Apple developers got a taste of iOS 16’s new Nearby Interactions feature at WWDC last month that lets third-party smart devices talk to Apple’s ultra-wideband (UWB) U1 chips in the background for “new hands-free user experiences” — doing things like activating a light bulb when you just go past the possible. Developers can take advantage of real-time, precise location triggers with the new framework, and chipset makers can seek MFi certification for interoperability with the U1, as chipset maker Qorvo did this week (via MacRumors).
“Our comprehensive portfolio of UWB chips, modules and software will help accelerate the ecosystem of connected UWB products and accessories,” Qorvo Mobile product president Eric Creviston said in a press release. The company was awarded MFi certification for its DW3110 integrated Impulse Radio UWB wireless transceiver, so now other companies can buy this chip to integrate it into their own accessories and use Apple’s Nearby Interactions.
The U1 chip in some Apple devices can act as a highly localized GPS locator and currently works with things like finding your keys on the couch with AirTags, unlocking cars, sharing files via AirDrop by pointing your iPhone at your friends, and delivering a Now Plays song to the HomePod while you jedi-wave your iPhone over it. The U1 chip is currently integrated into iPhone 11 and newer (but not including the iPhone SE series), Apple Watch Series 6 and newer, AirTags, and HomePod mini — and is notably missing 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 is also reportedly looking to integrate UWB into its electric cars, though it’s doubtful the automaker (or any of Apple’s competitors, for that matter) will pursue nearby interactions that might Smart Summon your car automatically when you exit your private jet (and maybe that’s a good thing).
Apple started letting other accessory makers integrate their products into the Find My device locator last year, and now with Nearby Interactions, the ecosystem of smart devices that can do things like unlock a door without pulling out your iPhone is sure to grow. And while you can only get smart home products with different sensors to trigger lights in rooms, future devices using Nearby Interactions could simplify your connected setup and perhaps reduce accidental triggers since it will only work if your U1-enabled device is on you .