Friday, September 13, 2019 [Tweets] [Favorites]

The Apple U1 Chip in iPhone 11

Nick Statt:

One of the understated components of Apple’s iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro is the new U1 chip. It didn’t get a prominent callout onstage at today’s announcement event, but it will underpin what Apple says are “amazing new capabilities” coming to iOS devices in the future, including a more accurate, directional version of AirDrop coming with iOS 13.

Brian Roemmele (Hacker News):

The “U” in the U1 chip relates to the Ultra-Wide Band Radio Technology (UWB) technology it uses. UWB can be used for many application and use cases. One use case that will become very large for Apple as they move to AR/MR technology and Apple Glasses is to be able to track spatial relationships of objects. One way to do this is using lasers and IR systems, and Apple is already doing this to some degree with FaceID and Animoji. The other way to do this is via the radio spectrum.

The Apple U1 Chip most assuredly uses a variant of the IEEE 802.15 WPAN from the IEEE 802.15.4z Enhanced Impulse Radio group of which Apple is an active member. IEEE 802.15.4z to put in simple terms wants to absorb, in some ways, and extend Bluetooth, NFC, WiFi and other network standards and protocols.

The early concept of this technology was used in an all but abandoned Apple initiative called iBeacons [2]. This technology was centered around Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). The idea was sound, however the technology was low resolution, so low that it would be hard to be with-in a few feet without triangularization of 3 or more iBeacons and even then it can drift significantly with heat and obstacle issues.

[…]

I feel rather strongly the Apple U1 Chip, over time will be seen as one of the most important aspect of the September 10th, 2019 Apple Event. We will see it as the start of the HyperLocal world of computing that ultimately will lead to less of a need for the cloud.

Previously:

Update (2019-09-17): Jason Snell:

The Apple marketing copy has it right—UWB’s technological trick is allowing devices to pinpoint one another’s locations in the real world with great precision. From raw data alone, UWB devices can detect locations within 10 centimeters (4 inches), but depending on implementation that accuracy can be lowered to as much as 5 millimeters, according to Mickael Viot, VP of marketing at UWB chipmaker Decawave.

[…]

The speed of light and a roundtrip signal allows for a precise measuring of distance, but UWB can also determine the angle of arrival of the radio signals by measuring the phase shift that comes when receiving the signal from multiple antennas. Put the distance and angle together and you’ve got incredible precision—enough for, the rumors suggest, Apple to use an augmented-reality display to mark the precise location of another device.

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