Auto Tech

Apple and BMW work to make digital keys smarter and more secure

The new Digital Key Plus will debut with the BMW iX electric SUV, with lots of help from the tech giant.

Car keys are getting much smarter.

BMW on Monday revealed its future connected-car ecosystem in iDrive 8, and seriously, it's quite an all-encompassing suite of technology. It even extends outside of the car. Included with the barrage of technology set to launch with the German marque's new electric cars is Digital Key Plus, a new version of the tech that lets you unlock your car with your phone, which BMW worked on with Apple.

The automaker said the two companies consulted with industry group the Car Connectivity Consortium to develop version 3.0 of its digital key technology. BMW and Apple first showed off the tech during the latter's WWDC 2020, with the 5 Series the first recipient of digital car keys for iOS. BMW also offers digital keys for Android devices, but yesterday's iDrive 8 announcement solely focused on the goods coming for Apple users.

The two companies said Digital Key Plus will serve as a "global standard" and functions on ultrawideband technology integrated into BMW cars and the iPhone's U1 chip. The UWB frequency means the car and iPhone are aware of each other's precise location, and it also minimizes the likelihood of relay attacks, making it more secure. The last thing anyone wants when using a convenience feature like this is for a bad actor to intercept the signal.

BMW and Apple's work isn't new -- Tesla's been doing digital keys for a while now -- but it's a nifty feature I certainly don't mind seeing more of. BMW even said the tech should allow you to unlock your car even if, say, your iPhone's buried in a purse, which definitely ups the convenience factor. If I need one less thing to fumble around with to get into a car, that's A-OK in my book. Digital Key Plus will launch with the iX electric SUV in 2022.