The 1st generation BMW Digital Key was introduced in Autumn 2018 and was available for vehicles with the optional equipment Live Cockpit Professional (OE 6U3). The current BMW Digital Key Plus was introduced in 2021 on the BMW iX and has undergone many significant feature updates since the first iteration. The BMW Digital Key Classic, BMW Digital Key Generation 1.5, BMW Digital Key Plus, and BMW Digital Key Card are the culmination of years of research and development and have continued to showcase BMW’s dedication to developing the latest technology for its customers.
NFC vs UWB
Near Field Communication is a short-range wireless technology that operates on a frequency of 13.56 MHz and is based on inductive coupling between two “antennas” embedded in NFC enabled devices. If you’ve ever tapped your phone on the debit/credit payment terminal at the store to use Apple Pay, you’ve used an NFC device. Secure communications are available through encryption algorithms – so rest assured, this technology has been tried and tested with great success.
Ultra-Wideband Technology transmits data across a much broader bandwidth of >500 MHz, simply put – it’s very capable. An advanced physical layer incorporated into the UWB frame, Scrambled Time Sequence, is essentially an encrypted measure of a timestamp that employs random number generation and cryptographic techniques.
NFC is essentially used as a redundancy in the event your smartphone’s battery is depleted. NFC technology is more sensitive to relay attacks whereas UWB is more difficult to manipulate due to the multitude of complexities involved – from the secure time-of-flight principle to the angle-of-arrival positioning method..
BMW Digital Key- Classic 1.0
The first generation BMW Digital Key Classic was introduced in Autumn 2018 for devices using Android OS Oreo 8.0 or higher and was supported until the end of 2021. The majority of Samsung smartphones are built with the required NFC secure element required to use the BMW Digital Key.
To use this feature, vehicles must be equipped with the optional equipment Live Cockpit Professional (OE 6U3) and the Head Unit High 3 (HU-H3). For the first time, BMW offered customers the option to unlock, lock, and start their BMW using a compatible smartphone or Key Card. Support for this generation ceased towards the end of 2021. Since July 1, 2021 the activation of a new owner’s key is no longer possible; however, an owner’s key that has already been installed can be used until the original expiration date – as long as the smartphone is not reset or the BMW Connected App is deleted.
BMW Digital Key- Generation 1.5
The next generation of the BMW Digital Key, Generation 1.5, was introduced in July 2020, and initially only supported iOS; however, Android OS has been supported since November 2021. This next generation Digital Key grants customers access to the same features as the previous generation – unlock, lock, and vehicle start/stop. Apple watches of the 5th generation or higher are also supported with this generation.
Customers can send a Digital Key to up to 5 recipients via the MyBMW app and the key is stored in the secure element of iPhone or Android smartphones. The Digital Key can be accessed via Apple, Google, or Samsung Pass wallet. Compatibility was also broadened to work with iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max or newer. Devices with iOS 13.6 and watchOS 6.2.8 are required in conjunction with optional equipment Teleservices (SA 6AE).
Activation is simple via the MyBMW app, e-mail, or the head unit – so no trip to the dealership is required. An awesome feature that parents will love is the addition of “Restricted Functions”, which essentially allows you to restrict certain features such as; maximum speed limit, radio volume limit, and the inability to deactivate Dynamic Stability Control or Driver Assistance Systems.
BMW Digital Key Plus
In July 2021, beginning with the iX, BMW introduced the latest and greatest version of the Digital Key, called BMW Digital Key Plus.This was the first time BMW incorporated Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology into this system. The smartphone is located using UWB, while data transfer is accomplished via Bluetooth Low Energy, which uses a form of two-factor authentication to boost the security.
Compatibility is explicitly limited to Apple iOS devices equipped with the Apple’s U1 chip. Apple iPhones of Generation 11 or later and Apple Watches of Generation 6 or later are not supported. It is possible to use an Android smartphone with BMW Digital Key Plus; however, Comfort Access 2.0 features are not available, regardless if the device is equipped with UWB or not. Communication is solely restricted to NFC on Android devices. Optional equipment Comfort Access (OE 322) must also be installed in the vehicle and the Digital Key Plus is only available in ConnectedDrive markets.
Activation is simplistic, user-friendly, and can be performed inside the vehicle. The vehicle must be connected to the customer account at BMW to activate a new Digital Key. From the iDrive menu, select BMW Digital Key, Add Master Key, then follow the instructions on the central information display. Launch the MyBMW app, (an email with a one-time activation code can also be used if you would like to activate an alternative way), follow the instructions on your smartphone, enter BMW pairing mode, and the Digital Key is then added to your Apple Wallet.
Share your BMW Digital Key with others
You can share your BMW Digital Key with family members and friends remotely by simply sending an iMessage to the recipient from the owner’s smartphone, they can then add the Digital Key to their wallet. Similar to the previous generation, Restricted Functions can also be assigned to Digital Key Plus recipients – restricted functions are similar to the previous generation; however, availability depends on vehicle model and equipment specification. Functions are similar to an ID transmitter (remote key) and Comfort Access 2.0.
To unlock/lock the vehicle, simply walk towards the vehicle or move away from the vehicle with the active smartphone on your person. The vehicle automatically unlocks while approaching from a distance of 32 feet. When the user reaches approximately 9 feet, the welcome scene – among others begins and the light carpet is activated. The vehicle unlocks at approximately 5 feet when approaching. The vehicle is subsequently locked when departing the vehicle from a distance of approximately 7 feet. Unlike previous BMW Digital Key generations, the smartphone does not need to be placed in the smartphone tray to establish drive-readiness – simply have your smartphone inside the vehicle and depress the start/stop button.
If your smartphone battery dies, the BMW Digital Key reverts to NFC technology for a period of up to 5 hours. Simply hold your dead smartphone to the driver’s door handle to unlock/lock the vehicle and to start the vehicle, place the smartphone in the wireless charging tray.
BMW Digital Key Card
Introduced in the G series chassis in November 2018, the BMW Digital Key Card fits in your wallet and resembles a debit/credit card – no more bulky remote key in your pocket. To use the BMW Digital Key Card, vehicles must have optional equipment Comfort Access (SA 322) or BMW Digital Key (SA 3DK) in conjunction with Wireless Charging (SA 6NW). It’s important to note that if the wireless charging option is not installed, the technical prerequisites for the BMW Digital Key will still be satisfied; however, wireless charging of your smartphone is not possible. The Digital Key Card is based on NFC technology with an NFC reader integrated into the driver’s door handle to query data from the NFC chip.
To unlock your BMW using the Digital Key Card, simply tap the card on the driver’s door handle to unlock. To start the vehicle, place the card in the wireless charging tray and depress the start/stop button. To lock the vehicle, press the three stripes on the top of the driver’s door handle for a few seconds. You can also lock the vehicle by tapping the card on the driver’s door handle.
The BMW Digital Key Card does not expire and functions as a normal key once activated. If you lose your BMW Digital Key Card, it must be blocked – similar to a lost ID transmitter. In contrast to blocking a lost ID transmitter via dealership diagnostic equipment, the Digital Key Card can be blocked via the vehicle’s operating system and a new Digital Key can be obtained from a BMW dealership. Be sure to bring your physical key to transfer service data to the new Digital Key Card.
Currently, only one BMW Digital Key Card may be active at any time.