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Key Fob vs Car Key - Comparing the Main Differences and Advantages

As part of a special class of physical tokens used for security purposes that includes proximity cards, biometric keyless entry fobs, and smart cards, key fobs are a very popular option nowadays.

The small handheld remote control devices incorporate a special technology that controls remote keyless entry systems with the push of a button. If you would like to know how a key fob works, what is a key fob on a car key, what is a key fob for an apartment, and what is the difference between a key fob and key remote, keep reading.

We have compiled a comprehensive guide that should provide you with a deeper look into the question “how does a key fob work”.

What Is a Key Fob?

A key fob is a small-sized electronic and programmable device that enables access to a variety of physical objects ranging from vehicles, garages, computer systems, network services, apartment doors, restricted areas, and other types of keyless entry systems.

Key fobs are also referred to as hardware tokens and they offer on-device, one-factor authentication that eliminates the need to use standard physical keys like the case of manual locks. Usually designed as small remote controls with RFID chips and antennas inside, they rely on radio frequencies to communicate with other RFID tags placed inside reader devices connected to locking systems. All key fob chips are designed for sending certain RFID tag information that perfectly matches the information that the reader device is meant to accept. Accordingly, RFID key fobs can be easily programmed to transmit different types of commands.

What Does FOB in Key Fob Stand For?

The modern-day word “fob” part of the “key fob” expression is most likely derived from the German word “fuppe” which means “pocket”. Prior to key fobs turning into the electronic devices they are known as today, their name was used to describe decorative keychains, usually small trinkets tied to key sets. Modern-day key fobs, therefore, are thought to originate from this definition sourced in the 20th century.

What Is a Key Fob in a Car?car key fob

The majority of keyless entry systems are used together with key fobs for the purpose of locking and unlocking the doors of a vehicle. Once the driver pushes a button on the key fob of the car, a short-range radio transmitter located inside the fob proceeds to send a coded signal to the receiver unit found inside the vehicle. In return, the doors are either locked or unlocked. There are certain key fob models that start the engine remotely or control access to the trunk.

How Is a Key Fob Different From a Normal Car Key?

While standard key fobs are an excellent addition to standard car keys, modern-day vehicles have completely replaced regular keys with keyless fobs. These devices do not only lock and unlock doors but they are also used by drivers to start their cars with the push of a button and serve other purposes.

Most car owners have stopped using physical keys made of metal to lock and unlock their vehicles and started relying on key alternatives that offer higher levels of security and extra convenience in use. The list includes transponder chips and remote control key fobs.

As opposed to standard car keys, key fobs for vehicles are electronic devices small in size that feature a number of buttons on them. These buttons are, as mentioned earlier, meant to help drivers better manage access to their vehicles. They do not only control locking and unlocking doors from a distance, but they can also control the windows, trunk, and even the car’s engine from afar and arm or disarm the car's alarm.

Is a Key Fob More Secure Than a Standard Key?

Since key fobs incorporate receivers and transmitters that are fully synchronized with one another, there is no risk of someone using a different key fob from a different car in an attempt to control your own key fob. However, while remote keyless entry systems only enable access with a certain key fob, unless the manufacturers have taken the right measure to prevent the system from being hijacked, they are vulnerable to a number of exploits.

Generally speaking, RFID key fobs are considered to be more secure compared to physical keys. On occasion, opportunistic thieves who are tech-savvy may be able to use a series of tactics to break into cars and take off with them without too much hassle.

Luckily, today’s key fobs feature a series of security properties that help stop their signals from being easily intercepted and copied. Most of these devices rely on pseudo-random generators of sequences to send out one-of-a-kind unlock sequences every time. Since a key fob’s RFID system is normally keyed to the same sequence, the freshly generated code will engage the lock, rendering any old codes that may have been captured and reproduced useless.

Additional security measures can be used to preserve the protection of key fobs, ranging from key fob enclosures to Faraday bags and security pouches.

What Is a Key Fob for Apartment?

Apartment key fobs are physical access control credentials that allow users to enter common areas of apartment or condominium buildings. These long-range key fobs for apartments can also be used to open garages and car doors with a single click of a button when behind the wheel, entering the respective building.

There are different types of apartment key fobs, including traditional proximity fobs and encrypted key fobs in the form of key tags, garage clickers, key cards, dual frequency tags, and vehicle tags.

What Are the Advantages of Using a Key Fob?

  • It offers an extra layer of protection

  • It is a more reliable device compared to standard keys that can be easily copied

  • Top-quality RFID chips are reliable solutions in the long term

  • It can be deactivated from a remote distance in case of loss or theft

  • It can be easily reprogrammed by expert locksmiths, eliminating the need to invest in new physical locks and keys

  • It speeds up and simplifies the locking/unlocking procedure on vehicles and apartments with electronic lock systems

  • It simplifies the lives of people who suffer from physical disabilities who are having a hard time turning physical keys

  • It is small in size, light-weighted, and versatile through the use of different buttons

  • It can be easily customized to offer access to restricted areas

  • A passive key fob does not need batteries since it is powered by magnetic energy

  • A battery-based key fob has a long lifespan prior to a battery change

If you are looking for assistance with programming a key fob or upgrading your car's locking mechanism to make the switch to a keyless entry system, get in touch with osu expert car locksmiths today!