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The State That Plans to Issue Digital Drivers’ Licenses

December 16, 2014
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The State That Plans to Issue Digital Drivers’ Licenses
The app would hold all the same information found on a plastic license and would be accepted as a valid ID for authorities. Joe Raedle/Getty Images
The smartphone app will be highly secure.

Technology may soon encroach the rite of passage of getting a driver’s license, turning a once antiquated tradition into another digital download.

The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) will begin rolling out a highly secure app that features a resident’s driver’s license next year, according to DOT Director Paul Trombino.

Unveiled at the state agency’s budget meeting, the new app will serve as “an identity vault app” using a pin number for verification, the Des Moines Register reports. The DOT plans to allow the use of  digital licenses during traffic stops and at airport security screenings, but also as a way to reconnect with citizens.

“I think the longer term prospect is if you can really be successful in establishing a driver’s license as an app, it really transforms the way we can interact with the customer,” says Mark Lowe, director of the Motor Vehicle Division at the state’s DOT. “It really becomes instead of a thing in your pocket, it becomes a customer relationship.”

The state agency plans to internally build and test a prototype type over the next six months, according to Government Technology. The goal is to introduce the app as an alternative to temporary permit licenses granted before permanent licenses are mailed out, eventually hoping to replacing traditional licenses as well.

With more residents reliant on smartphones, Trombino contends it’s a logical step in updating government practices. The state agency is exploring other forms of technology through a program to install dashboard cameras on snowplows, an initiative for “paperless construction projects,” more driver’s license kiosks and a new type of bridge building via modular construction. Iowa is also one of more than three dozen states that enables drivers to carry electronic proof of insurance.

Digital licenses also help allay concerns over stolen licenses by eliminating the chance of losing a physical card and introducing more security with the use of biometric data, Lowe adds. Another benefit includes saving time. For example, changing an address wouldn’t require an in-person visit to the DMV, but instead a simple update on the app.

While the agency still has some kinks to work out in developing the app, Lowe contends the idea makes sense for the modern lifestyle.

“It came from us having mobile devices and using them the ways that everybody is using them and really thinking about the possibilities,” Lowe says. “It’s hard to use your device and use it for mobile boarding passes and not think ‘why couldn’t I carry my license this way?’”

MORE: How Los Angeles County is Rethinking Antiquated Voting Technology

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