WALLET, house keys, car keys, phone: they’re the four things you probably grab when you head out of the front door, but Bosch is looking to lighten your load by incorporating all the functions of your car keys onto your phone, while adding some intriguing new functionality.
The Perfectly Keyless app works by using Bluetooth Low Energy to detect when your phone is approaching your vehicle, then unlocking the vehicle when you get in close proximity. Compatible with any Bluetooth-equipped smartphone, the app also allows users to send a ‘virtual key’ to friends should they need access to the car.
Bosch is unveiling the latest version of this tech at this year’s IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover. Before the technology arrives in your pocket, car manufacturers will need to get on board, installing proximity sensors and a control unit as hardware additions to their vehicles. These sensors measure how far away the driver’s smartphone is from the car. They also register what direction the driver is approaching from. The control unit administers the digital security key and ensures that smartphone, cloud, and vehicle systems communicate smoothly.
Of course, there’s the worry that if you lose your phone, drop it down the dunny or simply run out of battery that you’ll be locked out of your car. Bosch has been working on a solution to this. If the smartphone is lost, and the app with it, the digital key can be deactivated online. This blocks access to the vehicle. Get yourself a replacement phone and it can be connected with the vehicle and a new unique security key generated.
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Modern keyless entry systems work by fitting the physical key with a chip, but car sharing services have fast-tracked the development of app-based digital keys. With Perfectly Keyless, the system also locks the vehicle as the phone moves away. Sending a digital key to a friend or a service department can be done for a pre-determined time, allowing the car to be driven within a limited location. It’s also possible for the car to recognise your key and adjust the seating and mirrors to your preset positions.
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Mark Jackman, Bosch Australia’s Regional President of Automotive Electronics, explained the system’s backstory. “This is a global application that was conceived here in Australia and adopted by the parent company. The work has been divided up between here and Germany, with Australia responsible for the hardware development,” he said. Bosch is currently working with vehicle manufacturers in multiple countries to forge an integration path for the hardware in forthcoming vehicles. “I’d say we’re about two to three years away from being production-ready,” confirmed Jackman.
The list of items made virtually redundant by your smartphone is pretty lengthy. Think MP3 players, torches, satnavs, walkie-talkies, map books, compact cameras, e-readers, pocket calculators, bike computers, personal organisers; the list goes on. Now it looks as though your car keys will be next.