Bluetooth® technology is transforming the way we use smartphones, turning them into convenient and secure digital keys for various applications. With 515 million location service devices projected to ship annually by 2027, increased adoption is being driven by a heightened awareness of the benefits and capabilities of Bluetooth positioning solutions.
LIXIL, a renowned name in Japan’s building and housing industries, has embraced Bluetooth technology as their solution of choice for their innovative FamiLock household digital keys. By leveraging Bluetooth technology’s wide smartphone adoption, energy efficiency, and robust security, LIXIL developed a product that allows users to effortlessly lock and unlock doors using their smartphones. I recently had an opportunity to speak with Mr. Hidetada Sakai from LIXIL Housing Technology’s Sash & Door division about the development of this technology.
Q&A With Hidetada Sakai From LIXIL
How does the FamiLock solution utilize Bluetooth technology to differentiate from other similar smart home solutions in the market?
For many years locking and unlocking front doors has traditionally been done with mechanical keys. Recently, however, demand has increased for improved user operability, which has led to the use of smart entry keys such as cards and remotes that enable one-touch operation.
By utilizing Bluetooth® technology, we were able to achieve our goal of enabling locking and unlocking via smartphone from inside a pocket.
In this context, we have been developing a product that eliminates the need to carry a dedicated key specifically for the home by enabling personal smartphones to be used instead. Given how common it is for one’s hands to be occupied upon trying to enter one’s home, the act of taking a key out from a bag or pocket can be very inconvenient. We believe that true convenience lies in the ability to work locks via a smartphone from inside one’s pocket. For this purpose, the communication standard that we were to use needed to be widely incorporated in smartphones and energy efficient, have a controllable authentication range, and address security concerns.
Bluetooth® technology was essential to fulfilling each and every one of these conditions and was our first-choice technology. By utilizing Bluetooth technology, we were able to achieve our goal of enabling locking and unlocking via smartphone from inside a pocket, and we have received favorable feedback to the introduction of the industry’s first FamiLock.
Why did you choose Bluetooth technology over other wireless technologies?
When considering how to make the smartphone as a front door key concept into reality, we were aware of alternatives to Bluetooth® technology, such as NFC and Wi-Fi. NFC would allow for unlocking and locking after a smartphone’s battery has died, but its short communication distance requires that the smartphone be removed from one’s pocket and held in front of the door, which is an inconvenience that we were hoping to avoid.
Bluetooth® technology has proven to be the best solution as it has a wider range than NFC and is more power efficient.
While Wi-Fi allows for authentication over a wider range than NFC, it was not possible to adopt it for use as a smart entry key technology as it consumes a large amount of power, and door-side batteries would not last as long as they need to as a result.
Bluetooth technology has proven to be the best solution as it has a wider range than NFC and is more power efficient (thanks to Bluetooth Low Energy). It is also a technology with a household name that has seen a wide variety of technical achievements. We ultimately adopted Bluetooth technology, confident that it will continue to be in use for a long time to come.