It’s Blockchain & Biometrics Making Mobile Driver’s Licenses Possible

Mobile driver's licenses liek the one shown by this female driver to law enforcement are approaching launch in some states.
Image: Twitter

Find out how mobile driver’s licenses work and how the state of Delaware, and other governments and partners, are developing mDL services close to launch.

SYDNEY — The state of New South Wales, Australia, has gone a step beyond most governments exploring mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs) with an impending statewide roll-out of digital identification via its Service NSW app made possible by blockchain.

Today, Secure Logic launched a blockchain solution called TrustGrid for digital government services, and revealed it’s what is making the NSW’s mDLs possible. More than 140,000 licence holders, including those residing in some Sydney neighborhoods, are eligible to participate in an upcoming November trial, according to ZDNet.com — a second trial that will happen before the full roll out.

How Mobile Driver’s Licenses Work

After making legislative changes to allow mobile driver’s licenses to be used for driving and proof of age for things like purchase of alcohol, the Australian state rolled out the ability to renew a driver’s license via its smartphone app in late 2016.

The Service NSW app shows the animated license in real time with notifications — like suspensions — at the bottom. The app also disables a smartphone’s screenshot feature and generates an official bar code every 30 seconds. The mDLs are also animated — so it cannot be copied and used as a still image and accepted by a scanner checking against the system.

In the U.S., law enforcement officers would be able to remotely transmit a request for information from a smartphone or laptop in their vehicle to the subject’s smartphone, according to a late 2017 Govtech story about U.S. digital driver’s license projects.

Both police and service retailers could verify mDLs with current verification technologies, though concerns about privacy and use across state lines have been asked.

Mark Stringer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Iowa, told NBC News MACH in May that the organization had “serious concerns” about mDLs. He noted that smartphones are legally protected against unauthorized police searches.

According to a 2015 article on Delaware Online, vendor MorphoTrust was working on a feature that locks the motorist’s smartphone once the mobile driver’s license is on screen preventing officers from accessing other device content while simply checking a license.

Delaware On The mDL Track  

Delaware announced it would conduct a mobile drivers license pilot with 200 state employees and stakeholders in March, according to the state website.


For the pilot, the state is working with Massachusetts-based IDEMIA, formerly known as OT-Morpho, a provider of numerous state and government agency identification services.

Features of the Delaware mDL being tested include:

• Enhanced privacy for age verification – no need to show a person’s address, license number and birth date, the mDL will verify if the person is over 18 or 21 and display a photo.
• Law enforcement use during a traffic stop – the mDL will allow law enforcement officers to ping a driver’s smartphone to request their driver’s license information prior to walking to the vehicle.
• Business acceptance – understanding how businesses that require identification or age verification interact with the mDL will be advantageous throughout pilot.
• Ease of Use – ensuring the mDL is able to be presented to any organization without difficulty.
• Secure access – the mDL is only unlocked and accessible by the mDL holder. The mDL is accessed through an app on the owner’s smartphone and is opened/unlocked by entering a user-created pin number or using facial recognition.

IDEMIA uses blockchain and biometrics technologies to secure personal information and identity attributes — like retinal scans and social security numbers for all its Mobile ID services — including mDLs. This video explains the intake process for general mobile identity into MorphoTrust:

The company is also working with Iowa to deploy its mobile driver’s licenses statewide, which is expected to be the first state in the United States to launch, according to more recent GovTech coverage.

Also testing mobile driver’s licenses with Amsterdam-based digital security company Gemalto are Colorado, Idaho, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Several other states have proposed or enacted legislation to explore digitized driver’s license applications, according to an article posted to the company’s website.

Not technically a mobile driver’s license, but a legal copy, the state of Louisiana has recently has rolled out an app that can display an existing physical driver’s license electronically for $5.99. But the electronic version “is not necessarily valid outside traffic stops or checkpoints, meaning law enforcement officers and private businesses (like your friendly neighborhood bartender or bouncer) may demand a physical ID,” according to The Advocate.

Just like New South Wales, prior to the Delaware mDL pilot, the state rolled out oneline driver’s license renewal:

It is exciting for us to be one of the first states to test this innovative technology that can both protect the privacy of our customers and enhance safety in ways that can’t be achieved with a traditional driver license or identification card,” said Scott Vien, director of the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles, in the state announcement.

To learn more about how mDLs would work, watch the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators’ Mobile DL Operational Proof-of-Concept video:

Sydney-based Secure Logic CEO Santosh Devaraj, according to ZDNet coverage of the company’s announcement, said mobile driver’s licenses are just one example of the digital transformation that will happen in government over the next decade.

The era of standing in line to file government paperwork is coming to an end, as is our reliance on physical identification cards to establish your identity or proof of age with law enforcement or at licensed venues. These are mistake prone, time-consuming, expensive and impractical ways to offer services,” Devaraj said

Learn more about the standardization work by the AAMVA eID working group on AAMVA.org.

Explore our previous coverage of blockchain technologies:

West Virginia Launches Blockchain-Based Mobile Voting Pilot

How Blockchain Could Make Driverless Vehicles a Reality

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.