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The End of Car Keys, Passwords, Fumbling with Phones at Checkout

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Demonstration of one potential application of UWB.

A technology decades in the making is finally becoming affordable and widespread enough to grant devices not just a basic sense of direction, but also the ability to precisely locate themselves in three dimensions.

Credit: Nathan Hackett

Ultra-wideband (UWB) technology being developed by the nonprofit FiRa Consortium could revolutionize interaction with devices, if privacy and other issues can be addressed.

UWB adds a centimeter-level sense of location to three-dimensional space by triangulating objects' positions through radio waves' travel times between devices and beacons.

Companies like Apple, luxury automaker BMW, and others have used UWB to allow users to unlock and start cars via handheld devices.

University of California, San Diego researchers demonstrated that a new type of beacon could speed UWB about 10-fold and reduce power consumption commensurately.

FiRa's Ardavan Tehrani said overcoming privacy concerns about objects and devices constantly broadcasting locations would remove a key hurdle to augmenting awareness through smart glasses and other interfaces.

From The Wall Street Journal
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