For years, Bluetooth® technology has created connections between car and driver that brought new levels of safety to our roads and more enjoyment to the in-car experience. Bluetooth enabled hands-free calling and audio streaming help reduce distracted driving and provide a safer way to stay connected to the road. 

Now, Bluetooth technology is again transforming the relationship between car and driver, becoming the new standard for automotive keyless entry.

Smartphone as Key Fob

A recent expansion of Bluetooth® technology in your smartphone is the capability to use it as a key fob to access your car — recognizing you as the owner when you approach and unlocking the doors. An increasingly popular trend, annual shipments of Bluetooth enabled key fobs and accessories are forecasted to increase 60% over the next five years. According to the 2020 Bluetooth Market Update, analysts expect to see more than 13 million annual shipments of Bluetooth enabled key fobs and accessories by 2024.

This technology also goes beyond simple access control, supporting a wide range of flexibility and customization in how it’s applied. For example, you could program your smartphone to only open/unlock certain doors (car doors/trunk) that you use regularly without unlocking others. This can be helpful if you’re habitually walking out to your car with your hands full. “Utility vehicles, like those on construction projects, are a great example of where this technology will be used,” said Chuck Sabin, senior director of market development and business strategy for the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). “Think about someone needing to repeatedly go back and forth to collect tools and supplies. As they near the vehicle, they can gain access, and as they walk away, it locks. You don’t have to think about it.”

And since the smartphone is a dynamic device, it would allow you to transfer temporary access for your car to others. “Imagine if you have house guests or are lending your car to a friend for the day,” said Sabin. “The phone provides a simple, efficient means of giving access without having to program locks or doors. We always have our phones, even if we forget our keys.”

Beyond Keyless Entry

It’s use cases like those that are driving this trend in automotive keyless entry and are creating a greater need for more wireless sensors in automobiles. To meet this demand, auto manufacturers are designing additional arrays of sensors into their cars to support a wide range of uses — from infotainment and passive keyless entry to tire pressure monitor and condition alerts. As such, analysts forecast that in the next five years, two out of every three cars on the road will rely on Bluetooth® technology, and it’s anticipated that four to six Bluetooth enabled sensors will be deployed in every future car.

Sabin says that organizations like C4A that help manage relationships of the German and European auto manufacturers, Jaspar that works with Japanese auto manufacturers, and many individual U.S. auto manufactures are all excited by the prospect of expanding the accessibility of passive keyless entry and keyless start. The Bluetooth SIG continues to work directly with the automotive industry on the future of digital keys, helping to expand on the concept of the smartphone doubling as a driver’s key fob.

For a complete look at all updated trends for forecasts across all traditional and emerging Bluetooth markets, download the 2020 Bluetooth Market Update.

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2020 Bluetooth Market Update

Get exclusive access to the most important trends and forecasts for Bluetooth technology, and learn how the Bluetooth community continues to expand the technology to solve new connectivity challenges and address new market opportunities.

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