Iowa residents may become the first in the U.S. to use a smartphone mobile app as their driver’s license.

The Iowa Department of Transportation wants to let drivers keep an electronic version of a license on an app, in addition (or in lieu of) the traditional plastic one you’d keep in a wallet.

The digital license, which would be free, would be acceptable to use at traffic stops, airport screeners, bars and so on. It would be housed in what Iowa DOT is calling “an identity vault app” and could become a reality by as early as 2015.

The news — which was first reported by The Des Moines Register — surfaced during a state budget hearing in the state’s capital earlier this week.

“We are still in the sketching phase and trying to move into development soon,” Mark Lowe, director of the motor vehicle division at Iowa DOT, told Mashable.

“We have done enough serious work already that we feel confident about the features and how well it could work in the future.”

“We have done enough serious work already that we feel confident about the features and how well it could work in the future.

The driver’s license would populate within an app, similar to an e-boarding pass for a flight and include hard-to-replicate features that could cut down on fake IDs. 

“We’re looking into using optical bar codes and 3D-like photos for licenses that move, like when images come alive in still shots in the Harry Potter movies.”

Law enforcement would also be able to remotely pull the license, too: “We could put protections on it if someone was involved in fraudulent activity or crime,” he added

Although there are concerns around security — what if a phone is lost or stolen? — Lowe said digital driver’s licenses could be even more secure.

“Right now, there is no way to disable a driver’s license or do a true electronic verification,” he said. “Users would enter a PIN number for verification, and we might include facial recognition and iris or fingerprint scanning in the future. We would make it so only the actual owner of the license would be able to access the account — and we would use digital watermark technology to do so too.”

While some users might be wary of the technology at first, Lowe said Iowa DOT will have to prove its reliability in order for the concept to take off.

“When electronic boarding passes first came out, some people were nervous about giving them a try, but once it was proven to be secure and reliable, it grew,” Lowe said. “We will need to do the same with mobile driver’s licenses.”

Iowa’s transportation agency has been at the forefront of using emerging technology. It is one of 30 states already allowing drivers to show electronic versions of insurance, and Iowa DOT uses dashboard cameras on snowplows, so residents can see where they are in location to their homes and what the conditions are like on the roads.

Iowa DOT is also working on a free app for teenage drivers that disables smartphones while the car is in motion to keep them from being distracted on the road.

Although mobile driver’s licenses aren’t a reality yet, Lowe said it shouldn’t take too long to get the concept out on the road.

“We are very focused on getting a pilot out in the next six months,” he said. “Other states are already talking about following our lead, if this takes off and works.”

A Mashable Article