Bluetooth LE-based passive keyless entry locks out car thieves

November 15, 2018 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
The Belgian nanoelectronics research institute Imec has demonstrated what it claims to be the first solution for secure passive keyless entry on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). A key factor for the security is a novel, very exact distance measuring technique.

Imec’s demonstrator, shown at the Electronica trade fair, builds on the research center’s Secure High Accuracy Distance Measurement (HADM) algorithms implemented on BLE. This technique achieves an accuracy of 30 centimeters – which is over 10 times better than current approaches, even those already using phase-based ranging techniques – and will be enriched with physical layer security features that create a secure distance measurement between two Bluetooth-enabled communication devices. 

With this innovation, the research institute proves that BLE is ready to support a range of novel services for proximity applications in a secure and cost-effective way. These range from passive keyless access to cars and smart door-locks to accurate indoor navigation and tire pressure measurement applications. 

A growing number of cars offer passive keyless entry solutions that automatically unlock a car’s doors as its owner approaches. Yet, ways of electronically stealing a car have become increasingly sophisticated as well – with relay attacking being a well-known risk. “To date, automotive players are looking at several radio technologies to improve the security of passive electronic keys,” explains Kathleen Philips, IoT director at Imec. “To enable mainstream adoption in the automotive domain, important factors are energy consumption, cost and security against today’s and future attack methodologies.”


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