Car Connectivity Consortium Announces Digital Key 2.0 Specification

Digital keys allow the use of a smartphone to open vehicle doors and perform varied remote operations in a way that promises to be simple, practical and safe.
Published: June 9, 2020

The Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) has announced its Digital Key Release 2.0 specification. This will provide a standardized ecosystem allowing mobile devices to store, authenticate and share digital keys for vehicles in a secure way that preserves privacy and works anywhere. Digital key technology is based on Near Field Communication (NFC), a type of radio frequency identification (RFID).

For Mahfuzur Rahman, the CCC’s president, Digital Key Release 2.0 is the culmination of the efforts of all members of the consortium to offer the future of vehicle access. “Release 2.0 provides a standardized and secure method for vehicle owners to use their own mobile device as a digital key and supports multiple usage models,” he says. According to Rahman, this will form the basis of Digital Key Release 3.0 and beyond, which will add additional features. “I’m excited about the emerging digital key ecosystem, where the use of the smartphone as a car key becomes as common as using it as a camera.”

Since the Digital Key Release 2.0 specification uses NFC technology, interactions between smartphones and vehicles occur without contact and support a scalable architecture for mass adoption, CCC explains. Thus, vehicle owners will be able to take advantage of the spec for such features as security and privacy equivalent to physical keys; interoperability and consistency of the user experience on mobile devices and vehicles; access, departure and mobilization, among other remote activities with vehicles; connectivity with the owner and sharing keys with friends, with standard or custom rights profiles; and support for mobile devices in low-battery mode, when normal device operation is disabled.

The digital key architecture uses standardized interfaces to ensure interoperability between deployments of mobile device manufacturers and vehicle manufacturers, as well as standards-based public key infrastructure to establish end-to-end security. Mobile devices create and store digital keys in secure elements, which help to protect against attacks based on hardware or software.

The architecture was designed to allow vehicle owners to access their cars without internet connectivity, in addition to allowing car manufacturers to add features that require internet connectivity for specialized features. The next generation of digital keys, Specification 3.0, is currently in development. It will use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and ultra-wideband (UWB) wireless connectivity to support passive, location-aware keyless access, providing vehicle owners with more convenience and new features.

The CCC is dedicated to collaboration between industries in the development of global standards and solutions for connectivity between smartphones and vehicles. Its Board of Directors includes individuals from such companies as Apple, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Volkswagen. The organization has more than 100 members, representing the global car and smartphone market.