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Apple, BMW and Audi Among Companies Working to Create ‘Digital Key Standard' for Cars

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【Summary】​More than 70 leading automotive and tech companies, including Apple, LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Audi, General Motors, BMW, Hyundai, Qualcomm, and Volkswagen, have joined together under the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) to create the Digital Key standard for the automotive industry.

Eric Walz    Jun 21, 2018 11:26 AM PT
Apple, BMW and Audi Among Companies Working to Create ‘Digital Key Standard' for Cars

More than 70 leading automotive and tech companies, including Apple, LG, Samsung, Panasonic, Audi, General Motors, BMW, Hyundai, Qualcomm, and Volkswagen, have joined together under the ‘Car Connectivity Consortium' (CCC) to create the Digital Key standard for the automotive industry. These companies represent about 70 percent of the world's automotive market, and about 60 percent of the global smartphone market.

The Digital Key specification was developed in order to create a robust ecosystem around interoperable digital key use cases, including allowing drivers to lock, unlock, start the engine, and share access to their car using their NFC (near field communication) enabled smart devices.

This technology would be great for sharing access to a car within a family without the need for a physical key. The technology is especially useful for car rental companies or use in car sharing services.

The system operates in much the same way as digital keys currently available from a handful of vehicle OEMs. Users with authenticated smart devices are able to lock, unlock, start the engine of and share access to a specific car.

Relying on existing Trusted Service Manager (TSM) infrastructure, Release 1.0 allows carmakers to securely transfer digital key information to a smart device, such as a smartphone, perfect for car-sharing or fleet deployments.

The Release 1.0 specification provides a generalized deployment method that allows vehicle OEMs to securely transfer a vehicle's  ‘digital key' to a smart device, such as a cell phone, using an existing Trusted Service Manager (TSM) infrastructure. By leveraging NFC distance bounding and a direct link to the secure element of the device, the CCC is assuring the highest state-of-the-art security level for vehicle access.

digital key.jpg

BMW's Digital Display Key

Unlike some remote control solutions that leverage Wi-Fi or Bluetooth communications, however, Release 1.0 uses short-range technology like NFC.

Car manufacturers will use an existing trusted system to send the digital key to the smartphone, which uses close-range NFC to grant access to your ride. This provides additional security. A car thief would need to be physically present with your smartphone to unlock or access your car.

Targeted for completion in Q1 2019, Release 2.0 will provide a standardized authentication protocol between the vehicle and smart device. By joining forces, Release 2.0 will deliver a fully scalable solution to reduce development costs for adopters and ensure interoperability between different smart devices and vehicles.

"BMW sees high value in a standardized digital key ecosystem driven by the CCC," said Alexander Maier, BMW AG. "Leveraging all benefits of Release 2.0 will enable a scalable solution, interoperable with all smart devices and vehicles delivering a superior user experience to our customers."

BMW is currently offering a Digital Display Key for several models. Besides all the convenience functions of a remote key – unlocking, locking and failsafe identification of the key for starting the vehicle – this key fob also shows vehicle status displays on a tiny 2.2-inch LCD screen. The display provides information such as the vehicle's the fuel or oil level and the climate control settings.

BMW's Digital Display Key works just like a smartphone, with a touchscreen using gestures to access open up submenus, which show if the car is locked or vehicle diagnostic information.

The CCC says it is already working on a Digital Key Release 2.0 that should be completed by the first quarter of 2019. The second-generation technology will provide a standardized authentication protocol between the vehicle and a paired smart device offering full interoperability between difference smartphones and car brands.


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