Smartphone as car key: LG unit unveils improved digital car key module

By CARSIFU | 27 January 2021

SEOUL: LG Innotek, part of the LG Group, announced that it has developed a digital car key module with improved location detection precision and security using ultra-wideband (UWB) technology.

Earlier this month, BMW had also announced an enhanced digital key called Digital Key Plus using UWB. Both LG Innotek and BMW are members of the Car Connectivity Consortium.

A digital car key module is a communication component that is installed in a car and allows wireless data transmission between a car and a smartphone.

A digital key is a next-generation car key that allows users to open or lock the car door or start the engine using a smartphone. A driver can use his/her smartphone to oversee the vehicle conditions, including driving distance, fuel efficiency, tyre pressure, etc., at a glance as well as control the vehicle.

Users can lend the digital key to another person or allow only specific functions, such as opening or closing the trunk, using a smartphone app. Users don't need to carry a physical key, reducing the risk of losing the key. Also, the smartphone must be inside the car to drive it, reducing the risk of car theft.

A “Digital Car Key Module” developed by LG Innotek

As the car sharing and rental services have grown recently, the demand for a digital car key module has increased. But the existing digital car key modules had low location detection precision and concerns for low security as they were prone to hacking and other forms of interference.

The slim and compact digital car key module that LG Innotek developed can detect the location of a smartphone 5 times more precisely than the existing key modules. The module's error range between the actual smartphone's location and the recognition location has been reduced from 50cm to under 10cm.

The more precisely a digital car key module detects the location of a smartphone, the more diverse and more convenient functions can be implemented. The digital car key module can detect the smartphone location and open the driver's seat door in advance or start the engine automatically.

In addition, it can provide a driver with personalised driving environment. When several people use the same car, the module can recognise the smartphone location and set the driver's seat or side-view mirrors automatically for the corresponding driver. When several people with the same digital car key get on the vehicle, the module can detect the person on the driver's seat accurately.

This module can also enhanced the security for a car. LG Innotek said its proprietary hacking prevention technology blocks electromagnetic interference and tampering of communication between vehicle and smartphone. This drastically reduces the possibility of car theft due to the loss of smartphone or digital key hacking.

The module, the size of a single clip, contains about 60 components including RF (radio frequency) element and power block element. Because of its tiny size, it can be installed anywhere inside and outside the vehicle.

LG Innotek is targeting the use of its product to car and component manufacturers in the US, Japan, and Europe as well as in South Korea with the aim of mass-producing the product by 2020.

According to Strategic Analytics, a global market research institution, the number of vehicles with a digital key in the global market will increase by 360% from 6.3 million units in 2020 to 28.9 million units in 2025.