Some carmakers offer a “digital key” that allows owners to use a companion smartphone app to lock and unlock their cars, and even start the engine without needing a physical key. It’s certainly a convenient feature to have, but it does have some limitations.

However, these limitations will be minimised or eliminated altogether in the future, as the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) is finalising standards for the next-generation of digital key technology, which will be revealed later this year.

The consortium, which also includes smartphone and automotive manufacturers – such as BMW and Apple – aims to establish uniform technology standards that are necessary to improve digital vehicle access, with full functionality available on various customer devices from different vendors and regardless of the vehicle manufacturer. For now, there’s no word on when automakers will launch cars that comply with CCC’s upcoming specifications.

In light of this, the new Digital Key Release 2.0 specification put forth by the CCC will employ near-field communication (NFC) technology. This sees the use of a dedicated security chip that works separately from the smartphone operating system. As such, the chip will still function even if the smartphone’s battery is too low or unable to start for whatever reason.

Other enhancements will come with the Digital Key Release 3.0 specification, which is based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) in combination with ultra-wideband (UWB). This will offer better anti-theft protection, more precise localisation between the device and the vehicle, as well as improved convenience as you will no longer need to hold your smartphone directly up to the door handle to unlock the car.