IT takes less than five seconds for a hacker to compromise a standard keyless vehicle entry system – they now have the equipment to ‘steal’ your radio signal.
But a new smartphone app from app promises to change all that. Its works via a virtual key stored in the smartphone. Sensors installed in the car recognise the owner’s smartphone as securely as a fingerprint and opens the vehicle only for them.
Digital key management is called Perfectly Keyless and can be used in cars, entire car-sharing fleets, and commercial vehicles. Bosch believes this system, with its built-in security lock, has huge market potential worldwide.
With conventional keyless entry systems, the car key still needs to be carried in a jacket or suit pocket, for example. To open the door and start the engine, it communicates with the car using a radio signal in the low frequency (LF) or ultra high frequency (UHF) range.
Instead of transmitting data via low or high frequency radio technology, the Bosch system uses the smartphone as virtual key and Bluetooth as the transmission technology. This means that the car key can stay at home, making the connection as secure as a fingerprint.
Every smartphone contains tiny microchips to manage communication via Bluetooth, and these play a key role in the Bosch solution. Together with sensors installed in the vehicle and a special control unit, they form a system that opens the door only for the smartphone containing the virtual key.
The system blocks signals from other smartphones or from electronic devices that manipulate the radio transmission.
Virtual vehicle keys on smartphones have long been a feature of car-sharing fleets. These vehicles don’t move until their operator authorises entry via the cloud; only then can a user unlock the vehicle, start it, and lock it again using an app.
This conversation between the phone and the vehicle uses near-field communication (NFC), a wireless protocol for sharing data over distances of a few centimeters.
For this to work, users must take out their smartphone before each journey and hold it up to a marked area on the vehicle. Only then can the system recognise the user and unlock the doors.