BMW Becomes the First Manufacturer to Support Digital Key Functionality of iOS

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John Bedrow 

Automotive Journalist

June 23, 2020  at 1:56 PM

With the world advancing on the tech front day by day, BMW and tech giant Apple have joined hands to make the first iPhone compatible smart key. It can be paired with BMW models manufactured after mid-2020. This development will add a lot of ease to people's everyday life as they will have one less key to carry.

Automobiles have come a long way since their inception over 100 years ago but one thing that hasn’t changed much over the years, and that is the key. Sure, key fobs have become more sophisticated and they are capable of performing a whole host of features by themselves such as turn on a vehicle, open the boot and some of them even allow users to pull their car in and out of parking spaces. But the concept remains the same- you need a key in order to access your car. You need it to turn it on and to drive it away. But a key actually does more than just that- to some, it is a sense of pride and joy.

Mobile phones have long been an important part of our lives. The first thing we do in the morning is staring at that screen and it is the last thing we do before sleeping. We carry our mobile devices wherever we go and it only makes sense if we would somehow manage to combine it with our car keys. This functionality has been available for some while now on the Android Platform, however, tech giant Apple did not seem interested in doing so. It caused a lot of trouble to a lot of people especially some BMW owners as the German manufacturer offered Apple CarPlay suite but the digital key was only available on the Android Platform. Yikes!

BMW has sort of made of for this inconvenience caused to their precious customers by pairing up with Apple and becoming the first automobile manufacturer to offer a digital key on an iPhone. The digital key will work with a compatible BMW which includes all new BMWs built after July of 2020 and they have promised the process is completely encrypted and secure to ensure maximum data security.

In order to use the key, all one needs to do is place the phone close to the door handle which will unlock the driver’s side door. Once inside, just place your device in the phone holder and press the ignition button and you are good to go.

The Application uses the phone’s NFC sensor and the pairing process is as easy as sitting in the car with the original and placing the device in the phone holder and pressing the pair button on the infotainment. The key will then be safely stored in the Apple Wallet App. The key itself is saved as a certificate and it cannot be tampered with and it uses NFC to communicate with the vehicle which is highly secure and cannot be hacked. The key can even be accessed even after your phone's battery runs out and if you switch off your phone on purpose for safety reasons, then the key is turned off as well.

BMW has taken into account a whole range of scenarios and has come up with ways to keep the system as secure as possible. For instance, if you disable the express mode, the iPhone will ask for identification via touchID, FaceID, or passcode before unlocking the vehicle. If you want to let someone else drive your vehicle, then the app allows you to authorize up to 5 people, all one needs to do is add them as a user by sending them an invitation using your phone and the app also allows you to revoke the access at any time. The app also allows you to grant full access or give restrictive access to others, for instance, if it’s your children who share the vehicle with you, then you can restrict the speed and enable safety aids like Stability Control and Intelligent Safety which can only be disabled by the master key in your phone.

The app is compatible with all-new iPhones released after the iPhone XR, running on the upcoming iOS 13.6 software. The app also allows Apple Watch Series 5 to use this feature as well making this a convenient and futuristic solution and is definitely a step in the right direction, which will trickle down to other vehicles and become a standard feature in the future.

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