Near Field Communication (NFC) was initially promoted as a mobile payments method, but the technology has since been applied to a broader range of applications - and the list is still growing. One of these is a new system allowing for NFC implementation in a car key, which has been launched by the Dutch company NXP Semiconductors. The system is a production-ready single-chip solution dubbed KEyLink Lite (codenamed NCF2970) that enables a connection between a "smart" car key and external NFC-compliant devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops.

NFC is a short-range (up to 20 cm/8 inches) standard of radio communication between electronic devices, so far mainly used in smartphones (such as the Nokia C7 and Google Nexus S). Combining NXP's existing car key security technologies, cryptography technology, and an NFC system operating at 13.56MHz frequency, KEyLink Lite will allow users to access sensitive car data by simply waving the key near an NFC-enabled device.

Some of the KEyLink Lite features would include:

Car Finder

The key will record GPS coordinates (presumably connecting to the in-car navigation system) of the car's current parking location, allowing users to locate their vehicle with the use of a mobile phone and online maps.

Route Planner

This proposed function will allow drivers to plan their route at home, transfer the details to the key, and then upload them from key to the in-car navigation system.

Car Status and Service Data Management

There will be no need to remember the fuel level or keep the car service history on paper any more. All of this information can be stored on the key, and transferred to a laptop or smartphone when needed.

Car Self-Diagnosis

Diagnostic data can be transferred from the car to a PC via the key, and then uploaded to a diagnostic website for analysis.

Car Personalization

Car manufacturers could offer some additional, exclusive features in their vehicles and provide clients with the possibility of unlocking them with the use of the key.

NXP developed a multi-functional Smart Key prototype with BMW in the past, which was supposed to work as a method for mobile payments. The Dutch company, however, does not mention such an application for the current device.

The KEyLink Lite technology is now available for production. There is no word yet on which car manufacturer may actually use it, or when.