Iowa to put driver's licenses on mobile phones

The first project of its kind, Iowa's driver's licenses are going the way of the credit card.

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iStockphoto (One-Time Use)

The Iowa Department of Transportation will begin rolling out a free mobile app next year that residents can use to store and present a digital copy of their driver’s licenses, the Des Moines Register reported this week.

The mobile app will supplement the traditional plastic ID cards, rather than replace them. Iowa’s DOT Director Paul Trombino said at a budget hearing on Monday that drivers will be able to present either form of identification when prompted by police officers and even during security screening at the state's airports, according to the report. Trombino also suggested that the state could extend the app to other forms of state identification in the future.

At the hearing, Trombino also insisted that the app will be "highly secure," according to the report. The only detail provided, however, was that it will be protected by a PIN number for verification.

Unless another state or federal program introduces a similar app sooner, Iowa’s digital driver licenses will be the first legally recognized form of identification that can live on a smartphone. This is an important, yet largely ignored, aspect of the “death of the wallet” narrative that was resurrected with the launch of Apple Pay this October. Even those who have been using Apple Pay need to carry their IDs just to drive to the store to make these purchases.

I’m still not convinced that the wallet will be obsolete any time soon, but at least smartphones are making it less painful when we leave them at home.

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