No More Car Keys? Smartphones May Be Replacing the Standard Car Key

The traditional keys of the cars are disappearing in some countries to be replaced by the so-called “smart keys”, electronic devices that have the latest model last cars. However, the latter would also be destined to disappear by action nothing less than smartphones.

This is estimated by the American Automobile Association (AAA) which considers “smart keys” as a transition technology that will be replaced by telephones. He said that both Chevrolet and Nissan have mobile applications to control specific functions of their cars.

John Nielsen, director of automotive engineering at the AAA, said that Hyundai recently introduced a more advanced concept that allows motorists to enter and start a vehicle using a smartphone set up specifically for the car.

“Part of this technology could be seen in vehicles as early as 2015,” he said in remarks collected by the Los Angeles Times.

“Traditional keys will probably become obsolete and will be replaced by technologies that offer greater security and comfort. Drivers will have to adapt to technology to avoid the hassle and cost of replacing smart keys, “he added.

Smart keys or devices, previously exclusive to luxury brands such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Lexus, are now offered by most car manufacturers. Many contain a system that allows motorists to enter and start their vehicle without a key. Their fate seems to be the disappearance at the hands of smartphones.

Portfolios and pockets are running out of one of the most basic and lasting tools of civilization: the keys. Now they could be replaced by the cell phone. A new technology allows smartphones, or smartphones, to open doors of hotels, offices and homes, garages and even cars.

It is a technology not far from that which allows cars to be opened remotely or pass cards in electronic devices located at the entrances of offices. The novel thing is that the new system is installed in the device most used by people and that no longer only works as a telephone, but as an agenda, stereo, map, GPS, camera and game console.

What the cell phone does is send a signal over the Internet and a conversion box to a latch or latch. Other systems use internal company networks, such as General Motors OnStar, to open car doors.

As almost everyone has a cell phone, there are several new companies, key companies and automotive companies that discount that the new technology will be widely accepted. Schlage, for example, a major key maker, sells a system that allows homeowners to use their cell phones to open their doors from miles away and also control their air conditioning systems, heating, lights and security cameras. Customers buy locks that are controlled by wireless radio signals sent from an Internet-connected switchboard installed in their homes.

Recently, Dwight Gibson, vice president of Solutions Connection for Home, an associate of Schlage, said he had used the system to allow her friend into his house while he was sitting in his office desk. “He thought it was something magical,” he revealed.

Daimler-Benz also has this system in their Mercedes. Zipcar, the service for cars, has a mobile application that allows customers to open the doors of their cars by pressing a button from the screen of their cell phones that looks like a key. It has already been used 250 thousand times since its launch two years ago.

Anyway, having a phone to enter or turn on cars is not a system free of all faults. “Nobody wants to find that they do not have a battery in their phone and realize they cannot go anywhere,” Nixon said. Another sensitive point is that the technology is still quite cumbersome. Analysts in the cell phone industry say that this process will be simplified with the appearance of a technology called near-field communications, or NFC. It allows a phone to be passed as a magnetic card in front of a device that picks up the signal and opens a door.

The NFC is currently in a handful of cell phones, but manufacturers expect to ship close to 550 million NFC phones by 2015, according to consultancy IHS iSuppli. Rajeev Chand, head of research at Rutberg & Co., a boutique investment bank, was conclusive: “The keys are not going to disappear, but they will become somewhat obsolete.”

This technology is not too different from remote controls that allow cars to open and close, or from magnetic cards used to open electronic locks. The new thing is that the resource, in this case, is the device that more and more people use as if it were a Swiss penknife of electronics: the smartphone works in equal parts as a phone, calendar, music player, map, GPS unit, and camera and game machine.

The smartphone sends a signal over the Internet to a central office, and from there to a lock or door. Other systems use internal company networks, such as the General Motors OnStar system, to open car doors.

As almost everyone has a cell phone, a group of new companies and companies that manufacture locks and automotive are betting on the wide acceptance of the technology.

Schlage, a large manufacturer of locks, markets a system that allows homeowners to open the door lock from miles away, and also handle heating and air conditioning, lights and security cameras. Customers buy locks controlled by a wireless radio signal sent from a device connected to the Internet, previously installed in their homes.

In October, General Motors introduced an application that allows the owners of most of the GM 2011 models to close and open the doors and start the engine remotely. It allows owners to warm up the engine on a freezing day or turn on the air conditioning on a hot day from their offices, said Timothy Nixon, who oversees “information and entertainment” products for the automaker.

Analysts in the cellphone industry say the process will be made easier with the development of a technology called near field communications, known in the jargon as NFC, according to its acronym in English. It allows the door to open by shaking the cell phone as if it were a magnetic card near a device that can pick up the signal and open the door.

On the day of their arrival, passengers received a text message with an address on the network where they had to announce their arrival. After completing the procedure, the hotel sent an electronic key from their room to the passenger’s cell phone. The passengers loved it, said Tam Hulusi, vice president for strategic innovation at HID Global, a smart card company that, along with its parent company, Assa Abloy, a Swedish locksmith, participated in the test. He said that electronic keys in cell phones would reduce hotel costs by eliminating magnetic cards and reducing the staff needed to receive passengers.

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