The driver’s licence of the future could be a digital app

Payments have increasingly gone digital, but identification hasn’t—yet. But perhaps for not much longer

Phone app showing a prototype digital driver’s licence from Iowa.

From the “what the heck took so long?” department comes news that Iowa is about to become the first U.S. state to begin testing digital driver’s licenses.

The licenses, which are accessed just like any other app on a smartphone, are going into tests in June, according to Wired. SecureIDNews reports the state’s Department of Transportation is hoping for a public roll-out in 2016. Twenty other states have also expressed interest.

MorphoTrust, the Massachusetts-based company behind the technology, says a digital driver’s license can actually be more secure than a plastic version.

As a representative from Iowa’s DOT told SecureIDNews:

“We’re not just giving them an image of a driver license that resides in their phone. When the app gets opened, instead of it calling up a photo or an image, it’s communicating back to us and verifying that the device is authorized to present the license. It also verifies the validity of the license and populates with the latest information when it’s opened.”

Biometrics such as skin texture analysis may also be incorporated.

Physical plastic licenses, on the other hand, can be lost or stolen and contain no verification technologies. As long as the user looks like the person in the picture, it’s good to go.

MorphoTrust, not coincidentally, is the same company that supplies the technology that the Transportation Security Administration uses to scan licenses and passports in U.S. airports.

Digital licenses are a great idea and another step toward eliminating the need to carry wallets. Payment systems such as Apple Pay are on the rise, but as I’ve mentioned before, they may be held back by people’s need to have identification cards with them at all times.

The fewer cards – and thing overall – that we need to carry, the better.

Unfortunately, Canadian provinces are behind their U.S. state counterparts in thinking about converting to digital licences. Provinces here have barely introduced the ability to renew old-fashioned physical licenses online.