Electronic car stealing becomes “impossible” with the new imec Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology for secure passive, non-contact car keys. Imec is one of the world’s most important research and innovation hubs in the field of nanoelectronics and digital technology. Its head offices are in Leuven and Eindhoven. According to the research institute, Imec’s solution has a high level of accuracy and meets the highest safety requirements, which makes it impossible to steal cars electronically. By using standard chip technology, the solution can be rolled out on a large scale in cars, smartphones or sensors for smart buildings, for example.

“In its search for technologies that can make the communication between the contactless car key and the lock more secure, the automotive industry is studying various solutions,” says Kathleen Philips, IoT director at imec. “What is particularly important is that this technology has a very low energy consumption, is cheap, and is extremely secure against attacks by hackers. Stealing cars or entering homes without breaking and entering is a lucrative business, so the security level must be such that the security cannot be circumvented.”

The security of the solution is partly due to the security mechanisms that were developed in collaboration with researchers from COSIC, an imec research group at the KU Leuven. This process prevents that the measured distance between the contactless car key and the lock can be manipulated, making hacking the lock impossible. Imec will soon be inviting ethical hackers to test the safety of the system and to underline its robustness.

“BLE is very energy efficient,” says Philips. “Moreover, it is already included in all mobile phones. As a result, the technology is supported by a very broad industrial ecosystem. We are the first to demonstrate that BLE is perfectly capable of supporting these kinds of solutions for the automotive industry.”

In addition to passive, non-contact car keys, imec’s solution, according to imec, is also interesting for smart door locks, precise indoor navigation, or measuring vehicle tire pressure.