BMW has announced a new iteration of its phone-based key called Digital Key Plus. Digital Key plus will allow BMW drivers to unlock and start their car without ever touching their phone. The enhancement marks a notable improvement over BMW’s current Digital Key system. BMW’s Digital Key Plus will debut later this year on the electric BMW iX.
Digital Key Plus relies on an all-new technology called Ultra Wideband (UWB). UWB is essentially Bluetooth on steroids. It allows the vehicle to not only understand the driver is nearby, but it is location-aware and can engage certain vehicle behaviors as the drivers gets closer to the vehicle. Ultimately, of course, the vehicle will simply unlock.
BMW’s existing Digital Key platform leverages NFC technology, relying on the driver to physically place their phone on the NFC receiver in the door handle to unlock the car. UWB clearly eliminates this hassle and makes UWB a true replacement for the traditional key fob.
BMW says Digital Key Plus will offer the ultimate in security.
The requirement of a UWB chipset in your smartphone will be the biggest limitation. Apple started placing UWB chips in its iPhone 11 with the Apple U1 chip. Apple has also already announced its own CarKey API last year. BMW is currently the only automaker to leverage the Apple solution.
UWB-based digital keys are expected to become the industry standard. An industry think-tank known as Car Connectivity Consortium is basing its digital key 3.0 standards on UWB. We’re expecting UWB digital keys to proliferate the industry quickly in 2022.