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Unlocking the Keyless Car Future

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junko.yoshida
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smartphone as a car key
junko.yoshida   10/2/2013 3:24:00 PM
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Using a smartphone to get [any] job done these days seems possible. But the more I talked to people, the less excited I got with the idea. 

What's your take on this?

Bert22306
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Re: smartphone as a car key
Bert22306   10/2/2013 4:13:05 PM
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I think the possibilites are endless, for schemes to open the door and start the car. I'm not sure why a smartphone would even make the top 10.

Aside from the physical key and the existing fob schemes, I could use NFC from my corporate badge or from my Metro card. I could use a barcode scheme on a card or sheet of paper, stuck to the back of my wallet. I could touch a finger to a fingerprint reader somewhere on the car, for entry and for starting the engine. I could use a retinal scan device.

Seems to me that any scheme which is purely biometric is preferable to some clunky smartphone, no?

Technology is not the obstacle here. It has to be convenience and security. And it's far better to rely on the car's battery if possible, rather than relying on a battery in the "key" device. And as always, a mechanical backup is called for, in case the battery dies.

junko.yoshida
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Re: smartphone as a car key
junko.yoshida   10/3/2013 1:11:49 AM
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@Bert, you wrote:

Technology is not the obstacle here. It has to be convenience and security.


You are so right about this. Then, the question becomes which is the best technology to get the job done, in order to achieve convenience and security. When NXP started making chips that incorporates "vehicle theft and smart access solution," I thought it was brilliant. Because your car key is not just a physical key to open and close the door of your car, but it is also an anti-theft device.

Now that many people already have a smartphone, putting a smart car key inside a phone seemed like solving the convenience issue -- having one less thing to carry around. But alas, for the moment, that technology choice turns out to be not so convenient. Is it more secure? I am not sure.

Caleb Kraft
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Re: smartphone as a car key
Caleb Kraft   10/3/2013 12:36:14 PM
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I agree. With the fast turnover rate of cellphones right now (2 year contracts are seen as a long time to own a phone!) combined with the fact that your phone could then be possibly used as an entry point for thieves leaves me rather unexcited about the prospect.

Biometrics would be great, but something that drops into my wallet would be ideal I hate carrying my keys, I won't go anywhere without my wallet though.

from_Tokyo
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Re: smartphone as a car key
from_Tokyo   10/3/2013 12:49:43 AM
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Interesting article, thank you.

Besides the topics and issues you mention I can imagine one more aspect. Where to go to if you are not able to open the car door or start the engine? Is it the responsibility of the car manufacturer to solve the problem? The responsibility of the phone manufacturer? Or the responsibility of the carrier who provided you with a phone when you took a subscription?

junko.yoshida
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Re: smartphone as a car key
junko.yoshida   10/3/2013 1:15:20 AM
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@from_Tokyo, you make an excellent point. "Who do we call?" when things don't work is a big question that haunts every "connected devices" -- or in this case, "combo products."

Andrzej11
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Re: smartphone as a car key
Andrzej11   10/3/2013 5:50:28 PM
@Junko

Many Tesla Model S owners consider the Tesla app as being one of the best things of the Tesla ownership experience. Some have taken it even further and developed their own enhanced app called VisibleTesla. With these apps one can open and close doors, check the vehicles location(quite handy if someone manages to steal it), schedule charging and remotely adjust cabin temperature which many consider the most useful. The only thing it would seem they are missing is being able to control an e-chauffeur which I understand Elon has promised to deliver in a few years.

junko.yoshida
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Re: smartphone as a car key
junko.yoshida   10/4/2013 12:26:24 AM
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Damn, it sounds like Tesla owners have already thought about everything it can be done about this! Seriously, though, an app like checking the vehicle's location is actually can be useful if you live in Brooklyn or Manhattan, and forgot to ask your husband where he moved his car last (as one needs to change the side of the street often)

krisi
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Re: smartphone as a car key
krisi   10/4/2013 10:47:38 AM
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It could very useful in car rentals (they will program your phone and have an electronic record of all car entries available)...or other industrial applications where multiple drivers use cars so their identity and times of use are precisely known

junko.yoshida
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Re: smartphone as a car key
junko.yoshida   10/4/2013 4:39:29 PM
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Exactly. It would be a perfect app for zipcar!

chanj0
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Revolutionary...
chanj0   10/2/2013 7:43:08 PM
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Today, young entrepreneurs are looking for way to revolutionary the way we have been living.  Embedded your car key into your smartphone seems like a logical path. I was so excited when I read the first half of the article. "Not so fast." When I read that, I know I have missed something. Mr. Riches made an excellent point.

The battery of most smartphone barely lasts for a day. Although you can always carry an extra pack of battery, you will never know how soon you will have both of them running out. No doubt, extra car key (actual or remote  - like that one Prius has) can be used to mitigate the challenge. It's kind of defeat the purpose of putting a car key in the smartphone. I believe one of the primary purposes is to reduce number of items being carried. NFC can certainly be a second option in addition to Bluetooth LE.

With regard to security, the fingerprint security on iPhone 5s can come into play if SDK is opened up for other apps to access the feature.

Thanks Junko for the information. Wonderful coverage.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Revolutionary...
junko.yoshida   10/3/2013 1:21:50 AM
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Thanks for your kind words, chanj. Just like you, I got very excited initially at an idea of a car keying being one more thing that could be replaced by a smartphone.  Going through the thought process and talking to people was a lot of fun.

But as more and more people living in big cities start using a car sharing scheme like Zipcar (instead of owning a car), smartphone definitely has a role to play. It can be a paperless identification and payment device to gain an access to the car you are sharing. But of course, you still have to open a car with a physical key!

rick merritt
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Nissan smart watch
rick merritt   10/3/2013 12:46:03 AM
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I'm still reeling about the idea of a car maker making a watch that also monitors health. Geez!

junko.yoshida
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Re: Nissan smart watch
junko.yoshida   10/3/2013 1:26:16 AM
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@Rick, yeah, really. I was originally thinking about doing a story -- dissecting what Nissan Watch brings to drivers... I may still write about that, but aside from its cool looking design (I actuall like it!), why would you need to be "told" by a watch that you need to slow down? Seriously. It's like having your mother sitting next to you in a car, and telling you how to drive!

Caleb Kraft
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Re: Nissan smart watch
Caleb Kraft   10/3/2013 12:37:20 PM
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I think this would just fall in line with the practice of trying to constantly innovate. They probably know that there's no market, but every time they explore something like this it opens new doors and areas to explore.

junko.yoshida
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Re: Nissan smart watch
junko.yoshida   10/3/2013 1:07:48 PM
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You are absolutely right about that, Caleb. Get it out first, get consumers' feedback, and improve... But still...why a watch?

Caleb Kraft
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Re: Nissan smart watch
Caleb Kraft   10/3/2013 1:19:25 PM
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because pebble did well. now every person wanting to design some small connected device has that in their mind. 

krisi
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keys?
krisi   10/3/2013 12:02:51 PM
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I am both creator and consumer of smart electronics...but sometimes I wonder why people try to solve problems which are not real problems...don't we have enough real problems around? what is wrong with the standard car keys? that you misplace them? well,  you can misplace your phone too? they will not discharge at least and nobody wil hackem them...Kris

junko.yoshida
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Re: keys?
junko.yoshida   10/3/2013 12:15:43 PM
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Yeah, I hear you, Kris. 

But you know, digital still cameras are quickly being replaced by smartphones; many use GPS in their smartphones while in their cars; and certainly, in some countries, transit cards are replaced by NFC inside smartphones. 

It may not be the real "problem" as you say, but it could happen. Never say no to what people do these days with their smartphones!

krisi
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Re: keys?
krisi   10/3/2013 12:21:31 PM
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I know Junko...and fully understand a desire to pack everything in one device...but centralizing everything in one device creates many potential problems in case of drain battery, hacking or just plain losing it...you probably need a backup phone stored in safe location, home?, safety deposit box?...personally I prefer to have my phone, my keys and my wallet as separate devices...but that could be an old fashion view, I recognize that...Kris

junko.yoshida
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Re: keys?
junko.yoshida   10/3/2013 12:28:08 PM
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@Kris, believe me, I am actually like you. I would hate to pack everything in my smartphone. Unlike other people, I often leave home without my phone, but I would not forget to bring my car key and house key!

krisi
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Re: keys?
krisi   10/3/2013 12:52:12 PM
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Another issue is software upgrade, what if you can't open the car after the upgrade?...this is not as far fetched as you might think...I have recently upgraded my iPhone and it changed the colors, ring tone, and display, most of these "improvements" can't be changed, basically their created a teeneger version of my phone without me agreeing to it!...the phone is not user friendly anymore and I can't go back to the previous version!...Kris

junko.yoshida
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Re: keys?
junko.yoshida   10/3/2013 1:11:20 PM
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damn, i hear you. They do this all the time in the name of "upgrading" -- while leaving consumers holding the bag (to learn a whole new user interface, etc.)

yep. Phones are definitely getting user-unfriendly. I agree.

krisi
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Re: keys?
krisi   10/3/2013 2:03:39 PM
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Yes, and they are getting away with it!...imagine buying a blue BMW, you like it, brag about it to your friends, buy another one for your spouse...and then one day a message appear on your dashboard: pls upgrade engine software...with hesitation you do it...after that the software upgrade changes the color of your car into green and red...the dashboard get's crammed with extra icons that you don't need and can't read anymore (too small font and white in color)...and the gear shift is now in the ceiling!...and you can't go back to the previous version although it was just a software update...this is what you get from Apple today

Sheetal.Pandey
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Re: keys?
Sheetal.Pandey   10/3/2013 2:27:50 PM
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Electronics and software are the luxuries for automotive not a necessity. The car's primary function is transport. Rest all is nice to have but notmandatory. But liked the idea tracking cars inhe parking of malls

junko.yoshida
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Re: keys?
junko.yoshida   10/4/2013 12:29:59 AM
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Krisi, this is HILARIOUS! Waking up one morning and finding your blue car turned into red...I know...you are so right about "they are getting away with it."

bk11
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James Bond...
bk11   10/3/2013 2:53:47 PM
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...did this 16 years ago with his BMW.  Not only unlocked and started the car, but drove it remotely while viewing the dash cam.  Now that could be a top selling app!

In reality, though, I can see a smart phone key as being an accessory for those who want it, not the primary key.  Believe it or not, not everyone has or wants a smart phone.  Also, this approach may work OK, until someone else needs to drive the car.  Would you give them your phone?

Biometrics have the same limitations, and may also have problems when the car is covered in ice and snow.  You wouldn't want to damage the sensor scraping off the ice.

Bert22306
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Re: James Bond...
Bert22306   10/3/2013 3:09:21 PM
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If biometrics becomes cheap enough to use as a car key, then presumably it will also be possible to add people to the list of allowed users, via secure data transfer. Whatever scheme is used, biometrics or other, I think it preferable to have the key itself be battery-free. And this is very doable these days.

As to this, it made me chuckle:

"Biometrics have the same limitations, and may also have problems when the car is covered in ice and snow.  You wouldn't want to damage the sensor scraping off the ice."

I used to own a Fiat 124 Sport back in my school days. I learned to rub the palm of my hand on the key slot, in snowy days, to thaw out the tumblers. So mechanical keys aren't immune to this problem either. Optical wouldn't be immune either. But NFC should be.

ip2design
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Re: James Bond...
ip2design   10/4/2013 5:06:27 AM
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Hi,

 

Remember that amon the NFC configurations, the battery-flat case is considered.The energy is grabbed from the wave, converted by the RF front-end and given tro the secure element.

Car-Sharing with NFC has already tested in a couple of pilots in France with great success.

For those who can read french :

http://www.toulouse-metropole.fr/missions/deplacement/autopartage

 

 

 

krisi
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Re: James Bond...
krisi   10/4/2013 10:44:41 AM
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Good point Bert Most biosensors will not work in Canada (too cold) Also it would be easy to damage a car by tampering with its sensor everywhere else

junko.yoshida
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Re: James Bond...
junko.yoshida   10/4/2013 12:35:24 AM
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I agree. I guess this dual strategy -- let those who think it's hip to have a smartphone car key have it, but always keep a separate physical car key -- is probably the way it will unfold. After all, who wouldn't want to emulate what James Bond did 16 years ago?

DrQuine
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Unintended consequences
DrQuine   10/6/2013 11:06:15 PM
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Using my SmartPhone for car access sounds great ... until I think of the unintended consequences:
  • How will I lend you my car while I'm away on a business trip if I still want my SmartPhone?
  • If I can clone the key with an expiration date for your SmartPhone, how will I entend that loan when I get delayed returning home?
  • What if you don't have a compatible SmartPhone to accept the key?
  • What happens when I drop my SmartPhone in a puddle on a wilderness trip? 
  • What happens when my charger cord breaks or gets forgotten? Will I lose access to my car on a long trip - moments after my GPS goes dead so I'm both lost and locked out of my car without a phone to call for help?


junko.yoshida
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Re: Unintended consequences
junko.yoshida   10/7/2013 6:02:23 AM
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DrQuine, this is a brilliant list!

I love that. I think all these things need to be worked out before this idea of smartphone as a car key becomes a reality. Most likely, carmakers will give us both a regular physical car key AND smartphone car key app. (But then, we must ask, why bother developing a smart car key app?) 

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