SAN JOSE, Calif. — Uncle Sam wants to restrict a few good technologies — and it needs engineers to help identify them.

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Uncle Sam wants to restrict a few good technologies — and it needs engineers to help identify them.

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — Uncle Sam wants to restrict a few good technologies — and it needs engineers to help identify them.

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SAN JOSE, Calif — An update of the Bluetooth specification released today enables location services accurate to within 10 centimeters thanks to a new direction-finding capability. It arrives as a separate draft standard is nearly ready for an even faster and more accurate capability using ultra-wideband (UWB) radio, geared for use in smartphones.

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Bluetooth 5.1 describes ways to determine location using multiple antennas at either the transmitter or receiver. It uses measures of signal phase and amplitude to measure location, though profiles for application developers are still being finished.

In mid-March, the IEEE 802.15.4z standard for UWB should be in a stable draft form, opening the door for silicon designs. It enables location measures within a single centimeter and resolves in a nanosecond, a rate faster than Bluetooth.

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Smartphone giants Apple and Samsung have been active in the .4z meetings also attended by Huawei, leading some to suggest that the capability could be integrated in handsets within two years. NXP has also been active since the group started a year ago, giving rise to speculation that UWB could come into phones though an integrated NFC chip.

Consumer electronics applications are always hard to guess before they are available,” but handsets are already home to many different radios with different uses, said Benjamin Rolfe, vice chair of the .4z group and a tech consultant with Blind Creek Associates.

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Rolfe is also chief technologist of the UWB Alliance, launched last year with help from Decawave, which already supplies UWB chips for location services in embedded systems. 3DB Access, a UWB chip provider in Zurich, has also been active in the .4z group.

In 20 years in this industry, I had never seen a letter like this … Our interpretation was ‘no license, no chips,’” said Apple supply-chain manager Tony Blevins in testimony in the San Jose case.

Qualcomm also asked for a cross-license to Apple’s IP. We were taken aback,” Blevins said. We knew we would not cross-license our IP back to them; we were [just] going to buy a chip.”

In the San Jose case, Apple revealed that Qualcomm charges 5% of a handset’s price, or $12 to $20 per smartphone, as a royalty for its cellular patents. Just before the first iPhone was launched, Apple struck a deal with Qualcomm in 2007 to set its royalties on iPhones at $7.50 per handset.

The 7.50 [royalty] may not sound like a lot, but it [amounted to] billions of dollars a year,” said Jeff Williams, who led the first iPhone team and is now Apple’s COO. It is not FRAND, in our view, compared to everyone else … Qualcomm charged more than everyone else together.” (FRAND stands for fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory.)

Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf countered in his testimony in San Jose that his company paid Apple an eye-popping $1 billion to win Apple’s cellular modem business. The fee was an unusually high compensation for the non-recurring engineering costs of switching from an Infineon modem to a Qualcomm one.

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