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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey All,

Love my car, I hate how big the key fob is, especially with comfort access there is almost no cause to actually ever take it out of your pocket, yet AR designed some that’s HUGE.

Anyone with knowledge of how the transmitter works and if there is a way to use an alternative (smaller) transmitter. I would happily have something with no buttons at all, just the proximity based transmitter.

There’s a company called Token (tokenring.com) that claims to be able to do this from a ring.

Anyone else frustrated by the large size of the fob?
 

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I'm definitely frustrated of the thickness of the darn fob vs. it's size. It's just bulky in your pocket. My old man just got a new camaro and if you see that FOB omfg... It's about 1cm thick and that's it! Barely feel it in your pockets. With that being said, it's definitely a conversation started. Not sure why, there's nothing significant about the darn thing, I'm guessing the name "Alfa Romeo" grabs attention I'm sure. I did also change the cover to match my Trofeo White paint :) Maybe that's it?
 

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For me, what actually bothers me more than the overly large size, is the buttons that push themselves doing random things to the car.

My engine has self-started without my knowledge. (FOB was in pocket)
My trunk has opened only because I bent over. (FOB was in pocket)
I've set off the panic alarm while getting in/out of the car. (FOB was in pocket)

The size is an issue, but much less than the self-motivated button action.
 

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I am an electrical engineer, but I see the issue here as mechanical in nature. It might be possible to design a new fob from scratch but that is likely to turn into a huge effort. It might be possible to use some non-AR fob and program it to mimic the AR fob, with the right tools and using techniques that are illegal in most of the world (reverse engineering SW). While the legality of reverse engineering SW or protocols will not come up in a project to build one fob for yourself, if you try to sell it to cover your time and effort FCA corporate lawyers will be all over you before you can ask "what happened" (this already happened to some students who were messing with the CAN bus in a Jeep). There is a reason why MultiECUScan is developed in Bulgaria.

Instead rip the fob apart and extract the relatively tiny circuit card inside that does all of the work. Then replace the switches with thinner ones and replace the entire frame with one that is just big enough to do the job. Ditch the internal key and use the back of the new fob case OR a thin metal spring to hold the battery in place. Ditch the metal frame. Ditch the key ring hoop. This should yield a fob that is about 12-15mm thick x 61 mm long x 35mm wide (maybe less), compared to the OEM 21mm thick x 76mm long x 45mm wide (less than 1/2 of the volume of OEM). It should eliminate 1/2 of the weight too. There will not be any room to put the AR script or seal on it, but I really do not see the point.

However, even this "simple" modification is a major project and fairly expensive too. The fobs are pretty pricey and some destructive testing may be necessary just to figure out how to get the circuit board out of the thing. The dimensional tolerances on a fob frame are pretty tight while the shapes are complex.

If I were to design one from scratch I would also ditch the Panic button and try to make the circuit board shorter. I do not know if that would allow any size reduction, but I have never had any good use for a panic button and I do not know anyone who has.

One big caveat on the whole thing: I do not know what the fob is using for antennae. The fob has both at least one RF antenna as well as some way to receive power when the battery is dead. I do not know if the metal frame is involved in any of that.

Personally I have disabled the "comfort access" on my car. Black market available "amplifiers" can be used to quickly break in to cars that have this access method. Storing your fob in a tin can works around the amplifier, but why not just push a button on the fob?
 

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Remember too that there is a hidden emergency key in the fob. If you remove that and ditch the cover, have a key made for your keychain, you could probably cut the thickness of the fob down by 25%. You could probably take the back cover off and just dip the whole thing in a can of plastidip or something to seal it all up...
 

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Are the days of fobs numbered, to be replaced by smartphone apps?
 

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Maybe, if the USB connections are reliable and consistent as well ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Interesting stuff. I may open up the key to see how big it would be if I ditched the physical key and buttons. I might be able to fashion that hardware in a smaller case and have it be reversible in the future.

I wonder if there’s any market from the EuroCompusion, CenterlineAlfa or other after market company to make something like this.
 

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Looks like a lot of wasted space.
Could be made smaller.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Now just need to find someone with a 3D printer. I wonder if I could buy just the innards and have it programmed.

I’m hesitant to potentially break one of my regular keys in the process.
 

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Looks like a lot of wasted space.
Could be made smaller.
Although there is a lot of blank space on the board, note the 2 traces that run around the outside edge. Those are the antennae that allow the fob to work. Changes to them is very difficult, especially changes to make them smaller without reducing the range of the fob.

OTOH, the AR case that surrounds the circuit board is huge and the circuit board conveniently has 2 holes through it that can be used to fix the board to a smaller case.

The only thing that is not obvious is if the metal frame of the AR fob case acts as a reflector for making the RF directional and higher amplitude.
 

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Now just need to find someone with a 3D printer. I wonder if I could buy just the innards and have it programmed.

I’m hesitant to potentially break one of my regular keys in the process.
I got more than one 3d printer, and I sell prints regularly.
If there is a CAD designer who creates a model and sends me a STL file I'm willing to print.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
First just want to say this is turning into an awesome thread and a special shoutout to @lockem for the engineering perspective.

If someone can design and then we can print I’ll line up to buy one.
 

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Something I learned today: a Lexus fob is just as big as Giulia's and an Acura fob is even bigger.

From the panic button delete thread note that the rubber that you push on does not directly activate the switches. Instead there is a substantial plastic frame with guide holes through which "nubs" extend to the actual switch. This arrangement adds at least 3mm and maybe 4mm to the thickness of the fob. I suspect this fob was designed this way to give it a more refined "feel"

The Alfa badge on the back of the fob together with the "rails" that protect the badge add another 2mm.

The internal key adds another 3mm. The total thickness of the fob is 21mm, so deleting 8-9mm by removing these features only is a significant size reduction.

I am not a Mechanical Engineer, so don't look at me to come up with a model for a case. If I had a bit of time I could try to carve a small case from a block of plastic or fine grain wood, but that is a 2 weekend project or so, not counting making the buttons and battery clip work.
 

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Hey All,

Love my car, I hate how big the key fob is, especially with comfort access there is almost no cause to actually ever take it out of your pocket, yet AR designed some that’s HUGE.

Anyone with knowledge of how the transmitter works and if there is a way to use an alternative (smaller) transmitter. I would happily have something with no buttons at all, just the proximity based transmitter.

There’s a company called Token (tokenring.com) that claims to be able to do this from a ring.

Anyone else frustrated by the large size of the fob?
I'm Still waiting for the best reply:frown2:
 

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I'm Still waiting for the best reply:frown2:
Continental custom designs systems for each manufacturer. If you want to spend a few million dollars on the project I am sure they can make something for you that will work with Giulia.

I expect that the "tokenring" (I guess IBM abandoned the tokenring LAN technology long enough ago that the name is now available--either that or somebody is about to be sued) can unlock a car by communicating with a cell phone which then communicates with Onstar to unlock the car. Their product description is a "little vague" such that it is unclear if they actually have a product or just a product idea that they are pre-selling in order to raise money. Since Giulia does not have Onstar, if I am right this scheme will not work with Giulia. You might want to consider if such a scheme is desirable given the holes in the cell network and the very inconvenient places where they are located.

OTOH, paring the working fob down to a size that is convenient to carry is the most reasonable approach. If you don't care about the buttons, just pot the card from the fob in epoxy while leaving an opening for the battery, then use some tape to hold the battery in place.

The battery in the OEM fob is fairly large and really cannot be downsized if you want the car to keep running while you are driving. In fact it is probably not a bad idea to carry a spare battery in the car even though the fob is supposed to work if placed in the right spot in the center console box. Your tiny fob could be put in that place, but then the convenience of the tiny fob is lost.
 

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A small LiPo battery could replace the OEM battery, and be easily recharged when needed.

Also, I'm a Mech Eng, but work at our local library as a "Maker Mobile Outreach Specialist". Essentially, I take 3D printers, laser cutters, a CNC machine, and STEM kits to anywhere in the 3 counties we serve.
While I don't really have the time to redesign a new FOB, I can definitely 3D print whatever you guys need (provided it's relatively small (gotta justify it to the boss, but it'd make a nice demo for our demo table)).
It's super cheezy, but you can see what we've got at https://youtu.be/RmK7uxOUjp0?t=1m54s. While sometimes a cheezy gig, I think it's one of the best jobs in the world, and gives me time to do some cool laser cuts, 3D prints, and turn kids and adults into science / tech nerds. :D
 

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Aaaaaaand with that, I've started a slim redesign.:nerd:
The base will be made of hard plastic (probably PLA), but the top can be an insert made of NinjaFlex (flexible), to the buttons can still be used if needed.
If the base of the key FOB is in fact a parabolic reflector, then the range of the buttons might be sacrificed, but I'd like to see the button range of a FOB with no case.
 

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Here's a quick design, but I think it shows some possibilities.
The shell would be 2mm in thickness, maybe 1mm if need be, but the buttons would still be accessible via flexible inserts. Anyone know the thickness of the board with the battery inserted? I'd like to not take mine apart. :/
 

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