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NFC SE and UWB: 2 Key Technology Enablers in the smartphone connectivity space

by David Kerr | Jul 22, 2020

Strategy Analytics device technologies team flags NFC SE and UWB as two key technology movers in the smartphone connectivity space.

NFC has of course been embedded in smartphones for many years. The first NFC smartphone was the Google Nexus S in 2010.  NFC is included in over 1B smartphones shipped in 2019. Key NFC vendors include Infineon Technologies, Broadcom and Samsung Electronics.

NFC Secure Element (eSE) can be described as a chip that offers a dynamic environment to store data securely, process data securely and perform communication with external entities securely. It is an essential part of various transaction systems like mobile payments and subway fare processing; thus all vendors have begun implementing secure elements in their phones. Strategy Analytics estimates that the eSE was attached to one in three smartphones in 2018. In 2019, Qualcomm announced that they have successfully implemented eSE to their Snapdragon 855 processor which will allow even broader penetration.  Strategy Analytics projects that over half of all smartphones shipped in 2025 will have NFC Secure Element in place. Major players in the eSE market are e.g. NXP, G&D, Gemalto, Infineon and HiSilicon (for Huawei only).

uwb

Ultra-wideband (also known as UWB) is a radio technology that can use a very low energy level for short-range, high-bandwidth communications over a large portion of the radio spectrum. UWB has traditional applications in non-cooperative radar imaging. Its most recent applications include target sensor data collection, precision locating and tracking applications. Ultra-wideband is a technology for transmitting information spread over a large bandwidth (>500 MHz) with short pulses of about 2 ns each helps it to achieve centimeter accuracy. The UWB positioning process happens in an instant, so the mobile device’s movements can be tracked very accurately in real time.  Apple launched the first three phones with ultra-wideband capabilities in September 2019, namely, the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max.

The FiRa Consortium, founded in August, 2019, has the goal of developing interoperable UWB ecosystems including mobile phones. Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo are currently members of the FiRa Consortium.  NXP  introduced its SR100T in late 2019, which it bills as  “the World’s first all-in-one solution to combine Secure Element (SE), Near Field Communications (NFC) and Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) fine-ranging technology”.  With the SR100T, mobile devices is be able to communicate with connected doors, points of entry, and cars to open them once approaching for example. The fine range ultra-precision of UWB can have many applications in the smartphone world.

Android vendors are jumping on the UWB bandwagon for select higher end models from this year. Samsung is a founding member alongside Bosch and NXP of the FiRa consortium. https://www.firaconsortium.org/.

UWB Reality

 

The FiRa Consortium vision is stated as being dedicated to the development and widespread adoption of seamless user experiences using the secured fine ranging and positioning capabilities of interoperable Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technologies. In addition to Samsung, Xiaomi and Sony are listed as contributing members while Oppo is listed as a adopter member.  The UWB Alliance and the FiRa™ Consortium have established a joint liaison agreement in June to align their areas of focus and agree upon a way to work together on areas of common interest. This liaison adds momentum to UWB more broadly.

Strategy Analytics sees strong potential for UWB particularly in higher end models over the next few years.

Clients of our Device Technologies (EDT) practice can find the full report and excel forecasts in our recently published Global Smartphone Sales Forecast by Wireless Connectivity Types: 2008-2025 report.

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