Evolution of the “Keyfob”

When I talk to my friends about my work, they always chuckle when I first mention the word “keyfob”.  I usually have to explain to them what it is.  ”Keyfob” (aka, “key fob” or simply “fob”) is an English word that one hears more commonly in Britain than the US.  In its most general usage, keyfob simply means a device for holding keys – such as a key ring.  US auto makers and aftermarket alarm manufacturers use the word more specifically to mean an automotive remote transmitter.

The first remote transmitters for aftermarket alarm and keyless entry systems all were keyfobs.  However, during the past decade, vehicle manufacturers started tweaking the concept.  First, they combined the key with the remote, either in the form of a “keyhead” remote (which integrates the remote transmitter and buttons into a plastic housing that forms the traditional head of the key), or in the form of a “switchblade” remote (in which the key sits inside the remote case until it is flipped out by pressing an additional button on the remote).

More recently, some vehicle manufacturers have made the key itself obsolete by simply putting a transponder in the remote to handle the key’s security function and placing a push-button ignition switch in the vehicle.  The “keyfobs” for these systems are typically referred to as “proximity remotes” or “smart keys”.  In some cases – such as Toyota’s Prius and newer Chrysler 300s – these devices must be seated in a receptacle on the dashboard for the ignition button to operate.  Our industry has adopted the term “Fobik” specifically for these proximity remotes.

Any tech savvy teenager can tell you where this is all headed.  Before long, you will operate all of the features of your current remote via an ap on your iPhone, and there will be no keyfobs at all.  Of course, when that happens you will have to start carrying a key again as an emergency back-up device to operate your vehicle when you misplace your phone or there is an electrical failure in your vehicle.

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