The Key as a Service portfolio of Continental and its subsidiary OTA keys includes the solutions “Remote Cloud Key” and “Smart Device Integrated Access”. Both these systems are based on the same technology platform. While Smart Device Integrated Access targets OEMs and is designed for fixed integration into the vehicle architecture, Remote Cloud Key (RCK) is a solution for the aftermarket that enables users to open or close a vehicle via an app and to release the vehicle for engine startup. The solution is based on a battery-operated hardware adapter that’s tuned into the vehicle like an additional radio key. The adapter is easy to install, with no modifications necessary to the vehicle’s hardware or software architecture.
The Continental.cloud platform generates a virtual key on demand and transmits it to the app. The smartphone forwards it to the RCK adapter in the vehicle via Bluetooth LE. If the adapter determines that the transmitted key is valid, it controls the locking system of the car via the vehicle-specific RF/LF protocol or authorizes engine start.
Since communication between the smartphone and the RCK adapter takes place locally, the adapter doesn’t require Internet connectivity. Neither the smartphone nor the app requires a network connection for opening and closing the car or the engine start operations. This ensures the system functions reliably both at street level and underground parking garages and other places without network access.
Key as a Service is based on state-of-the-art authentication and authorization mechanisms such as asymmetric encryption, rolling key codes and other advanced security measures. The technology was significantly advanced by the Continental business units Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) and Body & Security (B&S) and their research and development departments in Silicon Valley and Regensburg. In September 2014, Continental also founded the joint venture OTA keys which focuses on the development of Key as a Service. Continental took over 100 percent of this subsidiary in 2017.
Trial operations with US car rental companies Hertz and Avis Budget are already underway
The Remote Cloud Key (RCK) can be expanded into a full-fledged car sharing module. To achieve this, Continental integrates the RCK adapter into an OBD II module – this means that power is supplied via the vehicle, and GPS localization and connectivity take place via mobile phone. By accessing the OBD-II interface, the module can read data such as fuel level, mileage, tire pressure and diagnostic information and send the information to Continental.cloud. This makes it possible to integrate the virtual vehicle key into the processes and business models of car-rental providers, car-sharing operators and into similar applications.
Continental has been testing this solution with US car rental companies Hertz and Avis Budget in extensive trials. Customers only need the rental company’s app to manage all aspects of the rental process. The solution can access the car rental company’s fleet management platform, allowing customers to select one of the vehicles available on a smartphone and initiate the rental process right away. The rental company then unlocks the vehicle and starts the engine with the start/stop button.
Additional information can also be transmitted as part of the communication between the app and the vehicle, such as the driver’s preferences for example, seat position, air conditioning, presets and apps for the infotainment system. When a rental vehicle is returned, the solution can automatically delete these settings and all personal data from the infotainment system’s memory.
Smart Device Integrated Access turns smartphones into full-fledged radio keys
Continental.cloud generates and transmits the virtual vehicle keys, while the backend also ensures high scalability in terms of car manufacturers, vehicle models and regions. Continental estimates that the Remote Cloud Key is compatible with 500 to 800 million existing vehicles.
Continental.cloud also transmits virtual vehicle keys for the OEM solution Smart Device Integrated Access mentioned above, making the specific communication protocols available. In this case, the hardware required by the vehicle is either installed as a standalone control unit or integrated into a vehicle body control unit, for instance.
Developed by Continental’s Body & Security Business Unit, this system can completely dispense with the need to operate the locking process via an app and can be implemented as a completely passive access system. Here the smartphone takes on the role of a radio car key – the driver only has to carry the phone with him/her for authorization. Communication between the smartphone and the vehicle components takes place via Bluetooth LE. Just like a radio key system, Bluetooth satellites installed in the vehicle recognize whether the smartphone is outside or inside the vehicle.
Scalable and flexible architecture as the basis for many business models
Key as a Service forms the basis for many innovative business models. In addition to simplifying processes and improving customer experience, it can also offer car-sharing providers and their customers’ similar benefits. Peer-to-peer car-sharing platforms can also be made more convenient by eliminating the need to physically hand over a vehicle key.
Fleet managers can digitally manage the allocation of fleet vehicles to their drivers by simply using an app to provide the authorized driver with a virtual vehicle key. Breakdown services can also provide assistance in situations where the driver isn’t on site. Vehicle-related services like valet parking, car washing and care as well as mobile refueling services can be carried out using the app, without having to physically hand over a vehicle key. Continental’s solution can also facilitate easy deliveries for the package / parcel delivery industry enabling secure storage of consignments in trunks of parked cars of almost any manufacturer or model.
KaaS also offers significant advantages for families, who can simply use a smartphone to transfer vehicle access and/or usage rights, without having to physically hand over a vehicle key.
Extensive software support for B2B customers and project partners
The Continental solution includes comprehensive software support for B2B customers: Continental provides an SDK (software development kit) to integrate Key as a Service into the apps and platforms of these providers. The SDK supports secure transmission of access data from the app and from the backend through the secure REST (Representational State Transfer) programming architecture. Continental is continually expanding its platform with more vehicle-specific protocols.
The SDK is complemented by an easy-to-use provisioning environment that supports the fast and easy integration of new vehicles into the KaaS platform. Continental ensures 99.95 percent availability of its platform within the framework of service level agreements. The backend can also be operated in its own public or private cloud if a customer or project partner requests this. The platform also allows the integration of additional functions and elements such as app-based billing and payment solutions.
Andreas Wolf – Head of Body & Security Business Unit, Continental
Jennifer Wahnschaff– Head of ITS Business Unit, Continental