• Vin Andrew

Your Smartphone, The Key of Future For Your Car

Opening the car and starting it just by bringing your smartphone closer is now a reality. The Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) has just published the specifications of what will be the first version of the digital key of the future. A technology that is called Digital Key and that is already in its 1.0 phase, that is, stable enough to be implemented in any vehicle.

So why carry more things in your pocket when you can have everything on your phone? In an increasingly connected environment, you can now control the lights or the air conditioning of your house from the device before even reaching it. You can also make payments without carrying your wallet. Why not also manage access to your vehicle? That is the CCC's goal for the next few years.

The key to the future will be your smartphone

Connected vehicles are already among us. Although, at the moment, most of the brands develop their models with technology designed solely to improve the multimedia and navigation aspects. But that trend is changing to expand the functions that you will be able to control through a mobile phone.

In addition, some brands already distribute their own smartphone applications from which to carry out daily tasks related to the car, from checking maintenance to knowing the state of charge of the batteries, especially in the growing market for electric cars.

And the next natural step is to use the phone as a key to open the car door or even start it. A task that aims to standardize the CCC with the development of a common protocol for all manufacturers. The objective, first of all, is to make things easier for the consumer by avoiding the technological fragmentation that many simultaneous projects entail, which is where the market is.

Currently, each manufacturer works on its own connectivity systems. And this translates into latent differences that force the driver to assume the changes and the consequences associated learning curve. With this technological centralization, the construction of a more robust and secure protocol at the service of all will also be favored. While car firms will continue to decide on their own what options they enable for the driver.

This first version of the CCC digital key will manage the authorization to open and close the vehicle based on proximity, start the engine, recognize you as a user or even share the key with another person, to whom you wish to lend or rent the car. You can even set time limits to use shared keys. And it will also facilitate the transfer of ownership when you decide to put the vehicle up for sale.

Tesla and Mercedes, the forerunners.

You wonder when this technology will start to be used. it's a matter of time. However, there are already vehicles on the market with self-developed systems to allow opening or start-up via mobile. It is the example of Tesla and some models of the Mercedes house. Even Volvo has implemented a similar protocol in its new XC40, whereby you can lend or rent your car to third parties via a mobile app.

Among the examples that you can already find on the market, the use of the mobile NFC to open the vehicle when approaching the terminal prevails. This is how the technology developed by Mercedes works, for example. However, in the case of Tesla, the vehicle recognizes your smartphone through the network of your telephone operator. It is precisely this fragmentation that is to be avoided with the standardization of a safe, reliable and, above all, common protocol.

NFC or Bluetooth to transmit orders to the car

According to the new specifications of the Consortium, the mobile will communicate with the vehicle through the NFC or Bluetooth protocols, both based on proximity factors. Therefore, it is enough to bring the device close to the car sensor to open it or start it. Something very similar to the electronic keys that you have been using for a few years in some more technologically advanced models. With the difference that it will be included in your mobile phone. And if it is lost or stolen, you can easily revoke access and divert it to a new terminal. You also won't have to worry about where you kept your keys the night before, as you won't need them anymore.

But what is it and how does the NFC work?

NFC stands for Near Field Communication (something like Near Field Communication ). And it is a protocol that you will surely have already used at some time due to its high degree of implantation in recent years.

An example of this is bank cards with Contactless technology. These include a chip to authorize short distance payments. That is why it is no longer necessary to insert the card into the dataphone when you go to the store. All you have to do is bring it close to the receiving device to send the amount of your purchase.

But it is not only on your credit or debit cards. It is also found in many of the so-called wearables, such as smart wristbands and watches, or in mid- or high-end mobile phones. This way, you don't even have to leave home with your wallet in your pocket to go shopping.

Even many modern electronic devices, such as cameras or wireless speakers, incorporate this technology to make it easy for you to connect with your smartphone, whether it is to download your latest photos wirelessly or to listen to a playlist remotely. Even the new DNI model has a chip to facilitate electronic reading.

That said, NFC is still what its name suggests, a communication protocol between devices that is characterized by proximity, since the range of the signal barely exceeds one centimeter away. What does this mean? Well, to establish the connection there must be an intention on the part of the user, since the range is much smaller than, for example, a Bluetooth signal with a radius of several meters.

However, both technologies can be combined to first establish a communication with the vehicle and authenticate as a user and, later, control the parameters of the car at a greater distance. Ultimately, it will be the manufacturers who determine how this exchange will take place.

The importance of a standard for safety

In any case, the Consortium's commitment is to improve security through a common front. Well, a development widely supported by car and mobile manufacturers will help to intervene more quickly against any possible external attack.

At a time in history in which crime is finding new ways of expressing itself through the Internet, the technological fragmentation that currently exists would only aggravate the potential risks. Instead, the development of a robust common protocol could address many of these ills through rapid programming updates.

In fact, just released version 1.0 of the electronic key, the CCC already announces its second generation, in which it is working. From this entity, they consider that the Digital Key 2.0 will be ready for presentation during the first quarter of 2019.

Majority support of the sector

The Car Connectivity Consortium (translated as the Consortium for Car Connectivity) is an organization composed of mobile phone and vehicle manufacturers that is already behind other technologies such as MirrorLink, which you can find in models of several very popular brands, such as Citroën, Seat or Peugeot. It is the first approach to connectivity between smartphones and vehicles through a protocol that facilitates the presentation of content from the former on the screens of the latter.

As has already been said, it is a first communicative phase focused mainly on the multimedia aspects of driving. While the new electronic key goes deeper into security.

For this, the CCC has the support of the main motor companies. Audi, BMW, Volkswagen, General Motors and Hyundai, among others, have already shown their commitment to the Consortium and have joined the development of version 2.0 of this Digital Key. And the same happens with technological brands such as LG, Panasonic, or Samsung, which do the same from the field of software development and the manufacture of smartphones that will be compatible with this protocol.

In general terms, the organization in charge of programming this digital key has the support of more than 70 firms that represent 70% of the world automobile market and 60% of the technology companies oriented to the commercialization of smart mobile phones.

In conclusion, if you are thinking of acquiring a new car, you will soon find yourself on the market with the first cars to apply this technology to their electronic systems. Well, the digital key of the future is closer than you think.

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