Imagine using your iPhone or Apple Watch to start your car, eliminating the need to carry a keyfob. Apple rolled out iOS 13.4 with a set of new features. However, the feature that makes the right kind of noise is the one that will turn your iPhone into a car key.
The car key has long been a weak link in vehicle security. And I believe, it will progressively be replaced by this technology. The Near Field Communication (NFC) based solutions will not just add a more flexible and cost-effective access mechanism. They will also provide new possibilities. Such as enabling rental car companies to send to renters’ mobile phones the ability to unlock and start their rental car.
How NFC Can Be Used
NFC can connect vehicles and car keys to portable devices and infrastructure. This is opening up the possibility for a broad range of innovations. People will be able to use NFC-enabled mobile phones or wearables as a car key to unlock doors, start an engine. It will also help to create personalized settings such as climate control settings, and seat and mirror adjustments. Also, you might pair and connect the hands-free interface or entertainment systems with Bluetooth. Or set up Wi-Fi or WLAN connections. Car dealerships might acquire vehicle information for diagnostics over Wi-Fi, or alert the owner of pending service requirements. Last but not least, you will be able to make in-car payment for videos, tolls, drive-through, and more.
BMW May Be First
The Apple CarKey will be a digital car key stored in the Wallet app allowing car owners to lock, unlock, and start their car with their iPhone or Apple Watch. It may even be shared with other people through the Messages app. Vehicle owners will be able to grant permanent access to their cars. Such as to parents or a spouse, or temporary access for a friend who wants to borrow it for a weekend.
The vehicle would need to be equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC). The same protocol Hyundai uses for its Digital Key and Tesla uses for its Model 3 keycards. Apple seems to be working with BMW to likely be the first carmaker to support this futuristic iPhone feature. That sounds reasonable given BMW was the first to introduce wireless Apple CarPlay. In November, BMW published an informative press release on its efforts and its leading role in the integration of smart devices and the customers’ digital ecosystem.
When Will You Get CarKey?
It is unclear when it might find its way to iPhones and Apple Watches. But the very fact that it appears to be part of the new iOS 13.4 update suggests that it is coming somewhat soon. For now, you can only wait for Apple to roll out the CarKey feature.
If Apple does release this feature in iOS 14, it will help unify digital keys that are currently locked down to automotive manufacturer’s apps. I’m sure it would take time, but if an increasing number of manufacturers adopted CarKey support, it would quickly become an expected feature.
There are a few applications like the MyChevrolet or Tesla apps that already offer these features, but baking them into Apple’s system software might make them even easier to use. It would be interesting to see which car-manufacturers will sign up for it and which cars it will work for. Carmakers have been somewhat slow to adopt CarPlay and Android Auto. Whether this would have a faster adoption remains to be seen.
What Is Near Field Communication?
Near Field Communication (NFC) is a technology that enables devices to communicate with each other using electromagnetic induction. Electromagnetic induction occurs between two NFC devices when they come within close proximity (usually 10 centimeters or less) to each other and creates an air-field transformer that allows the devices to communicate with one another.
The NFC devices can be active, or passive. A passive, or non-powered, device would be a tag, key fob, bank card or sticker. When it is brought within the near field of an active device, the passive device wakes and communicates with the active device. An active, or powered, device would be a lock or NFC enabled mobile phone.
In the case of a key fob and a lock, the key fob grants access to the room just by being presented to the lock within its near field. This also works with two active devices such as an NFC enabled phone and an NFC lock. Also, two NFC enabled phones are able to connect with each other and share files or even pay someone just by touching phones.
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