Tick, Tock… Click… Unlock your Car

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Gone are the days when you had to insert a key to unlock a car’s doors. Most modern day models come with a remote locking system that can lock and unlock all doors at once with the press of a button. Some luxury makers even allow windows to close and open using a key fob. However, with the level of research that’s happening today, even the remote control may soon become a tool of the past. First smartphones and now smart watches are set to take over this space.

Apple’s two recent patents add that twist to this tale.

Smartphones and NFC technologies are joining hands to make locking and unlocking cars easier and safer. Mobile apps such as Viper SmartStart , OnStar RemoteLink, Zipcar and Hyundai BlueLink are available for android and/or iOS platforms that do this job once your car is fitted with the necessary hardware. General Motors, which owns a handful of such patents like the US 7301442 and US 8731155, was the first to introduce this feature into its Chevrolet models in 2011 with its OnStar RemoteLink app.

No app, no key. It’s all in the iPhone
So what’s new in Apple’s patents? Well, you don’t even need a mobile app. US 8868254, granted in October 2014, allows a car owner to use a personalized iPhone as a remote when paired with inbuilt accessories such as Apple’s very own Carplay. By estimating its location in relation to the car, the iPhone will automatically lock/unlock the car. Bluetooth is mentioned as one of the possible means for communication.

Cool, huh? Wait till you read about the next patent.

Unlock with the watch

The latest patent on the offering that has created a pretty loud buzz is US 8947202. The patent describes a primary portable device that can access a vehicle by transmitting an activation message including a vehicle access credential to the vehicle. This patent does away with the need for additional accessories that are otherwise required for the technology described in patent US 8868254.

What’s more, Apple has hinted that this might go beyond the iPhone and might be implemented in the Apple Watch as well.

Imagine turning to your Apple watch and telling Siri, “Hey I am in a mood to drive today,” and out comes the reply “Car Unlocked! Time to travel, sir.” (You may like reading “Your car has arrived, Mr. Stark…”)

These Apple patents seem like game-changing inventions and pretty much align with what Tim Cook had to tell The Telegraph in a recent interview: “Apple wants the world to move away from “clumsy, large fobs” and instead use the Apple Watch to unlock car doors when people get near.”

Apple watch was recently released amid much fanfare, with a host of safety features. Essentially, it works in sync with an iPhone and is controlled by an app on the phone. For activating Apple Pay, for example, a passcode received on the paired iPhone would be needed and this would be the case every time the watch is strapped (Apple Watch works only when strapped to a wrist). Hence, stealing the watch without the phone would be pointless. It is unclear at this point if this would extend to other apps as well. But I’m sure that if this system comes into operation, then there will be ample safeguards in place.

With such ease of use and high tech safety measures in place, would you care for a drive please?

(Featured image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wearable_computer)

Mukul Jain
Mukul Jain

A dynamic and adventurous person, Mukul aspires to travel to every country in the world and write a bestseller sometime soon. His blogs reflect his understanding of IP in anything related to travel and adventure.


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