On Monday, Apple announced that iOS 15 and watchOS 8 will provide support for storing ID cards in the Wallet application. Although the function sounds fantastic in practice, the details are sparse, and there is still a lot we do not know about when and how this will work.
Apple Pay VP Jennifer Bailey announced the feature during Apple’s WWDC 2021 keynote. Bailey explained in the main note that this is the last thing Apple needs to bring to the Wallet app to leave you “completely free of your physical wallet.” She also said the TSA “is working to enable” security checkpoints at the airport as “the first place you can use your digital ID.”
To be completely free of your physical wallet, there is one more thing we need to bring to the iPhone. And that’s your ID. So we bring identity cards to Apple Wallet. This fall, just scan your driver’s license or state ID in US states. It’s that simple. Your ID information is now in Wallet. Encrypted and stored in Secure Element, the same hardware element technology that makes Apple Pay private and secure.
And the TSA is working to enable airport security checkpoints as the first place you can use your digital ID. When you present your ID, you know what specific information is being requested and present it securely. With just one tap, you can travel.
The main theme includes a few models of how this feature will work. The process of adding your Wallet ID looks like it would be like adding a credit card to Apple Pay.
The TSA interface is particularly interesting. You do not just want to present your ID to the TSA agent. Instead, it looks like there will be some sort of Apple Pay-style interaction that involves double-clicking the side button on the iPhone to share necessary information.
Availability and other details
Unfortunately, other details about Wallet ID card support are incredibly vague. First of all, we have no specific details about when the feature will be available. A footnote on Apple’s website simply states that the feature will be launched sometime in late 2021, and as Bailey said during the main test, Apple is taking a state-by-state approach to roll this out. If the roll-out of the COVID-19 Exposure Notification platform is an indication, you can expect this to be a slow and tortuous process.
There are also few details about acceptance. For example, Apple specifically states that TSA checkpoints will be “the first place you can use your digital ID.” Does this mean you will not be able to use a digital ID for other things? What if you are pulled over? There are many unanswered questions about how the details here will work.
This certainly sounds like a feature that will be incredibly useful when and if it becomes available in your state. Not to mention, there is absolutely no indication of when this feature will become available internationally.
Still, it’s very interesting and remarkable to see Apple lay the foundation for digital ID cards in Wallet. Although there are still many unanswered questions, and only vague details about availability, these may be the type of features that are common several years from now.
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