Washington, Vermont Find a New Way to Handle Old DMV Processes

Driver's license issuance offices in the two states have upgraded photo technology to help streamline the process of issuing IDs, improve efficiencies and build in better security features.

by / September 11, 2019
Driver's license issuance offices in Washington and Vermont upgraded photo technology with the company Valid to help streamline the process of issuing IDs, improve efficiencies and build in better security features. Shutterstock/Michael Gordon

Shooting and managing countless photos remains a perennial job of motor vehicle departments everywhere. For Vermont and Washington, the mundane — but essential — tasks led both states to  look at how to modernize their workflow.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation recently reached the end of its longtime contract with a legacy vendor — a division of the company Polaroid — to provide photo and printing technology, prompting the DMV to explore other options, and sign a new contract with Valid, a global technology provider in areas like payment, mobile, data and identity. The contract for these services begin in June 2019.

“Our contract was running out, and we decided to go out to bid to see what’s out there,” said Michael A. Smith, director of operations at the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles

A lingering issue with the prior system was its noncentralized nature and the problems that could arise when a driver’s license printer at one of the 11 DMV offices failed.

“Our No. 1 issue with providing credentials to our customers was the printers kept breaking down. … And over time, it got really, really difficult to obtain replacement parts for them,” said Smith.

The new Valid system also built added security features into the photos and improved other problem areas, saving the state an estimated $200,000 a year, according to officials.

The Washington State Department of Licensing also implemented technology provided by the company that allows for a smoother workflow.

“In the past, customers were directed from one workstation to another area to have their photo taken before returning to the original counter,” said Rob Wieman, a spokesperson in the communications and outreach unit within the Department of Licensing. “Now, customers stay with one licensing representative throughout their visit.”

Some 300 new cameras have been installed across the busiest two dozen license issuing offices across the state, in an effort to reduce wait times through the entire process.

The process to replace the camera technology began in August last year when the Department of Licensing tested the Valid technology at four workstations in Tacoma.

“The pilot was a success, resulting in shorter transaction times,” said Wieman. “As a result, in mid-March we expanded the pilot to include all 14 workstations in Tacoma and expanded the project to more offices.”

One of the biggest changes for drivers in Vermont has been in the actual issuance of their new or renewed driver's license. In the past, the license was printed at the DMV office, and handed across the counter. Today, the data is sent to central location, and the license is printed there and then placed in the mail.

“When you move to central issuance, all cards are produced from a centralized facility, a very secure facility. And because they are able to use higher-quality printers we were able to increase the security features,” said Smith, who noted that Valid does not hold on to, or store the data. The state maintains ownership and storage of all drivers license data.

The printer “prints the licenses and then the file is destroyed,” Smith said. 

“They do not store our data at the facility. … Should we need to have that credential reproduced, for whatever reason, we would need to resend that record to them. Because again, they do not store data,” he added.

Also, the new system in Vermont builds in added security features. In the old system, the DMV had about a dozen security features built into each driver's license. The new system includes 25 security features, making the IDs much more difficult to duplicate or tamper with.

“Some you can see with a fluorescent light. Others, you need a microscope or a magnifying glass, or something along those lines to really see what’s there,” said Smith. “It really increased the security of the credential.”

The Valid system also allowed for a smoother movement of inputting data into the DMV system, reducing the chances for errors, and is allowing the state to move forward with implementing an online renewal process. The state is already Real ID compliant.

“The really saving grace, and where we got the enhancements here is, the Valid system integrates with our mainframe,” Smith said. “The data goes from our photo system, and it gets in our mainframe, so I don’t have to key it for a sixth time.”

Skip Descant Staff Writer

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.

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