The Bluetooth® location services market experienced a delay in growth last year due to travel restrictions and constraints on on-site equipment installations. However, as the 2021 Bluetooth Market Update suggests, market growth is expected to pick back up during 2021 and increase to 550,000 implementations over the next five years. In fact, a heightened awareness of asset tracking and safe return solutions has increased interest in Bluetooth location services.
Bluetooth location services will also play a significant role in digital keys for smart homes, smart buildings, and the automotive industry. Having achieved 100 percent market penetration in smartphones, Bluetooth technology is turning the smartphone into a digital key, granting you secure access to your car, home, office building, and more.
I recently had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Daisuke Takai from Alps Alpine about how they utilize Bluetooth technology to develop secure keyless entry solutions for automobiles. Mr. Takai explains how the reliability, high accuracy, and operating range of Bluetooth technology meets all the requirements of a secure digital key solution.
Q&A with Daisuke Takai from Alps Alpine
Why have you chosen to use Bluetooth® technology in your keyless entry and access control solutions?
Together with personal authentication, technology for locating target devices is indispensable to enabling MaaS (Mobility as a Service), using smartphone-based digital keys for in-vehicle devices. However, up until now, positioning has posed various challenges in terms of practicality and development resource burdens; for example, requiring the physical scanning of barcodes or RFID tags or the building of expensive GPS or WiFi-based systems. Also, existing vehicle-based keyless entry systems using passive entry by low frequency involve unique communications specifications. To adopt positioning technology according to the communication standard, antennas required by such systems must be miniaturized, making it difficult to build such functionality into smartphones.
At Alps Alpine, we are developing Bluetooth® chip-based, high-precision positioning technologies that we believe will deliver significant improvements in this field. Our choice to use Bluetooth connectivity was very much influenced by the technology’s presence in many different markets and its broad, cross-industry acceptance.
Can you tell us about your Bluetooth keyless entry solutions for the automotive industry?
A recent megatrend in the automotive market is vehicle sharing. As a result, smart car access — the use of smartphones themselves as keys — is becoming mainstream as an indispensable feature. Bluetooth technology can communicate securely over longer distances than NFC (near-field communication), allowing for authentication that doesn’t require users to hold their smartphone over a reader. In the wrong hands, this technology can be abused to facilitate car theft, through infiltration such as relay attacks, because Bluetooth radio waves can unlock car doors and start engines from distances of over 10 meters. We are using Bluetooth based location technologies (ranging and positioning) to develop smart car access solutions that guarantee security to address such issues.
What are the advantages of using a smartphone as a digital key for keyless entry?
The more keys you have — car, home, workplace, parents’ house, etc. — the more of a pain it is to pick out the right key when you need it. If you could manage all these keys on your smartphone, it would not only reduce the number of keys you have to carry around, but it would also make all sorts of things much more convenient. For example, distributing one-time keys for key sharing and linking smartphones to vehicle information systems could greatly improve user convenience by enabling people to stay up-to-date on vehicle inspections, fuel tank levels, the state of their tire treads, and tire pressure all through their smartphones without ever needing to physically access their vehicle. At the same time, this convenience makes smartphone-related security more important than ever and increases the need for measures to prevent smartphone loss.