PARIS — Forjust about everything we do these days,”there's an app for that.” Is the car keydestined to become one more little tile on asmartphone screen?
The thought hit me recently whileinterviewing Broadcom executive TomRamsthaler, responsible for productmarketing of wireless connectivity. Indiscussing the company's upcoming802.11ac/Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) combochip, Ramsthaler explained to me what heenvisions as in-vehicle applications enabledby Bluetooth LE.
He talked about Nissan Watch, unveiled atthe Frankfurt Auto Show last month. Thesmartwatch, using a Bluetooth LE connection,gathers telemetry data from a car so that itcan show the driver the car's efficiencyinformation, such as fuel consumption, whilealso tracking performance. The Nissan Watchalso monitors certain parameters of driverhealth, like heart rate in a traffic jam.
OK, mildly interesting. But hardly the massmarket product that will prompt everycarmaker to embrace Bluetooth LE, I thought.However, Ramsthaler mentioned offhand thatBluetooth LE would be useful as a smart carkey.
Now I'm interested.
As I recall, NXP, armed with the lion'sshare in the smart car key market, had beenthinking along these lines. NXP came up witha single-chip solution for multi-functioncar keys using Near Field Communication(NFC) technology. The idea is for keys toconnect to external NFC-compliant devices,such as mobile phones, tablets, and laptops.Announcing the product, called KEyLink Lite,NXP talked about potential “smart” keyapplications including car finder, routeplanner, and car status/service datamanagement.
So, now that Broadcom is coming to theautomotive market with Bluetooth LE chips,will we be seeing an NFC vs. Bluetooth LEbattle brewing in the smart car key market?
Or better yet, will there be a day when wecan do away with our car keys and flip opena car door simply by waving the phone?
Not so fast.
Talking to several executives at theEuropean Microelectronics Summit, I quicklyrealized that using a smartphone to enter acar is actually not a smart idea.
Ian Riches, director of global automotivepractice at Strategy Analytics, agreed thatunlocking a car with a smartphone ispossible. But he cautioned: “The problem isthat a lot of people go inside a car tocharge their smartphones. What if yoursmartphone already ran out of battery? Youcan't even open your car door!”
To read more, go to “Unlocking the keyless car future. ”