The International Organization for Standards (ISO) has a working group that focuses on the issue of driver license standardization. The committee is officially titled the ISO Joint Technical Committee for Information Technology (JTC1), Subcommittee for Identification Cards and Related Devices (SC17), Working Group 10 (WG10).
The first product of WG10- a document that will become the first part of the ISO/IEC 18013 standard- specifies the physical characteristics of an ISO-compliant driver license. Items such as the minimum mandatory data elements (e.g. name, country of issuance) and the physical positioning of these items on the card are specified. There is no mandate as to the identification technology (e.g. barcode, magnetic stripe, chip) to be used on a compliant license.
According to Nathan Root, Consultant with Root Resource and Chair of WG10, the second part of the WG10 standard will “define the logical structure required for interoperability while remaining as technology inclusive as possible.” The goal, says Mr. Root, is to enable interoperability but not mandate a specific technology.
According to a report issued by WG10, the logical structure will “include communications of driving privilege, identity verification, and assistance in reference to driving privilege database(s). Additional functionalities may include proof of residence, biometric authentication, reciprocity of driving privileges between countries, and document authentication. Specific machine-readable technologies that are to be supported have not yet been defined. WG10 is committed to remaining as inclusive as possible within the confines of the core business requirements of the IDL.”
While the concept is laudable, the practical application presents challenges. “Obviously,” admits Mr. Root, “even when the data structure is known, a smart card reader can still not read a 2-dimensional (2D) barcode or an optical stripe.” Readers that accept multiple card technologies exist today, but they are more expensive and significantly increase the cost and maintenance concerns for large-scale deployments.
Perhaps this is the situation that led the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) to incorporate the WG10 specifications into the new AAMVA standard, but take it one step further. In the most recent revision, a PDF 417 standard 2D barcode is specified as a required technology. The decision, to many, holds merit. PDF 417 barcodes are well established, inexpensive compared to other ID technologies, and already used on the driver license in at least 35 of the 50 U.S. states.