Woman next to a car with her phone in her hand


Smartphones as car keys a challenging diversity of options

Wallet, smartphone, car keys – have you got everything? umlaut is testing systems so we can soon forget about our car keys.

The smartphone will soon replace our car keys. Greater convenience and greater security are promises that will motivate users to start using their smartphone or smartwatch as a digital key. umlaut's "Test automation for smart keys in automotive" (TaSKia) is the new testing environment to put the systems through their paces.

How do smartphones function as car keys?

Alongside Bluetooth and Near Field Communication, today's smart keys use ultra-wideband (UWB) radio technology. This makes it possible to determine the position of the mobile device very precisely by analysing the runtime information of the radio signals between the smartphone and the vehicle.

This also prevents relay attacks – up until now, car thieves have used these to penetrate classical passive keyless entry systems (PKES). Additionally, through the precise determination of user positions, it is possible to detect which of the registered users approaches the drivers door. The seating position and the air conditioning settings can then be adjusted accordingly.

Diverse range of possible combinations

The wide range of possible combinations of smartphones, smartwatches and cars presents a number of challenges. As with other connectivity functions, it must be ensured that the devices of the various manufacturers work in harmony with the vehicles. It is crucial that the determination of position is precise if the digital car key is to function correctly.

In the Car Connectivity Consortium, umlaut is collaborating with various car and smartphone manufacturers to design systems that can be relied upon.

Functional testing

umlaut’s TaSKia makes it possible to carry out accurate and repeatable tests on systems and vehicles. Potential areas for improvement for the UWB system can then be identified. Comparison tests provide information on potential improvements in interoperability. It is also possible to test corner cases, which involve the testing of high approach speeds and various different angles of approach, for example.

Marcel Greiner

Marcel Greiner

R&D Engineer


Marcus Hammes

Marcus Hammes

Technical Director