Iowa working on smartphone driver's licenses

The digital tar pit will eventually consume us all, but for now, we're still able to watch it swallow our analog lives. One of the next items to succumb could be your driver's license, at least as soon as Iowa straightens out the kinks. The Hawkeye State is working with MorphoTrust USA on an driver's license app for Android and iOS phones that can be used as a state-approved ID. Notably, the app wouldn't replace a laminated paper version, but either could be used to conduct business. Iowa is already one of 30 states that lets motorists use their phones to show proof of insurance.

Paul Trombino, director of the state's Department of Transportation, said the "identity vault app" would use a PIN for security and wouldn't cost drivers anything. In the meantime, there are plenty of issues to be addressed, like what to do when an officer wants to see your license. Trombino didn't comment on that, but a DOT spokeswoman told The Wall Street Journal that the phone might never have to leave your hands - that authorities would have a device that could scan the information off your phone. If it worked as such, that might allay fears that an officer would get incriminating information off your phone, or, in the realm of privacy, that he could get access to other areas of your phone.

However, that scenario appears to be a non-starter: the Iowa State Patrol and Des Moines Police Department have already told The Des Moines Register that an officer's barcode scanner is in his cruiser. As recently as 2012, software firm InterAct had a product called PocketCop that could be installed on an officer's digital device to search state and national databases by driver's license number, but no one has mentioned that kind of possibility yet in this case. So although Trombino told Iowa governor Terry Branstad that the app would be ready in 2015, the DOT spokeswoman told the Journal that a release date hasn't been set yet due those unresolved privacy and security issues.

So even when – or even if – digital IDs get here, then, we still don't expect that plastic ID window in your wallet to go lonely for a few years.

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