Digital Driver’s Licenses Herald New Age of ‘Mobile ID Choice’

It’s time to ditch the plastic — that is, if you want to.

Trulioo Senior Vice President of Identity Solutions Garient Evans told PYMNTS the great digital shift is creating a range of options for those of us who want to embrace digital identifiers — or keep their old paper and plastic documents in the proverbial leather wallet.

The conversation came a few weeks after Apple said residents in eight U.S. states will be able to add their drivers’ licenses or state identifications to their Apple Wallets on their iPhones and their Apple Watches in the future. The digital wallet-based licenses or state IDs can be used at participating airports in the initial rollouts.

While he said the announcement “may have caught folks’ attention,” the trends underpinning the initiative have been in place for some time. The general concept is that parts of one’s identity can live on their phone — and allow that conduit to serve as a way to access products and services.

Smartphones at the Center of It All

To see how that concept is catching on, he pointed to the use of boarding passes uploaded to phones, rendered and presented in digital form at the gate. Increasingly, we’re shying away from paper passes and the plastic documents we once had to brandish to help us get through the day.

By and large, he said, “there are more and more consumers who say, ‘I don’t need a physical wallet. I’ve got all my payment instruments on my phone — and now, my identification in my phone as well.’”

Digital IDs, he said, can be particularly useful in making sure that individuals are of age to enter a bar and purchase alcohol or buy tobacco.

But Is It Safe?

Security is also heightened with digital IDs, which present “only” the information that is needed, he said. A digital ID, for example, can offer a simple “yes” or “no” determination in verifying that someone is above the 18- or 21-year-old age thresholds without divulging more details than that. That level of security is leagues ahead of handing over one’s plastic ID, where numerous other sensitive details can be viewed by bad actors.

Do a simple Google search, said Evans, and you can find domestic and international forgers who will make a high-quality fake version of government-issued identification, complete with height, eye color, date of birth and other characteristics.

Inherently, the digital driver’s licenses are more secure and can leverage encryption and other advanced technologies to ensure that data is not exposed more than necessary depending on the use case.

Eventually, depending on the provider, digital identities could be tied with digital keys that can open home and garage doors. Gone will be the days of the “Batman utility belt” where keys and wallets and a range of gadgets are needed to get access to one’s home or workplace, he said.

“You’re never really away from your phone — and your phone is always charged,” he said, adding that the devices are ubiquitous across all demographics, so it makes sense that the phone be wielded at the point of access and entry, and to confirm high-value and low-value transactions. Delivery drivers may be able to ping a customer’s phone and confirm the location of that customer — and, indeed, that they are who they say they are.

In a nod to high-value transactions, he said that same digital credential can be used to apply for student loans or refinance one’s home.

Old Habits Die Hard

Looking ahead, there will be no shortage of providers jockeying for a piece of the digital ID terrain. It may be some time before we see standards and protocols governing how the credentials should be created and maintained. There’s room for the government to step in and help clarify the technicalities and risk tolerance, he said. Legislation in this space, such as with the Improving Digital Identity Act of 2021 can help speed that consensus, “which will in turn help innovators to understand what the expectations are.”

As he told PYMNTS, “We live in an age of options, and the digital driver license is going to be a convenient way for us to ditch the wallet. But it may not be mandatory or inevitable for those of us who love the feel of plastic and of the wallets. There will likely always be the possibility to have that plastic license.”