Google Wallet for Android to introduce e-wallet that uses digital IDs

Google Wallet on Android is preparing to accept digital IDs like driver’s licenses and other state IDs.

This feature will roll out this month in states that support the use of digital IDs. Google added that Maryland residents can upload their digital IDs and use the feature right now. (Related: Utah governor signs bill to launch pilot program for blockchain-based digital ID system.)

Arizona, Colorado and Georgia residents will be the next to get the feature “in the coming months.”

The digital IDs will be stored locally on the device, but they can also be accessed through the Google Account portal.

Google noted that the feature will require an Android operating system of 8.0 and above to use, which covers about 90 percent of Android devices. Furthermore, users with Android 11 and later versions can transfer their ID through near-field communication (NFC) even when their smartphones are turned off.

Using NFC, credentials can then be transferred to NFC ID terminals, allowing users to show the barcodes or QR codes of their digital IDs at checkpoints. Google noted that this feature could be useful for Transportation Security Administration check-ins, which now accept certain digital IDs. However, Google warned that users should still carry their physical IDs for now just in case, as the process for properly accepting and scanning digital IDs – such as during traffic stops – still varies per state.

Cards that do not have digital versions, but have bar codes and QR codes will also be supported by the Google Wallet. All users would have to do is take pictures of the bar codes and QR codes and store them on the app for ease of use. When this feature is fully launched this summer, Google’s Vice President for the Wallet Jenny Cheng said it will work for just about any ID that has a bar code.

Google, other tech giants trying to replace the physical wallet with traceable digital ones

Google’s move to accept digital IDs is part of the company’s drive to “replace all the things you would normally have in your physical wallet,” according to Cheng.

Maryland already supports digital IDs on smartphones that run on Apple’s iOS, giving people an idea of how these digital ID systems work in the state. NFC transfers would beam credentials to another individual, such as by tapping the phone against a special NFC ID terminal and then confirming the transfer with a fingerprint scan.

Google is also working overtime to catch up with Apple’s own Wallet app, which has been supporting the use of digital driver’s licenses since the end of 2021. At least eight states – Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma and Utah – have already embraced Apple’s desire for digital driver’s licenses to be used in apps. Many other states have signaled their own support for digital licenses for the Apple Wallet.

Currently, around 12 states already have some kind of active digital ID program and are working with Big Tech companies like Google and Apple to expand their use, while another 11 have digital ID pilot programs.

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