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Fraunhofer shows off shareable smartphone door keys

The goal is to make the technology more versatile

Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology (SIT) has taken the concept of using NFC-equipped smartphones as keys one step further by allowing access rights to be shared.

Using a smartphone as a key to open doors is much more convenient and flexible than using a card, because electronic keys can be issued remotely and access rights can be changed, according to Alexandra Dmitrienko, research assistant at the SIT.

The system SIT has developed is called Key2Share, which is being demonstrated at the CeBIT trade show this week and aims to make the use of smartphones as keys more versatile. As long as it is allowed by the administrator, the user can delegate his or her rights and keys to others.

"For instance, if you are in an office and expecting a visitor, you don't have to go downstairs and meet the guest. Instead you can send them a temporary electronic key," Dmitrienko said.

In much the same way the sharing feature can be used to grant access to one's home. A user can, for example, grant the building superintendent access for a short period to read the gas meter, according to Dmitrienko.

A key can be shared either via email or by using the camera on the recipient's smartphone to scan a QR code. The key can be configured to work during a certain time period or for a limited number of times.

In addition to allowing access to doors and parcel or locker compartments, the technology could also be used to administer keys in hotels or as part of car-sharing schemes. The SIT has developed another prototype system where the smartphone can also be used to start the car engine.

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