Articles

Massachusetts Explores Digital Drivers License, Available via Smartphone

The Mobile Drivers License program is already being piloted in Iowa, but the company is looking to expand into the Bay State.

by Marie Szaniszlo, Boston Herald / February 19, 2016
Iowa already has a digital drivers license available, and Massachusetts may be next. Screenshot Taken fromMorphoTrust USA.

(TNS) -- A Billerica company is seeking state approval to make your driver’s license available on your cellphone — with the touch of an app.

MorphoTrust USA, which makes 80 percent of the nation’s drivers licenses, including FOR Massachusetts, says its mobile driver license, or mDL, would be a secure alternative that could be quickly authenticated by retailers, bankers or police, eliminating the need to carry a traditional license wherever you go.

“The infrastructure’s already here in Massachusetts; we know how to do this,” CEO Bob Eckel said yesterday. “There’s nothing technology-wise that would prevent it from being used.”

Eckel said he has meetings scheduled in the coming weeks with the state Registry of Motor Vehicles. But even if the RMV agrees to pilot the use of MorphoTrust’s mDL, widespread use of the app could be a few years off.

Registrar Erin Devaney in a statement said that the RMV “has a demonstrated history of partnering with MorphoTrust to ensure that Massachusetts issues the most secure driver’s licenses and ID cards, and is working presently to introduce a new card format in 2016 with further enhanced features. The RMV looks forward to working with MorphoTrust to continue to be a leader in the credential-issuing field through the use of advancing technology.”

The Billerica Police Department, which was introduced to the mDL at a demonstration this week, sees promise in the technology.

“I think it’s inevitable,” Deputy Chief Roy Frost said. “With the way cellphones have gone, less and less people need to carry a wallet. That’s the direction we’re going.”

Frost said his chief concern would be making sure that police have a foolproof way to authenticate mDLs — something that Eckel said there already is an app for.

The app, which is called Verify, is being tested in other states and can be used to read a driver’s license and tell if it’s authentic, he said.

“You would never have to hand your phone over to an officer,” Eckel said. “The officer would just scan it, using the app. And the person’s driving record and any criminal record they might have, including outstanding warrants, could be added to it.”

To prevent hacking, the only way to activate an mDL would be through facial recognition, the driver’s fingerprint, an encrypted code or some combination of the three, he said.

The mDL is currently being piloted in Iowa, where a test group is using a downloadable iOS mobile app that requires identity verification before the mDL is rendered on the phone. Use of the mDL is entirely optional, and the pilot will allow MorphoTrust to test the product for a wide range of uses, from verifying a driver’s age if the person is buying alcohol, to reducing trips to the motor vehicle agency to update a driver’s address or to become an organ donor.

©2016 the Boston Herald Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.