Keychain – an accessory that’s as old as the keys themselves, and despite all the technological advances we still hear that jingle everywhere. It proved to be extremely useful to attach important pieces of information to the most common object in our pockets.

However, ask anybody now “what is more precious and hard to forget – keys or your daily-driver smartphone?”, and the answer is obvious. Technology is constantly diminishing the need for old-fashioned keys and keychains. And now, the next-gen wearables and IoT are taking their turn.

Smartphones have already changed what we carry around

Audi Connect App Early Screenshot

The world goes digital, and so does security. Even the cheapest phones now substitute dozens of old-fashioned ways to get, store, and protect information. Receipts, phone books, paper memos, coupons, and even cash – all disappearing from our pockets. Keys are becoming obsolete, too.

Since the first security key fobs, keyless entry systems have been improved drastically. While the old keyless systems could be easily hacked, modern mobile and encryption technologies make it much more difficult. This is also why Audi and other Volkswagen Group brands are striving to integrate security into mobile apps.

In 2010, Audi became the first car manufacturer to integrate a UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) module into every new model. In 2013, they have introduced a full-fledged LTE module.

What is the next step?

Audi Smartwatch App On Apple Watch

Smartwatches have already successfully substituted credit cards and mobile payments. Android Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay, all allow a smartwatch owner to pay straight from his wrist. This would sound crazy even a decade ago, just like the keyless entry sounded in 1835 when Chubb brothers invented the first burglar-resisting safe.

Since 2015, Audi has been actively showcasing different wearable concept projects that could carry on the torch. The concepts went as far as a complete Audi smartwatch, although the product never reached the market. Today, Audi offers a free Audi MMI Connect app that supports both WatchOS (Apple Watch) and Android Wear watches.

All of the security access features are still coming first to the mobile world, but wearables are the next logical step for the industry.

Audi MMI Connect App

And it will happen, the only question is – when?

To answer this question, we will have to wait for the three main pieces of the puzzle.

Two puzzle pieces laying on a table

First, price

Even the cheapest fitness trackers are currently nowhere near the price of a key fob security token. Additionally, connected wearables still compete with smartphones in the security niche. However, given that the prices for budget standalone smartwatches drop, they may gradually become the next key fob.

Smartwatches are highly programmable and versatile. It’s amazing how even the modern technologies allow us to use them – as cool accessories, functional fitness helpers, payment tools, music players, quick navigation systems, etc. In the future, when cheap smartwatches will become as accessible as the car keys, they will be everywhere.

Second, battery

Security tokens work either without battery at all or have it last for months. Even modern smartphones often live longer on one charge than a single day. Smartwatches, on the other hand, don’t. Most of them still can’t provide over 24 hours of battery life.

Solution – more efficient or simply bigger batteries. Quick wireless charging may be nice but still doesn’t help in making a smartwatch more appealing as a key replacement. Battery life should definitely get better.

Lastly, internet of things

In order for the keyless entry to become widespread as a notion at all, we will have to see more door locks that support such function. Furthermore, additional security measures like smart door cameras and face recognition will make it easier for people to trust technology with their home security.

As soon as IoT successfully reaches most of the households, budget keyless entry options like a smart lock + smartwatch combo will become the next best alternative both to expensive security systems and cheap old key fobs. There will be no point in carrying around a keychain without keys when you always have a “smart key” on your wrist.

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