The car is parked in the company lot, with windows and sunroof open to vent the interior. Suddenly it begins to rain hard. Instead of rushing from the office to get to the car (by which time the interior—and motorist—would likely be soaked), the motorist just presses the button on his key fob. And using his smart phone, Bluetooth-connected to the key fob, he runs an applet that brings up a vehicle status screen and he transmits a signal from phone to key fob to car to raise the windows and close the sunroof.
Today's key fobs typically have an RF range of perhaps 30 m (100 ft) and have limited access to the vehicle electronics. Delphi has developed a high-performance key fob transmitter that can work as far as 1 km (0.6 mi). The distance is a function of the combination of transmission power, receiver sensitivity, and antenna design.
The key fob has the electronics to serve as a gateway to a vehicle's data network if enabled and, with a smart phone and applets, permits a series of functions that even the cellular-based systems such as OnStar and its competitors do not offer. Further, the system would entail no monthly subscriptions—just download the apps and it's ready to go. The key-fob-with-smart-phone solution is another system that reflects the trend away from the brick-and-mortar-based cellular operations staffed by thousands of operators. And the smart phone applets can work with vehicle electronics and telematics even if out of Bluetooth range and if cellular service is unavailable.
Yes, the carmaker has to enable the vehicle network access through the key fob, but if it already provides access for cellular systems, the primary additional costs are for new software, the key fob, and in-vehicle receiver—a modest addition to the price of the car. Delphi has developed a number of sample applications for the smart fob/phone including:
• Interior settings including climate control, radio, remote engine start, and seat positions.
• Vehicle status, such as whether doors and tailgate are locked and windows and sunroof are open or closed, and tire pressures. Closing windows and sunroof in case of rain or opening them to vent in hot weather would be subfeatures of this application, which could be combined with turning on the climate control blower fan.
• Remote vehicle access, such as lock and unlock, and panic button—basically the key fob features on the smart phone touch screen.
• Views from a vehicle's security and exterior cameras, and if desired, a camera even could take photos of anyone around or even in the car, such as an intruder.
• Engine data display, including starting the engine with remote start, and reading a digital display of the vehicle's instrument cluster gauges, or vehicle scan data items if enabled.
• Vehicle alerts, from maintenance reminders (including oil life remaining) and generic trouble codes—both code numbers and their meanings.
• Vehicle finder. If out of range of the key fob, it would use GPS.
• Electric vehicle support. If the vehicle already was plugged in, it would be able to check charge level, estimate distance available on existing state of charge, and estimate time to finish charging.
Delphi also has developed a key fob for the NFC (Near Field Communications) wireless standard employed on some cars, particularly European models. This low-range technology (just 50-mm/2-in wireless distance) can store vehicle data in the specific key fob on vehicle shutdown. And like the key fob with a Bluetooth smart phone connection, it could use the same apps via RF and GPS by plugging an NFC adapter into the smart phone and holding the NFC key fob close to it.