Iowa Builds Smartphone App to Display Driver's Licenses

Smartphone users in Iowa will soon be able to keep a secure electronic record of their driver's licenses in their phones using a new app.

secure mobile app

Drivers in Iowa will soon be able to pull out their smartphones to display their state driver's licenses after a new electronic driver's license mobile app becomes available sometime in 2015.

But the free new app is being touted as more than just a tool for drivers who forget to carry their license, Mark Lowe, the director of the motor vehicle division in the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT), told eWEEK. It's also a modern form of identification that Iowa drivers will be able to use when traveling, writing a check in a store or doing myriad other tasks that require positive ID, he said.

The app, which will be available next year, will be accompanied by a PIN number provided by the Iowa DOT so that users will be able to secure the app on their smartphones, said Lowe. A secondary biometric authentication method will also eventually be used so that drivers will have to provide a fingerprint, thumbprint or possible facial recognition to open the license app on their phones.

Iowa has already been using electronic apps so that drivers can show their proof of motor vehicle insurance on their devices, in case they are not carrying their insurance cards, he said. "It was an easy legislative change a couple years ago to allow that," said Lowe. "The market drove demand [for the capability]."

That earlier electronic insurance card legislation paved the way for the mobile driver's license app, said Lowe. "To me, that's the reason you now look at this kind of mobile app. People really look at their mobile devices to do a lot of things nowadays."

The driver's license app will be able to be remotely disabled by the Iowa DOT if a driver reports his or her phone lost or stolen, according to Lowe, making the security of the app strong if a device is separated from its rightful owner.

"These are things that people can't do today with a physical license if they lose it," he said.

Drivers will still have the ability to carry an old-fashioned plastic driver's license if they prefer it, according to a Dec. 8 article in The Des Moines Register. The electronic app license will be accepted by Iowa law enforcement officers during traffic stops and by security officers screening travelers at Iowa's airports, the news report said.

Very cool, Iowa, the home of cornfields and now of innovative new license technology. This is something that more states should be looking into, and there are probably more possible uses for similar apps. As long as the security of these apps is rock solid, I think this is a fabulous idea.

We here at eWEEK would love to hear your thoughts about apps like these. What do you say?