Google has announced that it is working on bringing electronic IDs to Android devices, according to reports.
The company released the news on Thursday (May 9) on the last day of its developers’ conference. The digital ID card would replace an actual ID card but would work the same way, as Google wants it to be used in all “physical world transactions.” It would also be a key component of a digital wallet, which can replace plane tickets, loyalty cards and credit cards, but still can’t work as an ID card.
The process is not simple, and would require complying with certain cryptography and standardization procedures. Google wants to develop an identity credential API into Android phones, said Rene Mayrhofer, head of Android platform security.
“We will be providing APIs and a reference implementation of HALs for Android devices in order to ensure the platform provides the building blocks for similar security and privacy-sensitive applications,” Mayrhofer said.
The mobile driving license (mDL) has been an idea for almost three years, and Google is contributing to developing a standard, but the company is tired of waiting.
“Instead, very, very soon, we will launch another Jetpack compatibility library that app developers can use immediately to write such apps for various DMVs or whatever cards – in the future, maybe even travel documents, although that kind of standardization for international travel is even further out,” Mayrhofer said.
The eventual goal is to have an Android device that can securely store ID cards that can be shown even when the device is out of power. This feature will likely first appear on Pixel devices, before Google tries to convince other Android makers to adopt the technology.
“It’s hard to predict when that will lock down,” Mayrhofer said. “But as soon as it does, or probably even sooner, we may merge the support into the framework. And we’re already talking to OEMs about partner support for what we call direct access. And this is what the compatibility library cannot do – we need to depend on the HAL being in there, the hardware changes being in there. Where you can use your electronic ID even when your phone battery is too low to power the main CPU. Just NFC tap, and you would still be able to access it because it would then be stored on a secure element that’s directly wired up.”