Apple’s CarKey to integrate ultra-wideband, BMW among first to adopt tech this year

On Wednesday, BMW announced plans to renew its Apple CarKey-compatible Digital Key protocol with a more stable version that relies on ultra-wideband radio technology, enabling users to replace physical keys with a compatible iPhone. 

The new technology, Dubbed Digital Key Plus, allows users to unlock and start their car without using their iPhone or even taking it out of their pocket or bag. The current BMW Digital Key requires users to hold the iPhone up to a door handle to gain entry and place the device in a consisting Qi-enabled smartphone tray to start the vehicle.

Apple Car Key


BMW to adopt Apple’s CarKey tech later this year, Apple’s CarKey to integrate ultra-wideband tech

BMW is expected to roll out the new technology with the iX, an all-electric ‘Sports Activity Vehicle’ set to hit European dealerships at the end of 2021 and North American showrooms in 2021.

BMW Digital Key Plus blends with Apple’s CarKey API and relies on UWB’s security fortitude and high accuracy to prevent breaches like relay attacks that try to block or scramble digital key signals.

As one of the pioneers in the use of a smartphone as a digital vehicle key since 2018, BMW is pressing ahead with the development and popularisation of its BMW Digital Key feature, which is available to iPhone users today. In line with this goal, the premium car manufacturer will introduce the BMW Digital Key Plus, a convenient and secure way to unlock and start your car without taking your iPhone out of your bag or pocket. This latest incarnation of the service is based on Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology, the technology found on the U1 chip of iPhone. The BMW Digital Key Plus feature will be first launched with the all-electric BMW iX for iPhone

The forthcoming BMW implementation seems to be a variant of Digital Key Release 3.0, which makes use of UWB technology and Bluetooth Low Energy to provide passive, location-aware keyless admittance. BMW said in a press release that it has been working with the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) and Apple to build Digital Key Release 3.0 as a global emblem for the automotive industry.

Apple Car Keys

Rumors suggest that Apple is planning to offer the location-aware chip in other product lines including AirPods, and iPad. Apple introduced UWB to its product line with the U1 chip in iPhone 11 and built the silicon into Apple Watch Series 6 and iPhone 12.

In more automotive-industry related news, Hyundai is working towards compatibility with Apple’s CarKey and is hoping to release a digital key built on the API this year, as reported by Business Korea. There are not many details about it, however, the system seems to be based on current technology already in use by BMW, meaning it will not support features afforded by UWB.

Reportedly, Hyundai is also negotiating a partnership to build and manufacture the Apple Car. The South Korean automobile maker confirmed last week that it is in early-stage talks with Apple regarding the project, with reports hinting that the vehicle could be manufactured at Hyundai’s U.S. plants in 2024.

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About the Author

Usman has been playing games for as long as he can remember. He is an editor at iThinkDifferent and writes about games, Apple news, hardware, productivity guides, and more. When not writing for iTD, Usman loves to play competitive Team Fortress 2, spends time honing his football skills, and watches superhero movies.