The text UWB in front of a phone held in a hand.
The Technology

What is ultra-wideband? All about UWB

Ultra-wideband has been around for several years but most people still don’t know what the technology is or that it even exists. Like most things tech, UWB took some time to see useful application areas. In 2023 it definitely has found its place and there are some pretty exciting use cases. It’s time you get to know ultra-wideband and what it can do.

What is ultra-wideband?

Ultra-wideband is commonly referred to as UWB, its abbreviated form, and it’s a type of short-range, wireless communication protocol. Just like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, UWB operates using radio waves but it differs from them by using very high frequencies. As the name suggests, it also uses a much wider spectrum of GHz and it can be used to capture very accurate directional and spatial data.

Basically, it’s like a tiny radar that continuously scans the room to locate objects and then locks onto them. Once it has located another UWB-compatible object it can communicate with it and keep track of its relative position to the object. UWB does this with much higher accuracy than the alternatives, like Bluetooth, which also means that it uses less power.

What is UWB used for?

The most common and well-known application area is SmartTags, where the most famous version is Apple’s AirTags. If you haven’t heard of them it’s a small tag you can attach to something you often misplace like a set of keys. The tag is equipped with UWB which lets you track it down and easily find your keys with the help of your phone.

While the location tags are useful there are some much more interesting use cases for UWB. One of those is opening doors. If you were to install a lock with UWB capabilities on your front door you could unlock it by just having a phone in your pocket. When you move toward it with the phone in your pocket, it can determine what side of the door you are on and how close you are. This means it can determine when the lock should be engaged and when it should not be.

This doesn’t only apply to regular doors, many new cars are actually equipped with UWB. Once set up, you can not only open the car door, you can actually start the car without bringing along the car key. Add UWB to your garage and it opens itself when you drive up to it. There is a big potential for some quality of life improvements.

How to activate UWB on Android

If you use a flagship phone from one of the bigger manufacturers, like Samsung or Pixel, odds are that the device is equipped with UWB. In order to start using it, all you have to do is activate it. The process is easy and can be done by following these steps.

  1. Open the settings app
  2. Tap connected devices
  3. Select connection preferences
  4. Scroll down and you should see a UWB option, press the slider to turn it on.

There you go, you are now ready to start exploring an even more hands-free world.