Not to be reduced to just the mmWave tech that companies like Verizon use as part of their 5G strategy, Ultra Wideband for localized devices is a technology that is just starting to really get its legs. From unlocking car doors to secure wireless payments, indoor location tracking to smart home accessory applications, UWB is the sort of thing that could eventually replace many technologies we use today like Bluetooth, NFC and RFID.
The data transfer speeds via these millimeter waves is very high, starting around 4Mbps and reaching a peek of 1Gbps. Add in the fact that UWB can also detect precise position and you can see that the potential for applications across a wide range of devices is 100% possible. I only have a surface-level understanding of UWB at this point, so I’ll let someone a bit more qualified speak to the wild potential that UWB presents in the tech world.
UWB is a short-range, wireless communication protocol that – like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi – uses radio waves. But it differs substantially in that it operates at a very high frequency. As its name denotes, it also uses a wide spectrum of several GHz. One way to think of it is as a radar that can continuously scan an entire room and precisely lock onto an object like a laser beam to discover its location and communicate data.
Today, its primary purpose is expected to be location discovery and device ranging, according to Phil Solis, an IDC research director. While both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth have been modified to allow greater accuracy in locating other devices and connecting to them, UWB is natively more precise, uses less power and, as production of UWB chips ramps up over time, holds the promise of a lower price point.via Computer World
UWB is coming to Chromebooks in the future
Little more than a test at the moment, Google looks to be prepping UWB tech for Chromebooks. Where we are right now, it could be a while before the first device appears with UWB in tow, but it’s super-exciting to see it at least starting. And while I’m sure the applications could be far more widespread than I can imagine at the moment, I can already see the possibilities for connections with peripherals like phones, watches or even something like earbuds down the line.
With this sort of tech, even things as complex as wireless extended displays could 100% be within the realm of reality. And I don’t know about you, but the less things I have to plug in to simply sit down and do my job, the better. For now, however, it seems Google is testing out a few specific use cases: Chromebook-to-Chromebook, Chromebook-to-Phone, and versions of those pairings with multiple peers instead of simple 1-to-1 connections.
It feels a bit like the sky is the limit for UWB and all the ways it could change the way we interact with our gadgets. Imagine the extended display functionality I detailed above, only replace the screen sharing with audio or file transfers. With UWB, a shared drive could be in the room with multiple users and be accessible to everyone at high speeds with no need for any cables. Or imagine the new Android App Streaming feature that just launched on Chromebooks, but with 1Gbps speeds. You could mirror any app you want with crystal-clear animations and zero lag.
But for every scenario I could dream up, I’m sure there are 10 others that we’ll eventually see with UWB. I have to admit, I’ve slept on this tech a bit, but digging into it and seeing the true potential down the road has me wildly excited to see where this all goes. And as it evolves, I’m even more excited to see ChromeOS getting in on what could be a massive shift in the tech landscape over the next few years.