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EETE FEB 2015

WIRELEsS COMUNICATIONS RF car key could make vehicles ‘cool’ according to NXP TBy Junko Yoshida he car key is seemingly destined to become the most visible object differentiating one car brand from another, thus cementing the bond between carmakers and car owners. At least, that’s the expectation of car OEMs — and NXP Semiconductors is banking on it. The Dutch chip supplier, known for its prominence in the keyless entry and immobilization IC market, unveiled a new smart-car access chip integrating passive keyless entry, a RF transmitter for remote control, and an immobilizer in one package. The latest chip, dubbed NCF29A1, has been sampled by Tier Ones and car OEMs, said Lars Reger, vice president of strategy, new business, and R&D for the automotive business unit at NXP. “You’ll be able to see cool cars fitted with innovative keys in 2015.” The NCF29A1, which comes with a variety of upgraded features, including an ultra-low-power programmable microcontroller core, allows car OEMs to make car keys sexier than the remote key fobs that have become ubiquitous and boring. Reger described his potential “cool car.” When a driver with the new improved key in pocket, briefcase, or Maxwell Smart shoe-heel approaches his car, the car picks up the key’s unique vibe from a range of five to ten meters. The car responds by hitting the welcome lights. (The car shines “orange” lights for its primary driver and “pink” lights for the driver with a second key.) Once the driver touches the door handle equipped with capacitive touch sensors, the car awakes and unlocks the door. Once inside a car, the driver simply pushes for ignition and liftoff. According to NXP, myriad features reside in the NCF29A1. These include the superior sensitivity of the low-frequency front-end, in which low quiescent current enables best-in-class battery lifetime. Distance bonding restricts the activation range for safety-critical remote control functions. It is the combination of transponder, UHF Transmitter, and RISC Controller on the same chip that enables new safety and security features. It accommodates a wide range of regional sub-1GHz frequencies from 310 MHz to 447 MHz (868/915 MHz upon request). It allows multi-channel RF transmitter operation for robust operation and key localization (within 5 cm) with a 3D LF interface. The highly integrated chip allows the lowest external component count, thus enabling further cost reduction for Tier Ones and OEMs, the company said. It also comes with “peer-reviewed AES security” that helps prevent key cloning and vehicle theft, it added. Because the new chip is lower power (claiming 40% longer battery life) and 70% smaller, it allows OEMs options for new key designs, said Reger. “Carmakers can design, for example, their branded smartphone cases integrated with passive key entry chips or smartwatches that can also serve as a car key.” Often, when a car is tucked out of sight in the garage, the key serves as a new status symbol, said Reger. A driver, for instance, might show off his ownership of a luxury EV by casually plunking down a visibly branded car key on the table in a pub, he explained. “For car OEMs, car keys are becoming a new differentiator,” he added. They provide “emotional manipulation” of the consumer experience. Supply chain NXP designs smart car entry architecture - in both software and hardware - not only for keys, but also for in-car units that respond to smart car keys. “So, if we ever have any supply problems with our passive key entry chip solutions, that could literally force car OEMs to stop assembly lines,” said Reger. “Fortunately, we’ve established a solid supply chain, and we’ve never had any serious allocation problems before.” As an automotive chip supplier, “what’s important isn’t just whether your chips meet all the stringent automotive quality requirements. A supply chain that won’t get interrupted is equally important” to gain the OEMs’ trust. Citing the Strategy Analytics report of the third quarter of 2014, NXP described that the share of complex, semiconductor intensive entry systems (passive keyless entry) is constantly Junko Yoshida is Chief International Correspondent at EETimes growing. 32 Electronic Engineering Times Europe February 2015 www.electronics-eetimes.com


EETE FEB 2015
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