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Are states speeding toward mobile driver licenses?

The ubiquitous plastic card that resides in the wallets of most people 16 years of age and older may be in for a makeover, and this one could entail more than a new hologram.

States across the country are considering the issuance of driver licenses on mobile devices. In most states, this mobile driver license would be in addition to the cards that people already carry in their wallets, but what might the future bring?

The driver license is supposed to be nothing more than proof that the cardholder can operate a motor vehicle, but it has become so much more  –  facilitating everything from air transportation to alcohol purchases and financial account opening.

license-featureThere are many reasons states are looking at mobile driver licenses. One school of thought is that the younger generation is fed up with carrying pieces of plastic, purses and wallets, preferring instead to do everything with a mobile device.

Others point to efficiencies as the primary reason. A mobile credential and app gives driver license issuers an easier way to communicate with customers. It can also enable customers to perform self-service tasks, such as address changes or license renewals, all through an app instead of visiting a physical location.

Privacy is another often-cited benefit. Instead of having to show a stranger a card with a home address and date of birth to buy a six-pack, an app could simply confirm that the customer is at or beyond the authorized age without giving up extra personal data.

Lastly, there may be a larger role for a mobile driver license to play with digital identity. Driver licenses are one of the few pieces of identification where individuals actually go somewhere, provide documentation to prove identity and have that data verified. Being able to use that high-assurance identity coupled with multi-factor authentication in the digital world could be the solution to some of the digital identity woes currently plaguing enterprises.

But doing mobile driver licenses the right way will require more than just placing an image of the card on a device. States will need to overcome numerous challenges before securely placing an identity on a mobile phone. Standards have to be developed so that licenses issued in one state can be accepted in all others, and a vast infrastructure will be needed to electronically verify mobile IDs.

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