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Using your iPhone to start your car is about to get a lot easier

Digital keys could become more popular and more ubiquitous after automakers and the consumer tech industry came together to announce the formation of a new working group to develop industrywide standards for ultra wideband (UWB) connectivity.

The working group is the result of two consortiums teaming up (don’t you love it when consortiums consort with other consortiums?): the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC), which includes Apple, Samsung, Xiaomi, and most major car companies as members; and FiRa Consortium, a nonprofit that supports UWB and includes Apple, Google, Cisco, Samsung, Qualcomm, and others as members.

The result is a working group with a name that truly defies comprehension: the Joint Ultra-wideband (UWB) MAC PHY Working Group (JUMPWG). (Just rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it?) But acronym crimes notwithstanding, the group “will ensure long-term interoperability and scalability of the advanced UWB technology developed for the CCC Digital Key, encouraging broader adoption of UWB technology for secure and accurate ranging for vehicle access,” CCC president Alysia Johnson said in a statement.

The result is a working group with a name that truly defies comprehension

The new working group will be led by Jinjing Jiang, a wireless systems engineer at Apple. The goal is to get all the phone and carmakers in the same room to talk about what it will take to develop safe, reliable standards that everyone can agree on because no one wants to be blamed for cybersecurity breaches or hackers misusing the technology to steal people’s cars. (Some automakers have already made that easy enough as it is.)

The CCC Digital Key uses UWB and near-field communication (NFC), along with low-energy Bluetooth to send and receive communications between your phone and your car. Some automakers use this technology to enable people to unlock and start their cars without even taking their phones out of their pockets.

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It’s been over two years since Samsung first teased that it was partnering with automakers like BMW, Audi, and Ford to bring the convenience of UWB to digital car keys. BMW released its own digital key for numerous smartphone devices, though that version of the technology worked via NFC rather than UWB, requiring users to hold their phone next to the handle of the driver’s door to unlock the vehicle.

Meanwhile, Apple uses UWB for the ‌iPhone‌, Apple Watch, and AirTag. The tech enables more precise location awareness, and it powers features like Precision Finding for the AirTag.

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