BMW Announces its Next-Gen Digital Key Technology

BMW Announces its Next-Gen Digital Key Technology

Author: FutureCar Staff    

Many vehicles today come with a companion smartphone app that allows drivers to remotely unlock the doors, turn on the climate control, or check to see how much gas is in the tank. While these "digital keys" are convenient for vehicle owners, some of them have limitations. For example, what if your cell phone battery is dead and you cannot access the app to unlock a vehicle's door?

BMW announced today an update to its digital key technology that the automaker plans to introduce by the end of the year.

In the near future, BMW's Digital Key will be enhanced by the ultra-wideband (UWB)-based release 3.0. This will offer maximum anti-theft protection and enable precise localization between the device and the vehicle. It will feature a physical chip that means your car can unlock even if your phone is switched off. 

UWB technology also stops car thieves from using relay attacks, which pick up the frequency from keyless entry systems and use it to gain entry to a vehicle without having the key.

By using ultra-wideband technology, a driver won't have to hold up their mobile phone directly in front of the door handle to unlock the car, instead they can just leave it in their pocket. 

The Digital Key has the potential to enable a range of use cases that are not possible with a classic vehicle key, due to the technological advantages of smart devices. 

One day a smartphone may be able to replace a vehicle's key fob altogether, as long as the vehicle is capable of communicating with a smartphone.

Full functionality must be available on various customer devices from different vendors and regardless of the vehicle manufacturer said Dr. Olaf Müller, head of Development Digital Access Systems at the BMW Group.

"Our customers want cross-vendor interoperability. Standardization is the only way to achieve this; proprietary solutions are no longer beneficial." 

Establishing a standardized platform allows a wearer of a certain brand of smartwatch to securely access their vehicle in the same way the key fob works.

In 2017, BMW joined the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC), where it is a leader in establishing cross-industry, standardized technologies and security standards. As a result of this commitment, the latest generation of a standardized ecosystem for vehicle access will enable new functions across multiple devices. Different manufacturers have already announced new global standards for greater interoperability

BMW said that most well-known smartphone producers and automotive manufacturers have already joined the consortium. Standard specifications across industries plan to allow different brands of smart devices, including phones, smartwatches and other wearables communicate with each other and to nearby devices.

The second generation (release 2.0) of BMW's NFC-based digital key was announced for late 2019. Among the new features is the use of a security chip that works separately from the smartphone operating system. This means it also works if the smartphone cannot be started anymore, because the battery is too low. 

BMW said it recognized early on that UWB technology would be beneficial over the long term. The technology will pave the way for BMW to introduce new and innovative Digital Key features for future models.

FutureCar Staff
FutureCar Staff
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