temperature controllers, and other various switch buttons with the same sensors and fixed to the wall.

At that time, HomeKit will master the distribution map of each smart home and your position in the HomeKit distribution system, directing each device to quickly enter the working state, and become the brain of the home system, and UWB is an important part of the neural network.


The commercialization of high-precision positioning is on the rise, and there are already start-up companies fighting against it. In addition to containing huge business opportunities, it will also improve human life services to another level, we will wait and see.

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