Research into Digital Vehicle Key: Bluetooth Key Installations Soared by 244% in the First Seven Months of 2020
Our Digital Vehicle Key Industry Report, 2020 sorts out current digital key solutions and development trends.
In an era of intelligent vehicles, key is a new digital trait and has been not like what it used to be. Terminals like smartphones, smart watches and smart bracelets become carriers of vehicle keys, making people’s lives more convenient and creating more room for digital car life.
1. The less than 5% installation leaves space for rapid adoption
Digital key has three technology routes: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Near Field Communication (NFC) and Ultra-wideband (UWB). Yet the overall installation is below 5%. Among them Bluetooth key finds broader application.
In the first seven months of 2020, Bluetooth key was mounted on roughly 220,000 passenger cars in China, a like-for-like spurt of 244%, with an installation rate of 3.3%, 1.6 percentage points higher than that in the prior-year period. Despite low installation in both volume and rate, Bluetooth key is roaring ahead.
Apart from car lock/unlock and start-up capabilities, digital key enables personalized settings (e.g., seats, music and ID account), key sharing, vehicle trajectory record, and delivery to car. In future digital key will be an individualized element for cars and arouse much imagination.
2. Digital key is so beloved by Chinese automakers
In China, local automakers more willingly embrace digital key. In Bluetooth key’s case, there were a total of 14 passenger car brands using such a key in China between January and July in 2020, including 10 homegrown ones with a combined 70% share in installation.
In 2014, BYD first introduced smartphone Bluetooth-based digital key which can lock and unlock cars without network. GAC NE, Xiaopeng Motors, Geely and Changan Automobile followed and rolled out Bluetooth or NFC-based key.
In April 2019, GAC NE unveiled its Bluetooth key-enabled car models -- AION.LX and AION.S. The key solution is co-developed by GAC NE and Shanghai InGeek Cyber Security Co., Ltd.. In September 2019, Xiaopeng Motors released a Bluetooth-based “financial-grade secure digital car key” (the identity authentication technology is developed with Alipay, with security performance subject to financial-grade standards of the Internet Finance Authentication Alliance (IFAA)). In December 2019, BYD DiLink and Huawei Wallet jointly launched smartphone NFC-based car key.
Joint venture brands also followed suit. In particular, BMW and Beijing Hyundai, among others have stepped up efforts in digital key field in 2020, and plan adoption in full range of their future models.
In July 2020, BMW’s models began to be equipped with Apple CarKey, a NFC-based key solution. In September 2020, the full family of new vehicles under Beijing Hyundai was outfitted with Irdeto Keystone, a Bluetooth key solution.
3. Established Tier1 suppliers and information security firms flock into the field On the strength of technical expertise in common key, Tier1 suppliers like Bosch, Continental and Valeo have made a natural foray into digital key field.
In 2016, Valeo introduced InBlue, a smart virtual car key designed for shared mobility and fleet management and compatible with both Android and Apple phones. In 2017, Bosch rolled out Perfectly Keyless, a digital key solution with which users can unlock, start or lock their cars via smartphone APP. In August 2020, Continental launched new-generation CoSmA digital key based on ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. The system allows the car to be unlocked and the engine to be started without having to interact with the smartphone. It also enables remote control over the car via smartphone.
While bringing diversified and convenient experience to users, digital key poses a non-trivial security problem. Hacking at any links such as identity authentication, encryption algorithms, key storage, and data packet transmission will lead to a crash of the entire digital vehicle key security system. As a result, internet firms that are rooted in cyber security find vehicle information security a way to enter OEMs’ partnership system. Examples include foreign companies like Giesecke & Devrient (G+D) and Irdeto and Chinese peers such as Shanghai InGeek Cyber Security Co., Ltd. and Sichuan Zhongwang Safety and Environmental Protection Technology Consulting Co., Ltd..
4. BLE+NFC+UWB integrated solutions will come to the fore in future In current stage, the three digital key solutions (BLE, NFC and UWB) can lock, unlock and start cars independently. Integrating them into one terminal (e.g., smartphone and smart wearable device) will hold the trend. In an integrated solution, BLE, NFC and UWB work together but also play their own part in different scenarios: BLE used for vehicle wake-up and transmission authorization, UWB for locating where the user is after wake-up, and NFC as an alternative solution for car unlock and start-up in the case that mobile phone runs out of power.
Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) is dedicated to cross-industry collaboration in developing global standards and solutions for smartphone and in-vehicle connectivity. The Board of Directors of CCC comes from Apple, BMW, GM, Honda, Hyundai, LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Volkswagen.
In May 2020, CCC announced rollout of Digital Key Release 2.0 specification.
As below are capabilities enabled by Digital Key Release 2.0: Security and privacy equivalent to physical keys; Interoperability and user experience consistency across mobile devices and vehicles; Vehicle access, start, mobilization, and more; Owner pairing and key sharing with friends, with standard or custom entitlement profiles; Support for mobile devices in Battery Low Mode, where normal device operation is disabled.
The next generation of Digital Key, the Release 3.0 specification, is under development. It will leverage Bluetooth Low Energy and Ultra Wideband wireless connectivity to support passive, location-aware keyless access, providing vehicle owners with more convenience and new features.
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