Xiaomi UWB “indoor GPS” lets phones control smart appliances directly

JC Torres - Oct 12, 2020, 12:34am CDT
Xiaomi UWB “indoor GPS” lets phones control smart appliances directly

A lot of connected home appliances these days can be controlled from a smartphone but almost all of those go about it in an indirect fashion. Smartphones communicated with those devices via a local Wi-Fi network or sometimes even via an Internet service, producing some latency and making these devices dependent on a network connection. Xiaomi, however, has demonstrated an alternate solution, where phones can act more like traditional remote controls that use Ultra-Wideband technology instead of infrared light.

Ultra-wideband or UWB, not to be confused with Verizon’s 5G Ultra-wideband (UW) network, uses low-energy, short-range, high-bandwidth radio waves to transmit data. It utilizes a large bandwidth starting from 500 MHz, as in the case of the Xiaomi UWB, and higher and is often used by wireless monitors, routers, and even portable pocket printers because they don’t interfere with narrowband and carrier wave communication.

Xiaomi UWB, however, puts the technology to a slightly different use. It employs Ultra-wideband to give devices some spatial awareness, almost like an indoor GPS, to determine not only its position but even its orientation relative to other devices. In other words, it can be used to tell what you’re pointing your phone at.

The wide bandwidth and pulse radio characteristics make UWB a good channel for communicating between devices. In its demo, Xiaomi showed how a Xiaomi Mi 10 could easily connect to and control a smart device simply by pointing to its direction. No Bluetooth or roundabout Internet communication required.

Of course, this seemingly magical communication doesn’t happen by magic and Xiaomi UWB requires specific antenna and equipment to work. Needless to say, you might not come across this technology in the wider consumer markets any time soon but you can expect Xiaomi’s future smartphones and its wide range of smart home appliances to support this UWB tech eventually.

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