A key use case of Ultra-Wideband (UWB) is precise indoor navigation, and at CES 2023, we got a real-world demo of what that looks like with an Android phone (the Pixel 6 Pro) courtesy of Pinpoint GmbH and Qorvo!
The Pixel 6 Pro is Google’s first phone to support UWB. It uses Qorvo’s DW3720 transceiver. Android 12 added platform support for UWB. Android 13 added a Mainline module for UWB, making everything outside the HAL implementation updatable via Google Play.
A Qorvo PM on LinkedIn claims that this demo is the “world’s first UWB/DLTDOA-based indoor navigation demonstration on a commercially available smartphone”.
TDoA stands for Time Difference of Arrival. It is one of several methods through which distance & location are measured. You have your phone (“tag”) which transmits a “blink” signal to multiple “anchors” deployed in fixed & known locations.
Each anchor that receives the signal timestamps its arrival which is then forwarded to a central location engine to determine the tag’s location. The benefit of this method is it uses little power – the “tag” only transmits a signal once in this process. (This white paper by Qorvo does a GREAT job at explaining UWB.)
At CES, Qorvo’s booth had multiple DW3000-based anchors, and a German startup called Pinpoint GmbH provided its location algorithms. On Pinpoint’s website, they mention offering a prototyping kit that comes with a Pixel 6 Pro and their DL-TDoA firmware and library. The AOSP UWB stack did recently add support for DL-TDoA (upstreamed from NXP).
UWB is a really cool technology, but sadly there have been few real-world uses of it (especially on Android). Hopefully, we get to see more things like this soon!