Smartkeys to the future: Vehicle security, connectivity, and personalization

Smartkeys to the future: Vehicle security, connectivity, and personalization

We live in an era of smart connectivity, where our electronic devices are equipped to perform even more tasks that keep us connected. Now automakers are bringing more personalization and connectivity to your car with smartkeys. If you follow mainstream news, it’s very likely that you’ll find headlines covering automotive technology and wearables. Whether it’s about autonomous cars or the next fitness band, the top automakers and gadget designers understand how consumers are connected to their digital lives and that’s redefining our notion of mobility.

Portable, wireless and remarkably interactive, smartkeys are like many other smart devices. What sets them apart is security. Smartkeys are purpose built for secure transactions, so they can be safely trusted to securely deliver advanced functionality.

Smartkeys are made to be trusted, which is particularly important since the proliferation of Internet-of-Things-enabled electronics and connected everything has created a lot of concern about personal-data security – and rightfully so. With all of the new data entry points for increasingly sophisticated hackers to attack, how can we trust smartkeys to protect our digital lives? In addition, I’d bet almost everyone would list their car keys as the number-one thing we temporarily misplace or lose altogether. It’s already stressful enough when we don’t have access to our car, so we definitely don’t want the added worry of compromising all of our financial information, contact information, etc.
nfc-payment-in-car2_x480There are new capabilities associated with smartkeys—payments, access, higher security and more sophisticated connectivity—which are made possible by near-field communication (NFC), a tap-and-go technology that shares information and initiates tasks when two devices are brought close together.

As the all-access device of the future, smartkeys can pay tolls for turnpikes and bridges, pay for the tickets needed to ride public transport, and make it easier to pick up the tab for your friends at dinner. It can also open the gate at a parking garage, open the doors at work, or open the lock on a bike rental or hotel room. It can even be used to grant temporary access to your car.

What if you lose your smartkey? Not only would you have an authentication process to stop someone from accessing your data and car immediately, but once you realize it’s lost, you have the ability to disable the smartkey from a remote location – even temporarily should you find it.

If you’re somewhere where you don’t want to bring an electronic key – like at the beach- you could potentially temporarily tether a smartkey’s car-access functionality to a waterproof activity-band wearable, and then leave the key in the car.

delivery-to-car_x480But, the opportunity is greater than that; we are in an age where technology can know you inside and out. From online shopping sites that predict what you want to appliances that allow you to buy what you need, personalization technologies keep upping the ante in the realm of digital comfort. Smartkeys are no different, and will be a central component to individualizing the driving experience as autonomous cars become a reality. They can be the central hub for your preferences, from the optimal position of your car seats to the content you consume as you actually enjoy sitting in traffic. However, as with all personalization technologies and initiatives, it is paramount to respect every individual’s privacy. Whether manufacturers include ‘opt-in’ features or get pre-consent, it only makes sense that a device built with the security to protect privacy also is designed to respect privacy.

With the ever-growing number of connected devices currently available and a seemingly endless array of others on the horizon, many may wonder how smartkeys can differentiate themselves to carve out their own niche. While there’s no doubt that the smartkey is just one of the smart devices that make up a personal network along with smartphones, smartwatches and other wearables, smartkeys can have more longevity with their owners than other devices because a person’s car is usually one of their largest investments.

Smartkeys are tightly linked with vehicle ownership. They’re issued with the car and bundled with the vehicle at the time of purchase. A person might get a new smartphone or tablet every couple of years, but will keep their smartkey for as long as they own their car, which could be many years.

Also, unlike a smartphone, core functions of a smartkey don’t need cellular service or Wi-Fi® to operate, and can still open and start a car even if the battery is dead. That could be highly advantageous when in an underground parking garage, a remote rural area, or during an emergency.

The bottom line is that smartkeys for our cars have a definite place within the ecosystem of personal connected devices. They are both useful and secure. As the market cycles through all of the different ways we can connect to our digital lives – often with functionality overlap – consumers will select the matrix of devices that makes sense for them. But, with the market for wearables standing at $34 billion by 2020, the automotive smartkey has more than a viable path.


Rainer Lutz
Rainer Lutz
Rainer Lutz is Business Segment Manager in the NXP Business Unit Automotive responsible for Automotive NFC, Security, Bluetooth and Wireless Charging. His team defines and executes the marketing strategy, product and solution portfolio and technical design in support. Rainer coordinates engagement with Automotive OEMs and Tier Ones in the respective application field, leveraging NXP's global sales force. He is an active member of standardization committees and a regular speaker at conferences. Rainer has been engaged in defining and driving NFC since he joined Philips in 2001. He holds Masters degrees in Cybernetics, Engineering and Philosophy from the Ecole Centrale Paris and the University of Stuttgart.

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