Apple, BMW May Be Developing “CarKey” Feature

BMW Digital Key

Ready to unlock and start your BMW with your iPhone or Apple Watch? According to two recent reports by 9to5Mac, Apple is working with BMW to develop what will be referred to and marketed as CarKey, a virtual card that will appear in your Apple Wallet. This won’t be just another credit card or boarding pass, however, as the reports suggest it will take the place of a conventional key fob, allowing users to lock, unlock, and start their vehicles using their phone instead.

Any attempt to cut down on pocket clutter, including wallets, phones, keys, and other bits of paraphernalia is a welcome development, and controlling our cars from our devices seems like the next logical evolution in terms of where we’re headed. If this all sounds a bit familiar, it’s because BMW has already been working on what’s called the Digital Key for a few years now. Using standardized protocols developed within the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC), which BMW is a charter member, it sounds like CarKey will be an outgrowth of the digital key, which other automakers including Audi, General Motors, Hyundai, Volkswagen, along with suppliers Denso and Continental, are also involved. Apple, LG, Samsung, Panasonic, and Qualcomm are also charter members of the CCC.

Although nothing official has yet been announced, two recent tech developments point to CarKey being in the works. The first is a recent update to CCC’s Digital Key, which uses near-field communication (NFC) to facilitate connections with a range of potential devices and products. The second is code found within in Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 mobile operating system which suggests the tech giant is working with BMW on using the technology for its models.

Details within the report suggest that CarKey may require what’s called ultra-wideband, or UWB, to function. Introduced with Apple’s latest smartphones, including iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max, the technology is currently only being used with Apple’s AirDrop feature, which allows near instant communication between Apple devices such as phones, computers, and tablets. Apple’s current watch models do not make use of UWB, but the technology may very well be included in the next round.

Apple working with BMW to bring CarKey to market isn’t necessarily surprising, as BMW was the first automaker to adopt wireless connectivity for Apple CarPlay, something most other manufacturers still require a cable for.—Alex Tock

[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]

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