A Smartphone Will Become a Car Key

Accelerating inroads into the digital key module market


A digital car key module is a communication component that is installed in a car and allows wireless data transmission between a car and a smartphone. It is a next-generation car key that allows users to open or lock the car door or start the engine using a smartphone. A driver can use his/her smartphone to oversee the vehicle conditions, including driving distance, fuel efficiency, tyre pressure, etc., at a glance as well as control the vehicle.


A “Digital Car Key Module” developed by LG Innotek. This module can detect the smartphone location 5 times more precisely than the existing modules and provides enhanced security.


LG Innotek’s CEO, Cheol-dong Jeong revealed that the company had succeeded in developing a digital car key module with improved location detection precision and security at the end of January this year (2021). Users can lend the digital key to another person or allow only specific functions, such as opening or closing the trunk, using a smartphone app. There is no need to carry a physical key, reducing the risk of losing it. Also, the smartphone must be inside the car to drive it, reducing the risk of car theft.


As the car sharing and rental services have grown recently, the demand for a digital car key module has increased every year. But the existing digital car key modules had low location detection precision and concerns for low security as they were prone to hacking, etc.


The digital car key module that LG Innotek developed uses the ultra-wideband (UWB) technology, which is a wireless LAN communication technology, and a proprietary algorithm, improving the location detection precision. It can detect the location of a smartphone 5 times more precisely than the existing key modules. The module’s error range between the actual smartphone’s location and the recognition location has been reduced from 50 cm (19.7 in) to under 10 cm (3.9 in). In addition, the module has increased the security by applying a proprietary hacking prevention technology.


The more precisely a digital car key module detects the location of a smartphone, the more diverse and more convenient functions can be implemented. The digital car key module can detect the smartphone location and open the driver’s seat door in advance or start the engine automatically.


It can also provide a driver with a personalized driving environment. When several people use the same car, the module can recognize the smartphone location and set the driver’s seat or side-view mirrors automatically for the corresponding driver. When several people with the same digital car key get on the vehicle, the module can detect the person on the driver’s seat accurately.


The digital car key module is compact and slim. The module, is the size of a single clip thanks to the ultra-precision high integration technology. It contains about 60 components including RF (radio frequency) element, power block element, etc. With its compact size, it can be freely installed anywhere inside and outside the vehicle.


The module complies with the latest standards of the Car Connectivity Consortium, a global digital key standardization organization, allowing it to be used regardless of country, terrain, and vehicle type. LG Innotek is a core member of this organization and actively participates in the standardization of a digital car key in cooperation with major global companies in the industry.


According to Strategic Analytics, a global market research institution, the number of vehicles with a digital key in the global market will increase by 360% from 6.3 million units in 2020 to 28.9 million units in 2025.


LG Innotek plans to actively make inroads into the market for next-generation communication components. The company is actively running promotions targeting global manufacturers of vehicles and vehicle components in the US, Japan, and Europe as well as in Korea with the aim of mass-producing the product.


Insoo Ryu, the Head of Automotive Components & Electronics Business Division, says, “It will be possible to implement various mobility services using the digital car key module to enhance customer value.” He adds, “We will continue to release innovative automotive components that can provide drivers with convenient, safe, and enjoyable driving experiences.”