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How Does a Digital Key Work?

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Digital keys seem to be a trend that’s here to stay for a while

You might be familiar with remote start key fob technology, but you might be less familiar with another convenient technology that some automakers offer: digital keys. Here’s a brief overview of how a digital key works.

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How digital keys work

A digital key is typically tied to the automaker’s smartphone app associated with your particular car. For instance, Chevrolet’s myChevrolet app has a type of digital key that lets you remotely start and stop the vehicle as well as lock and unlock the doors. Once you’ve set up a digital key using your vehicle’s manufacturer’s app, you can use your smartphone instead of your key fob as the primary way you enter, exit, start, and stop your car.

But exactly how does the technology work? Per J.D. Power’s Christian Wardlaw, a digital key relies on Bluetooth connection and Near Field Communication to work. Some digital keys only work once you take your smartphone out of your pocket and physically place it near the vehicle, while others work even when your phone is far away from your vehicle.

Pondering the future of digital key technology

Automakers aren’t the only ones catering to consumers who want digital keys for their cars. Last year, Apple announced a digital car key feature dubbed CarKey that relies on Bluetooth, NFC, and Ultra-Wideband technologies. Besides granting remote access to your car, this app lets you share access with others who occasionally use your car. Though Apple named BMW as the first member of the Car Connectivity Consortium to adopt CarKey, it’s likely that other automakers in the CCC — such as GM — will adopt it in the future.

As of now, Apple plans on offering CarKey as a factory-installed feature on newer vehicle models, as MacRumors contributor Julie Clover confirms. But it’s possible that CarKey might have an aftermarket install option at some point down the road.

Learn more about the convenience of the myChevrolet mobile app here. Then read up on the Chevy Bolt app’s new EV charging function.

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