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NFC-based digital key specification released on iPhone before Apple’s rumored CarKey function



Rumored that Apple is working on a “CarKey” feature for the iPhone, the Car Connectivity Consortium announced today that its NFC-based Digital Key Release 2.0 specification has been finalized and made available to its members, including Apple .


The specification enables mobile devices to store, authenticate and share digital keys for vehicles with comprehensive security and data protection. The specification includes support for a power saving mode. This means that a vehicle can still be unlocked using a smartphone whose battery was recently empty, similar to the power reserve mode for Apple Pay transit cards.

In the future, the consortium will develop a Digital Key 3.0 specification that is based on both Bluetooth LE and Ultra Wideband to enable passive, location-based keyless access. This way, you can leave your iPhone in your pocket or backpack when you access or start your vehicle. The iPhone 11 models are equipped with an Apple-developed U1 chip with Ultra Wideband support, so Apple can offer this functionality.

MacRumors recently discovered that Apple is developing a new “CarKey” feature that allows an iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock, lock, and start an NFC-compatible vehicle. Just like with credit cards and boarding passes, users can add a digital car key to the wallet app, eliminating the need for a physical car key or key fob.

With CarKey, users can approach their vehicle, hold their iPhone or Apple Watch near an NFC reader in the vehicle, authenticate themselves with the face ID and have the vehicle automatically unlocked. Similar to Apple Pay for transit turnstiles, Express Mode would be an option, so no authentication with the Face ID or a passcode is required.

Last month, screenshots of the CarKey interface appeared on Twitter, giving us a first glimpse of the upcoming function.


As expected, a digital car key is shown as a card in the wallet app. Tapping the card displays information such as the car model, the issuing automaker, a toggle switch for express mode, and the option to share a car key with other users. When sharing a car key, the primary user can provide other three levels of access, including the ability to only unlock the trunk, unlock the vehicle, or unlock and drive the vehicle.

Based on the leaked iOS 14 code, BMW appears to be one of the first automakers to support the CarKey function. It’s unclear when Apple plans to announce the feature, but a preview of iOS 14 is expected next month.


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