Published: March 16, 2015 | Brussels, Belgium
Continental and the Belgian automotive service group D’leteren have formed a joint venture, called OTA Keys to develop and implement various car-sharing services. It is named after the new company’s largest product area: purely virtual car keys that are transmitted and used wirelessly via cell phones. This technology can be used for company fleets, car-sharing companies, and car-rental agencies alike.
The OTA keys system has already proven beneficial. A car-sharing fleet in Monaco is now the first to use the system developed by OTA keys.
How the virtual key works?
The heart of the OTA keys system is the virtual smartphone key. The smartphone exchanges data with the vehicle using near field communication (NFC) or the energy-saving standard Bluetooth low energy (BLE). The driver uses a smartphone app to book the required vehicle at his or her convenience. The OTA keys system then sends an encrypted forgery-proof data record to the cell phone. The virtual key is saved on the smartphone’s SIM card. It contains the access authorization for the required vehicle. Using the NFC or BLE standard, the cell phone transmits the data (authentication, vehicle and diagnostic data, and user profile) to the reader in the car. This can be integrated into the vehicle doors, for example. Another receiver inside the car verifies the virtual key in the smartphone before the engine is started, and the vehicle is ready to go.
One app makes new mobility concepts quick and easy
OTA keys provides its customers with the necessary digital infrastructure. This also includes an app for the end customers’ smartphones, which is tailored to the requirements of the respective fleet or car-sharing operator. The user can use the app to find, select, and reserve available vehicles. The smartphone can then even navigate the user to the car’s location. It’s even possible to rent a vehicle spontaneously with the OTA keys service. In this case, the user only needs to hold his or her cell phone against the door of the free car and a virtual key is automatically generated on the server. This virtual key is then sent to the smartphone once an availability check has been done. The virtual key unlocks the car and, depending on how it is programmed, the app retrieves further data on the condition of the vehicle, before becoming a user-friendly navigation system.
While most car-sharing fleets currently still rely on systems that combine all intelligence within the vehicle, the OTA keys system uses smartphone intelligence and only requires NFC or BLE technology within the car. The main advantage is the considerable reduction in costs. By using a virtual key, investment per vehicle can be reduced significantly.
The second major advantage of the virtual car key from OTA keys is its exceptionally high level of security. It works in the same data space and according to the same principles as the payment functions that are stored on an increasing number of cell phones, and therefore meets banks’ strict requirements. In addition, data is only synchronized between the cell phone and vehicle in an encrypted format. The user is not inconvenienced by these security procedures, quite the opposite.