Validating smart key solution to unlock future potentials of Automotive

Key feature

  • Owner pairing with vehicles
  • Lock/unlock vehicles
  • Sharing Digital Keys with Friend Devices

Technical stack

  • Java Spring Boot to host owner’s account and key’s data
  • Java to build Native Android application 
  • Postgres DB to store Digital Keys, transactions, and application configurations.

Development team

  • 2 Off-shore Scrum Teams (14 people) + 3 On-site BrSEs
  • 12 sprints to complete the PoC

Virtual car key removes users’ need to physically carry car keys, enabling the complete digitalization of the customer journey for private cars, vehicle fleets, car-sharing, or rental cars.



Nowadays, with smartphones, we can have the whole world in the palm of our hands. Players in the automotive sector do not let these disruptive trends pass them by. They have already established the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC), a cross-industry organization aiming to develop global standards and solutions for smartphone and in-vehicle connectivity. The CCC Digital Key, especially, enables mobile devices to store, authenticate, and share digital keys for vehicles in a secure, privacy-preserving way that works everywhere, even when the smartphone’s battery is low. Moreover, its 2.0 specification has been facilitating a standardized method for virtual car access.

Our client is the electronics division of a conglomerate in Japan, whose aim is to build a smart key solution that meets the CCC standard. It started with a PoC evaluating Digital Key Release 2.0 specification of Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC), which leverages Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to enable compatible mobile devices such as smartphones to securely access vehicles. And GEM has been chosen to be the partner throughout this promising journey.

The PoC project aims to validate the following functions of digital car keys:

Owner pairing with vehicles

Lock/unlock vehicles

Sharing Digital Keys with Friend Devices


GEM had to acknowledge several obstacles when embarking on the project. First, The CCC mainly included some big players in the Automotive and Smartphone industry, meaning that the community that discussed Digital key initiatives was relatively small. Second, given that the smartphone-to-car solution was just an established concept, there were not many prior CCC-complied projects on Digital keys that GEM’s tech team can use as a benchmark for the PoC.

Next, the PoC deal with NFC technology, so the execution would have to deal with various complex cyphers or algorithms, which were the instructions for the encryption process. The smart key solution must ensure a high-security level and make the car’s data accessible only for authorized users. The challenging task came with a squeezed timeline, making it an even more challenging for both parties.


After analyzing and defining the project specification, GEM used Android applications to deploy the smart key. The apps took the role of an Owner Device and Friend Device. The NFC technology is integrated into the app to support contactless transactions to lock and unlock the vehicle, configure user authentication (e.g., passcode), check service eligibility before allowing owner pairing or accepting others’ digital keys.

GEM team facilitated Vehicle OEM Server and Device Server to host owner account, owner devices information, manage Digital Keys, provide and update certificates.


After two months of active communication and intensive execution, the GEM team had successfully validated the responsiveness and effectiveness of the NFC-enabled devices. The smart key solution could facilitate the coordination of mobile Device OEMs and Vehicle OEMs to build products with ease of use, convenience, security and privacy protections, and extensive capability.

The success of the PoC project had led the company to the next step – realizing the solution for mass production. The first client would be one of the CCC members. The GEM product will be used in millions of cars in the future.