Apple developers got a taste of iOS 16’s new Near Interactions feature at WWDC last month that lets third-party smart devices talk to Apple’s U1 Ultra Wide Widescreen (UWB) chips in the background for “new hands-free user experiences” — making things Like activating a light bulb when walking next to it is possible. Developers can take advantage of precise, real-time location triggers with the new framework, and chip makers can get MFi certification for interoperability with the U1, which chip maker Qorvo did this week (via MacRumors).
“Our broad portfolio of UWB chips, modules and software will help accelerate the ecosystem of connected UWB products and accessories,” Eric Creveston, Qorvo Mobile Head of Products, said in a press release. The company has been MFi certified for the Impulse Radio UWB’s built-in DW3110 wireless transceiver, so now other companies can purchase this chip to integrate into their own accessories and use Apple’s Near Interactions.
The U1 chip in some Apple devices can act as a very local GPS locator and currently works with things like finding your keys in the couch with AirTags, unlocking cars, sharing files via AirDrop by pointing your iPhone to your friends, and now handing over a playing song on the HomePod while the Jedi hovers your iPhone over it. The U1 chip is currently integrated into iPhone 11 and later (although the iPhone SE series is not included), Apple Watch Series 6 and later, AirTags, and HomePod mini—and it’s notably missing from the Apple TV and iPad Pro remote control.
Apple isn’t the only company doing things with UWB: Tile smart tracking software works on UWB trackers to battle Apple’s AirTags, as well as Samsung’s with Galaxy SmartTags. Tesla is also reportedly looking to integrate UWB into its electric cars, though it’s doubtful that the automaker (or any of Apple’s competitors, for that matter) will be pursuing close interactions that could automatically summon your car as you exit your private jet (and possibly That would be a good thing.)
Apple started letting other accessory makers integrate their products into my device locator last year, and now with close interactions, the ecosystem of smart devices that can do things like open the door without pulling out your iPhone will definitely grow. And while you can only get smart home products with different sensors to trigger lights in spaces, future devices that use close interactions may simplify connected setup and possibly reduce unintended triggers because they will only work if your U1-enabled device is available to you.