Xiaomi Joins FiRa Consortium. UWB Is Becoming A Standard For Mobile Phones And Smart Homes

In 2019, Samsung, NXP, Bosch and some other companies jointly established the FiRa consortium to promote the development of the UWB industry. In September 2019, Apple released its new iphone11, which implanted a UWB chip U1. Samsung and other Android platforms are also developing mobile phones and accessories using UWB technology. We can see a growing UWB market as more consumer applications are coming into reality.

Two Chinese Companies Joins FiRa

Recently, FiRa consortium announced its acceptance of China's Xiaomi as a Contributor Member. Meanwhile, another Chinese company Tsingoal from Beijing also joined the alliance. The UWB supply chain gradually becomes more complete as it includes companies from upstream chip providers to downstream application designers.

Among the contributor members of the FiRa, there are two chip manufacturers to provide UWB radio frequency chips, several solution providers to provide ranging/positioning products and solutions, and downstream application platforms.

Unique Technical Advantages Make UWB Increasingly Popular

UWB technology did not receive much attention when it appeared for the first time almost two decades ago. However, in the past years, giant tech companies such as Apple and NXP began to apply UWB technique to the positioning industry, and brought back people's interests of this technology.

Compared to other wireless positioning technologies, UWB has the following unique characteristics. Firstly, the positioning accuracy of UWB technology can theoretically reach within 10cm, while the accuracy of Bluetooth and WiFi based on RSSI mode is 3-8 meters. Secondly, UWB technology supports multiple modes for positioning, including TOF (time of arrival), TDOA (time difference of arrival), AOA (angle of arrival or DOA estimation) and so forth. Each mode has its own merits and can be leveraged and customized for various applications. For example, the AoA mode is relatively easy to implement and the cost is relatively low; the TDOA mode can achieve low power consumption and enables large capacity for the base stations. Last but not least, UWB technology is based on wide bandwidth signaling (typically ~500MHz bandwidth) and its carrier frequency is relatively high (typically 3~10 GHz). Therefore, it's immune to many interferences and the operation can be very stable.

UWB Has Huge Potential For Consumer Applications

The high accuracy of UWB technology in ranging and measuring relative position of the target implies a wide range of applications.

No. 1: Seamless Access Control. UWB can identify individuals (tags) moving toward or away from a secure entrance, and at the same time verify their security credentials and allow authorized individuals (tags) to pass through the entrance without swiping cards. This enables smart access control and keyless entry systems. 

No. 2: Location-Based Services. Even in a crowded multi-path signal environment, high-precision positioning makes UWB technology easy for users to navigate in places such as airports and shopping malls, or to find cars in multi-story parking garages.

No. 3: Device-to-Device (or Point-to-Point) service. By providing accurate relative distances and directions between two devices, UWB allows devices to find each other, even if there is no infrastructure such as anchor points or access points. This allows people with mobile phones to pinpoint each other's location in a crowded space. 
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