It looks like you may be able to open car doors with your iPhone soon. The ever-expanding Internet of Things (IoT) is always introducing new things you can do with your smartphone. A couple of new clues recently unearthed point towards the Cupertino company bringing the IoT to car locks and more through a potential Apple CarKey API.
Apple hasn’t officially released any information about these upcoming functions. However, eagle-eyed users have found hints about them in recent iOS beta versions and a patent application from the tech giant. While nothing is certain at this point, it seems that Apple may have big plans for CarKey.
What Is CarKey?
As Apple Insider points out, iOS 13.4’s first beta version included code for a CarKey API, which seems straightforward enough. The system would turn your iPhone into a key fob for your car. Using CarKey, you could unlock and lock your car doors from the convenience of your phone.
CarKey would work similarly to Apple Pay. You would store a virtual key in your Wallet app, where you can access it through a fingerprint scan or passcode. When you want to unlock your car, you put your phone near the car’s NFC reader, open your Wallet, and then you’re in.
Unlike Apple Pay, it seems that CarKey allows you to share your keys with other people, at least in a limited capacity. You’d be able to let others unlock your car, but not drive it. The service would also allow you to use an “express mode,” where you can use it without face or touch ID.
It makes sense that Apple is moving to add more vehicle functionality. From collision warning to keyless ignition, car electronics are on the rise, so it’s only natural that they join the IoT. With CarKey, Apple is helping in that transition.
CarKey Meets Apple HomeKit
The underlying technology for CarKey may apply to more than just your vehicle. A recent patent application from Apple suggests they’re looking to allow you to access various systems from your phone. The patent did specifically mention vehicle functions, like starting an engine, but didn’t seem to be solely focused on cars.
This technology could be an expansion of Apple’s HomeKit system. HomeKit lets you control all of your smart home devices from a single app. While you may use it mostly to adjust your lights or thermostat, you could use it to lock and unlock your home.
Smart locks are a growing part of the IoT, and Apple’s already familiar with these devices. There are several smart locks with HomeKit support on the market right now, with more likely to come. If the CarKey technology works with HomeKit, it could make the system all the more useful.
Potential Effects of CarKey on Smart Homes
With CarKey’s system, you could unlock your front door without having to fumble with your keys. You could just hold up your phone and open your Wallet app, which holds your virtual house key. This process would improve both convenience and security.
You’re less likely to lose your phone than you are to lose a key. When you can unlock everything from your phone, you wouldn’t have to worry if you misplaced your physical key. All you’d have to do is take out your iPhone.
Current smart lock technology already offers this security, but it doesn’t provide CarKey’s convenience. With CarKey, you can potentially share access with other people, which would be handy if you could do the same with your house key. If you were going out of town for a while, you could grant someone temporary access to your house through these virtual keys.
Apple hasn’t formally announced any of these functions, so you’ll have to wait to see their true extent. We also don’t know if they will integrate with the Apple CarPlay entertainment services already available in some vehicles. But given the present information, it seems you may be able to use your iPhone as a car or house key before long. And this may be just the shot in the arm that HomeKit needs to better compete with Amazon Alexa and Google Home.
Kayla Matthews is a technology journalist and productivity blogger. She is a senior writer for MakeUseOf and the owner and editor of her tech productivity blog, Productivity Bytes. You can read more by Kayla at Inc.com, VentureBeat, DMN, and more.