UWB Market Outlook

Article By : Giorgio Zanella

Market analyst Giorgio Zanella of Techno Systems Research Co. Ltd provides an update on UWB application, device, and chipset development trends, and market challenges.

The UWB (ultra wideband) market is composed of four main application categories: real time location system (RTLS B2B), such as industrial and retail indoor positioning systems applications; mobile (smartphones, wearables, consumer tags); automotive; and smart homes. Other applications include smart doors, gate access, and payments, to name a few.

Based on our latest report, 2021 Ultra Wideband Market Analysis, the global UWB market is forecast to reach more than 200 million unit in 2021, and more than 1.2 billion units shipped by 2027.

In our estimates, the smartphone will be the biggest application segment for UWB in 2027, followed by automotive, smart home devices, wearables, consumer tag, and RTLS B2B.

RTLS B2B

  • Main UWB chip providers: Qorvo, NXP Semiconductors, 3DB Access/Renesas Electronics,
  • Main UWB system providers: Zebra Technologies (own chipset), Ubisense (own chipset), Kinexon, Sewio, Inpixon, Tsingoal, Woxu Wireless, Haoyun Technologies, Wipelot, Donn Tech, and Humatics

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic and Industry 4.0 trend have pushed forward the demand for UWB. For 2021 and beyond, we expect robust growth for the UWB market, supported by new applications such as integration into lighting, enterprise Wi-Fi access points, and indoor navigation in public areas.

Based on these factors, we forecast that the market volume of UWB for RTLS B2B applications in 2027 will be more than seven times than that in 2020.

Mobile

  • Main UWB chip providers: Apple (USI module), NXP Semiconductors, Qorvo
  • Main UWB smartphone OEM: Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo

Between 2019 and 2020, Apple has already introduced UWB in the following devices: iPhone 11 Series, iPhone 12 Series, Apple Watch Series 6, and HomePod mini.

We expect that in 2021, other than “Airtag”, Apple will embed UWB technology in the new Apple TV box device. Apple’s UWB adoption is fast and, based on our market research, we expect that iPhone will be the major UWB smartphone by 2023.

Samsung has already embedded the UWB technology into its Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Galaxy Z Fold 2, S21 Ultra and S21 Plus. Later this year, we expect that Samsung will launch additional smartphones with UWB embedded. By the end of 2021 and early 2022, even Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, and other OEMs are expected to release their first UWB flagship smartphone model.

2021 will be the year of the consumer tag. Samsung has already revealed that the Galaxy smart tag+, which will be released later this year, will have UWB+BLE technology. Even Tile has revealed that is developing a UWB+BLE smart tag.

UWB consumer tag will cover different use cases, such as: precise positioning using AR, or triggering the opening of a certain app in a certain areas and others. Based on our research, even Xiaomi is working on a smart tag product.

Overall, we forecast that UWB smartphones will account for over 50% of the total smartphone market by 2027.

Automotive

  • Main UWB chip provider: NXP Semiconductors, 3DB Access/Microchip, 3DB Access/Renesas Electronics
  • Main UWB module provider: LG Innotek, Sunway Communication
  • Main UWB Car OEM: Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Tesla, General Motors

Since 2020, the 3DB Access/Microchip UWB LRP (Low rate pulse) standard is already embedded in the smart key fobs of several models of Volkswagen. This year, even Mercedes-Benz has started adopting the same technology.

3DB Access is teaming up with Renesas Electronics in order to provide a new dual mode chip registered under the 802.15.4z standard.

For automotive CCC digital key standard, NXP is expected to be the main UWB chip provider. Qorvo and STMicroelectronics are expected to follow.

We foresee a gradual increase in UWB adoption rate per vehicle—from around 15% of the total car market by 2025 to 23.3% by 2027.

Smart Home

  • Main UWB chip providers: Apple (USI module), NXP Semiconductors, Qorvo
  • Main Module providers: Amotech, Qorvo
  • Main UWB consumer electronics OEMs: Apple

In October 2020, Xiaomi has showcased several different potential smart home appliances that could adopt UWB. Even Oppo has introduced a potential use case during the “Inno days 2020”.

So far, Apple is the only brand that has already released a smart speaker with UWB. In February, Qorvo saw increasing demand for UWB for smart speakers, smart TVs and other smart home appliances.

UWB technology adoption into smart home appliances will be driven by relevant applications using precise positioning, and relevant use cases interacting with smartphone. In line with this, we expect slower penetration for UWB will in smart home device segment by 2023, and a rebound from 2024 to reach about 17% of smart home devices market share by 2027.

Other Applications (Smart Doors, Gate Access, Payment)

UWB smart doors products are not released yet, however, key players such as HID Global, Assa Abloy, Dormakaba, and Allegion are working on UWB smart door products. We expect to see first products in the smart door/security segment starting 2022.

UWB for gate access and payment applications, likewise, are not released yet. Nevertheless, NTT Docomo, Sony and NXP demonstrated NFC touchless payment using UWB last year. We expect between 2023 and 2024 could be the starting point for gate access application, and later in 2025, for payment applications.

UWB Application Chart

For more information on the report, 2021 Ultra Wideband Market Analysis, please click here.

Giorgio Zanella is a market research analyst at TSR (Techno Systems Research Co. Ltd), wherein his focus is on ultra wideband (UWB) and GNSS industries. TSR is a market research firm based in Japan, and specializes in the electronics industry.

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