Apple developers got a sneak peek at iOS 16’s new Nearby Interactions feature at last month’s WWDC, which allows third-party smart devices to communicate behind the scenes with Apple’s ultra-wideband (UWB) U1 chips to create “new hands-free user experiences.” ‘ – and things like activating a lightbulb just by walking past. Developers can use the new framework to take advantage of precise real-time location triggers, and chipset makers can seek MFi certification for interoperability with U1, which chipmaker Qorvo did this week (via MacRumors).
“Our extensive portfolio of UWB chips, modules and software will help accelerate the ecosystem of connected UWB products and accessories,” said Eric Creviston, President of Qorvo Mobile Products, in a press release. The company received MFi certification for its DW3110 Impulse Radio integrated UWB wireless transceiver, so other companies can now buy this chip to integrate into their own accessories and take advantage of Apple’s Nearby Interactions.
The U1 chip in certain Apple devices can act as a highly localized GPS locator, and currently works with things like finding your keys on the sofa with AirTags, unlocking cars, sharing files via AirDrop by moving your iPhone to Judge your friends and hand them a Now play a song on your HomePod while waving your iPhone over it. The U1 chip is currently built into iPhone 11 and newer (though not including the iPhone SE series), Apple Watch Series 6 and newer, AirTags, and the HomePod mini — and is notably absent from the Apple TV remote and iPad Pros.
Apple isn’t the only company doing things with UWB: Smart tracker pioneer Tile is working on UWB trackers to combat Apple’s AirTags, as well as Samsung with its Galaxy SmartTags. Tesla also reportedly intends to integrate UWB into its electric cars, although it’s doubtful the automaker (or any of Apple’s competitors) would track Nearby Interactions, which could potentially allow your car to automatically Smart Summon when you step off your private jet ( and maybe that’s a good thing).
Apple last year began allowing other accessory manufacturers to integrate their products with the Find My Device Locator, and now with Nearby Interactions, the ecosystem of smart devices that can do things like unlock a door without you pulling out your iPhone is expanding must, certainly grow. And while you could just get smart home products with different sensors to trigger lights in rooms, future devices that use Nearby Interactions could simplify your connected setup and potentially reduce unintentional triggers because they only work when your U1-enabled device is with you.