Controls, Products + Technology

What Is Ultra Wideband And What Could It Mean For Lighting?

Ultra Wideband (UWB) is a wireless communication protocol that operates over short distances, much like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. What makes it different is that the technology operates in the higher frequency bands of radio waves and across a wide bandwidth, hence the name. It has some useful and unique abilities, such as being able to monitor the position of and exchange information with other UWB devices in the area, which is why you’re likely to see UWB in more and more devices.

Image: Samsung

Due to how UWB works, it’s often referred to as a kind of RADAR or SONAR for digital devices in the home. This is because it sends out information across the previously-mentioned wide bandwidth and can then recognise other UWB devices in the vicinity.

This is achieved through something called ‘ranging’ which measures the time taken for a signal to return from the device it senses. You’ll also see this referred to as the Time of Flight (ToF), as it not only monitors the position of another device but also whether it is moving or not.

All of this means that UWB can provide very accurate details about the devices nearby even if they are not stationary. The ability to exchange data between these devices, all of which have a physical awareness of each other, opens up some interesting possibilities in how they can be used.

UWB can locate other UWB signals with a high-degree of accuracy (more so than GPS or Bluetooth), which is why UWB is utilized in smart tracking tags. Another application for UWB technology is in the smart home. The new Fluid One system uses UWB beacons in the home to track the position of your iPhone. Then, when you point it at different smart devices, it automatically switches to the relevant remote control so you can control the devices.

If you pointed your phone at a smart lamp you’d the see brightness levels, color-tuning, color-changing, and on/off controls. As you walk through your home, the system could also turn on lights as you enter a room and turn off those in the room you’ve just left.

As mentioned above, you’ll find UWB in the latest Samsung and Apple phone ranges. But, it also goes back as far as the iPhone 11 and Samsung S21+, not to mention the Google Pixel 7 ProGoogle Pixel 6 ProApple Watch 6 and later and Apple HomePod Mini.

You can learn more about UWB technology here.

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