DES MOINES — Sometime next year, Iowans will have the option of keeping their state-issued driver’s license on their smartphones and not just their wallets.
Melissa Gillett, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s motor vehicle division, said state officials have launched a pilot project aimed at making digital driver’s licenses, or “mobile ID,” available for download via Apple and Android smartphone apps sometime in 2022. Iowa is among a number of states that have considered, tested or already launched versions of driver’s licenses that live digitally on smartphones.
Plans call for testing devices equipped with digital versions of the mobile driver’s license through December, with expectations that about 100 Iowa DOT employees will be enlisted by spring as a test group to collect feedback and ensure the app is working as expected, she said.
“We’ll be piloting this with the internal users prior to making the app available to all Iowans and we do expect that to happen around the summer of 2022,” Gillett said.
The proposed mobile driver’s license will be optional for those who prefer the digital convenience, but all Iowans still will be expected to carry hard-copy licenses even if their electronic devices are equipped with the digital version of Iowa’s common form of state identification, she noted.
“Everybody will still have to have a physical card issued to them. They can just choose to have a mobile version of that on their phone if they would like to,” she said.
“We expect this won’t be for everyone. There may be people who choose not to adopt it or may choose to wait, and that’s perfectly fine,” said Gillett — although there probably will come a time when this will be the accepted norm rather than the exception, she added.
“We anticipate it will take some time before we transition. It will take some time for everyone to get used to having this available through mobile device and have that transition period. We know some states already offer this and are starting to use it,” Gillett said.
Iowa DOT officials are working with technology vendors to address security and privacy concerns inherit with any electronic-based app, and to make sure the new form of digital ID can be accepted by retail establishments and other places where identification or proof of age or address are required.
“Right now those places are taking a physical ID and so there’s a transition that will need to happen to make sure they’re ready to start accepting that via a mobile device,” Gillett said, which will have the same type of bar code that’s on the back of current licenses.
To enable the mobile identification, a smartphone user will open the app, then scan the front and back of his or her physical driver’s license and take a “selfie” photograph that Iowa DOT officials can match with the data and image on file before authorizing the new digital ID for enrollment.
Iowa DOT officials also are working with law enforcement agencies in adapting to the new form of identification, which is expected to cut down on fraud while making provisions to limit access to personal information in cases where Iowans present a digital ID to a law enforcement officer.
There will be no additional charge for the mobile ID app in the first year, but in subsequent years there will be a $4.99 charge paid directly to the app vendor in addition to the state’s driver’s license fee. The new digital driver’s license also will meet the Transportation Security Administration’s REAL ID that will be required for boarding an airplane or entering a federal building after May 3, 2023, if all the proper steps were taken for its issuance.
Even though mobile ID still is in developmental, Gillett said there has been public interest in the new digital form of identification.
“We’ve received a lot of initial excitement about the app. All the time we get people contacting us saying, ‘Hey, I’m willing to be one of the first if you’re looking for testers.’ So we know that there is anticipation for this and we know that Iowans want it for the convenience of having it,” she said.