A smart key is a component of keyless entry technology that lets car owners access their vehicles without a traditional key. As a more sophisticated upgrade from a standard car key and key fob combination, a smart key makes opening and locking car doors, starting the engine, or popping open the boot a lot easier.
Unlike with a conventional key fob, the driver doesn’t need to take any action or remove the key from their pocket to enter the vehicle. When the smart key is within a specified range, it sends a signal to the car’s receiver. This makes the car’s system respond. The smart key then sends a signal back to the car to confirm its identity. Only when this authentication is successful and the smart key’s response is verified does the vehicle’s system become operational.
How Does It Work?
This two-way communication is possible thanks to antennas integrated into the car. These antennas receive a radio frequency (RF) signal from the transponder chip within the smart key, enabling communication between the smart key and the car. RF-based keyless entry systems allow the vehicle to detect the presence of the smart key from a few metres away.
However, RF signals are known to be vulnerable to so-called ‘relay’ attacks, where attackers can amplify and transmit the signal over a longer distance to gain unauthorised access. This has led the automotive industry to explore more secure alternatives like Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. In the last few years, Ultra-Wideband (UWB) has shown a lot of promise for being much more resistant to hacking attempts through signal boosting.
Focus on Convenience
Smart key offers a lot of convenient solutions for drivers. Along with keyless entry, drivers can start the vehicle using the start-stop button without a traditional ignition key, as long as the smart key is in the car with them. The key sends a unique encrypted signal to the vehicle to confirm its authenticity. Without the signal from the smart key paired with the vehicle, the car cannot be started.
Some smart keys allow remote engine start to warm up or cool down the car’s interior before getting in. Moving your foot under the rear bumper can open the car boot or rear hatch for easy hands-free access.
Some vehicles automatically adjust settings based on the specific smart key used to unlock the car. These adjustments can include seat positions, steering wheel angles, exterior mirror settings, climate control preferences, and even stereo presets.
- smart fob
- keyless entry key