Delaware ready to embrace mobile driver’s licenses

The driver’s license — for many a dinged-up piece of laminated plastic slipped into the front of their wallet — is going mobile in Delaware. 

The Delaware Department of Transportation is working with IDEMIA, a global security and identification firm, to roll out a mobile driver’s license before the end of 2019.

While physical ID cards will still be available, all 800,000 licensed drivers and ID card holders in Delaware would have the option to use their smartphones as a form of identification, whether they’re making an age-restricted purchase or checking in at the airport.

“We call it a driver’s license, but today it’s really your identity. You use it wherever you go,” said Jenny Openshaw, senior vice president of new market development for IDEMIA.

DelDOT and the DMV are still working with IDEMIA to work out the kinks and customize the application, but
the results of a six-month pilot launched in March of 2018 show that users are eager to embrace the technology.

The state surveyed test users and found that 91% said the mobile driver’s license was more convenient than carrying a plastic license; 86% said it was easier to show proof of age; and 84% said it offered peace of mind when it comes to personal privacy.

The pilot tested features such as giving users the option to hide portions of their card such as their address. If a bouncer is trying to verify someone’s age, for instance, the card would only reveal name, photo, and date of birth.

Other possible features include allowing a police officer to ping a driver’s smartphone to request their information prior to walking up to the vehicle.

More than 20 Delaware businesses partnered in the pilot, including Dover Downs, Delaware Park and Blue Hen Outdoor Sports.

Josh Patel, co-owner of Christiana Wine & Spirits, said the mobile driver’s license made transactions run much smoother.

“We found it very convenient, because it’s so easy for customers to just take out their phones,” he said. “It made everybody’s job much more efficient.”

He described the app as basically an ID card that cashiers would authenticate by touching the screen. 

The program first gained traction as a practical alternative in 2014, when Iowa got national attention for being the first state to announce plans for a mobile driver’s license. In the spirit of friendly competition, Secretary of Transportation Jennifer Cohen, then director of the DMV, wanted in on the action.

“She called after the national press coverage and said ‘Hey, what about us?’” said Openshaw.

Five years later and Delaware has caught up. Both states are primed to launch later this year.

IDEMIA currently produces Delaware’s driver’s license and state-issued identification cards. The company started moving into mobile driver’s licenses when it looked like the natural next step for the industry.

“We saw it as the logical evolution of the driver’s license,” said Openshaw. “As more people depended on their mobile devices and started to move things that were important to them onto their devices, this seemed like the natural next step.”

ID cards have followed other essential applications such as banking and insurance information onto the smartphone. 

She added that the existing process for getting a driver’s license won’t change. The only difference is that now residents will have the option to get a mobile equivalent in addition to their physical card.

“Delaware is among the first states to test a mobile driver’s license, and we’re excited to help move this new technology forward,” said Gov. John Carney. “Across state government, we remain focused on innovation, to connecting Delawareans with new technology, and finding new, more efficient ways to deliver services
to Delaware taxpayers.” 

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