Webinar interview: Neil Akass on mobile driving licences


It is no wonder that as national and local government consider digital version of ID credentials that can reside on devices, that a driving licence has been high on the priority list.

From Iowa to New South Wales and beyond, the driving licence has emerged as a key development ground for ID documents to be moved – partially - onto smartphones.

The frequent changes drivers face to their status, as points accrue, details change and identities evolve, make the dynamic updates available through mobile solutions a powerful proposition.

But mobile driving licence solutions also face potential pitfalls as they are deployed alongside physical, smart-card counterparts.

How can the credential be re-issued on new smartphones? Will police have access to your private details on a device? Will Bluetooth beacons compromise or strengthen privacy and safety.

Security Document World set out to tackle such questions last month with the help of high-profile experts, in the webinar “The future of government-issued mobile identities”.

The webinar’s expert panel included Neil Akass, digital driving licence service designer at the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), and Arjan Geluk, principal advisor for UL Transaction Security ISO and taskforce leader for mobile driving license, from the Netherlands.

Hosting the panel was Mark Lockie, publishing director of SecurityDocumentWorld.com, and Steve Warne, director of solutions marketing at Government ID Solutions, HID Global.  

In this follow-up interview we asked Akass for his thoughts on the evolution of driving licences.

What are the most important considerations when launching ID projects that can be deployed on smartphones?

Firstly, it’s important to note that we are looking at the feasibility of allowing our customers to check their driving licence information on their smart phone; it’s a driver licensing project, rather than  mobile ID. 

Secondly, the answer for me is simple; user needs.  For us, there are two types of users.  Our individual customers (drivers, who need to show their driving licence to those with a legitimate needs to see it) and stakeholders (such as the Police, vehicle hire companies, employers etc.) who need to check that information.  We need to understand whether both sets of users want this service – and our initial engagement tells us they do – how they would use the service and what concerns they have. Once we analyse this information, we will build the service according to those needs, making sure it is consistent with government service standards and hits the right balance between usability and security.  That last bit is challenging.

Do you believe that mobile credentials are now inevitable?

Going back to user needs again, we have been providing more of our services digitally over the last few years which can be accessed from mobile devices.  Services such as View or Share Driving Licence which lets our customers view their driving licence details on whichever device they chose and share it securely with trusted third parties such as vehicle hire companies. 

A digital or mobile driving licence service would be a natural next step.  While we are still in the Discovery phase, I would be surprised if we didn’t launch this service but we have no plans to stop issuing physical driving licences; they’ll be around for a long time yet.

Do you expect both physical and ‘virtual’ or data-related security features to be on mobile IDs?

I’ll leave the detail of that one for Arjan and Steve but one of the attractions of a digital driver licensing service is using the features available on smart phones so that the user can safeguard their data and share it with who they chose to.   

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