KIA DEVELOPS SMARTPHONE-BASED DIGITAL KEY

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Kia has announced the development of a ‘Digital Key’, which allows users to unlock and start their Kia vehicle via their smartphone. Replacing a traditional physical key, the new Digital Key can be downloaded via an app and used by up to four authorised people.

The Digital Key can be downloaded via a smartphone application and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology detects the presence of an authorised Digital Key-enabled smartphone in close proximity to the vehicle door.

The NFC antenna for entry identification is located in the handles of the driver and front passenger’s doors, whilst one for starting the engine is located within the wireless charging pad.

After unlocking the vehicle, the user can start the engine by placing the smartphone on the wireless charging pad in the centre console and pressing an engine Start/Stop button on the dashboard.

The user’s preferred vehicle settings are stored in the vehicle. When the key is recognised those settings are adjusted automatically – including the position of mirrors, seats and the steering wheel, as well as controls for the audio, video and navigation (AVN) systems and head-up display.

Kia’s Digital Key can be used to control selected vehicle systems remotely via their smartphone. Using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) communication, users can lock and unlock the vehicle, activate the alarm and start the engine. In addition, once the vehicles with autonomous parking features are commercialised, such features are also expected to be remotely controlled.

The level of access to different vehicle functions can be tailored to each user, for a defined period. The vehicle owner can preset the duration of vehicle use or limit the use to only certain features when renting the vehicle. For instance, it can even be used to enable a courier to open the boot to deliver a parcel.

Once car sharing becomes more widespread, the Digital Key will be further programmed to support hassle free vehicle rental where the owner and the driver won’t have to meet but can transfer the Digital Key via the smartphone application.

As well as making it much easier for a Kia vehicle to be included in a car-sharing program, in the future, the Digital Key will be further enhanced to allow for features such as an alarm to be triggered when the vehicle exceeds a defined speed or travels outside a designated area.

For cases such as using a valet service or visiting a repair shop, where handing over a digital key is not feasible, conventional smart key and card type key are also provided.

Kia aims to gradually implement the technology in its new production vehicles, starting later this year.

NFC is a form of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), which boasts a high level of security. The NFC wireless data communication takes place only when the device and the reader are placed several centimeters apart.

“The Digital Key will benefit a very wide range of future Kia customers, as well as enabling innovative new schemes for vehicle sharing,” said Ho Yoo, Group Leader of the Motor Group’s Electronics Development Group. “We are studying other ways to harness this type of connected-car technology to greatly enhance the driving and ownership experience.”