Using keys will be a thing of the past in many areas of life in the future. Enabling this trend is Infineon Technologies AG, which is launching a solution on the market that can be used to open and close locks via the mobile phone—without any batteries in the lock. The application gets the power it needs contactlessly from the mobile phone. This is also referred to as energy harvesting.
“Infineon is paving the way with the new solution for doing away with keys,” says Adam White, Division President Power & Sensor Systems at Infineon. “By dispensing with batteries, we are providing, for the first time, a reliable, low-maintenance and secure way of opening and closing smart locks.”
Infineon says that it will also put the solution for contactless energy transfer to use in other applications. “Our solution for contactless use of energy saves resources due to the lack of batteries. In addition, it will enable new applications in which the use of batteries was previously too complex or too cost-intensive,” says White. One example is to measure parameters that are difficult to access, like a NFC passive tire pressure sensor for bicycles.
To activate the lock, the mobile phone must be held directly on it. Near-field communication (NFC) is used to check whether the device is also actually authorized to open the lock. This is where encryption technology comes in. At the same time, energy is transferred contactlessly to a capacitor that opens or closes the lock.
The core of the solution is the programmable 32-bit ARM Cortex-M0 microcontroller with a built-in NFC frontend. With integrated power generation and a H-bridge, the NAC1080 enables customers to launch miniaturized smart locks on the market with very few components. The NAC1080 has an additional integrated AES128 accelerator and a true random number generator to allow data encryption and decryption with extremely low power consumption.
The Infineon technology is especially suitable for locks that require little mechanical effort, such as in office furniture, hospitals and fitness studios. Other possible applications are bicycle locks, mailboxes and parcel boxes. The solution thus provides greater convenience and flexibility, while at the same time cutting the costs for key management in private and commercial properties.
The new solution from Infineon can, however, also be used in complex locking systems such as front doors. It steps in as an emergency solution when batteries in standard smart locks are out of power, or when keys are lost. Although the response time for more complex door locks is longer, it does dispense with having to rely on an expensive locksmith service.
The market for smart locks is booming. It was valued in 2020 at $1.4 billion, and is expected to grow from 2021 to 2028, at an average annual rate of 18.2 percent, to $5.3 billion. This growth will gain even more momentum through the use of battery-free devices.