Interest is high, but Roadblocks include standards, infrastructure, relying party acceptance
A high-stakes standards game
It may sound straightforward, using Bluetooth or another technology to transmit license information to an officer in a cruiser. But for this to work states, vendors and law enforcement would all have to agree on a standardized approach. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators is in the early stages of creating mobile driver license standards that would be used by all members, says Geoff Slagle, director at AAMVA.
The stakes are extremely high in this process. Many states are already evaluating mobile driver licenses, but all will need to agree to minimum standards so that each license can work in all other states. “You have to have the standards down, so mobile driver licenses can be leveraged regardless of the jurisdiction,” Slagle explains.
This doesn’t mean states will have to all use the same vendors, but they will have to make sure that the vendor they choose is using the standardized approach, Slagle says. He uses ice cream as an analogy. As long as systems are using the same ice cream base – a standardized secure mobile driver license – vendors can offer different add-ons – hot fudge, sprinkles or whipped cream. “The base has to have the ability to communicate in an electronic and trustworthy way,” he adds.
The standards will revolve around making sure that the application is secure and verifying that the credential is legitimate, Slagle says. “Right now you have people walking around with super secure cards, but you don’t know if the person holding it is connected to it,” he explains. “With mobile driver licenses, we believe we can achieve full confidence that the person interacting with it is the owner.”
Right now you have super secure cards, but you don’t know if the person holding it is connected to it. With mobile driver licenses, we believe we can achieve full confidence that the person interacting with it is the owner.
AAMVA hosted the first mobile driver license standards meeting in November 2015. With interest in mobile licenses so high the committee hopes to move quickly, but it will likely be late 2016 at the earliest with the spring of 2017 looking more realistic to have a finalized specification, says Slagle. Once the committee has finished its work the spec has to go through AAMVA’s Board of Director’s and members for a vote.
States already moving forward with mobile driver license tech will have to keep an eye on the work AAMVA is doing and try to stay on the same track. Iowa is keeping this in mind as it moves forward with its pilot, says Lowe. “The really big thing is making sure the mobile driver licenses are accepted state to state and accepted by law enforcement, retail and banking,” he explains. “What is the thing that will make them interoperable? That’s what we’re spending time working on.”
If states decide to go with different technology standards it will hamper the adoption of the technology, says Adam Madlin, solutions leader for Identity and Cybersecurity at Symantec. “If you can’t get all the states on board it will undermine interoperability,” he adds.
Mathtec’s Dean is concerned that mobile driver license technology may be out of date by the time standards emerge and gain widespread acceptance. “We’re going to spend the next couple of years working on standards and then another five to 10 years getting states on board,” explains Dean.
We’re going to spend the next couple of years working on standards and then another five to 10 years getting states on board. Mobile driver licenses may be out of date by the time standards are ready.
If biometrics or some other identification technology becomes prominent, they could eclipse the need for mobile license apps, suggests Dean. “Are we inventing a technology that will be leapfrogged?” he asks.
Driver licenses for the identity ecosystem
Iowa is looking even beyond that. The mobile driver license has potential to be used as a high-assurance digital credential to access other sites and services, Lowe says. That use case may take awhile to develop, but it’s on the road map.
Delaware wants the mobile driver license to be a credential to securely communicate with the DMV, Vien says. “If we do this right we can create a secure means of interacting with customers remotely,” he adds.
The rollout will be slow, first enabling secure electronic transactions with the DMV and then other state services and other relying parties. North Carolina, Georgia and Virginia are already using DMV data to confirm the peoples’ identities when setting up credentials to access different state services.
Those projects are being done with pilot funds from the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. But there aren’t many state agencies that wouldn’t love to have access to their state’s DMV records, says Mathtec’s Dean. “In every state that I talk to, all the agencies want access to the driver license data to verify information,” he explains. “The DMV is the one government agency where people have to establish identity face-to-face in a physical location.”
Standards will be important in this aspect of mobile driver licenses too, says Symantec’s Madlin. “You have to get all states on board or it won’t have real adoption,” he explains. “As states become the trusted source of identity they can expand their citizen applications, broaden adoption and spur greater success.”
Online identity vetting has been a difficult proposition. If states start issuing a digital credential based on in-person identity vetting that solves a lot of problems. “DMVs and mobile driver licenses have a role to play in the bigger identity picture,” says Madlin.
The possible applications for mobile driver licenses are endless. The dream of a virtual wallet that combines driver license, payments and a digital identity has been discussed for years but might be around the corner. It promises to change the way citizens interact with DMVs, government agencies and other relying parties. But it will require massive effort to create the standards and build the infrastructure necessary to make this dream a reality.