Free smartphone app will create Iowa Mobile ID

DES MOINES — State officials say there’s a free “Iowa Mobile ID” app for smartphones now. It creates a digital version of an Iowa driver’s license or state-issued ID.

The app is available in the Apple Store for iPhones and in Google Play for Android smartphones.

“When you download the application what you’re going to do is register your phone number and then from there you’re scanning the front and back of your ID card. The Mobile ID application is taking a look at information that’s listed on that Mobile ID and it’s checking against what’s listed at the state system of record,” says Toni Smith, the emerging technology manger at the Iowa DOT “The next step from there is you’re taking a selfie. It’s a live picture to ensure that one, you’re a real person and then it’s bumping that up against the state system of record.”

There was a soft launch of the app this summer. Smith used her mobile ID last week as she went through the TSA precheck at the Des Moines airport. “I had a variety of people that had shown interest in what that was,” Smith says. “The person directly behind me said: “Hey, what’s that?’ and so I was able to explain Mobile ID.”

Mobile IDs are now accepted at the airports in both Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, as well as many other U.S. airports. Smith says the Mobile ID is accepted at some businesses, but it requires a scanner that can read the unique QR code that’s generated for each individual who has a Mobile ID. “That can be integrated into their point of sale, to allow that reading,” Smith says. “There are businesses that have online stores where they’ll want to verify identity and that’s an option for them.”

The Iowa DOT’s website has information for businesses that want to give customers a Mobile ID option. DOT officials emphasize you’ll still need to carry the physical card that’s your driver’s license since the digital version isn’t accepted as an ID everywhere. “Mobile ID is a companion to your physical credential. Mobile ID is free, it’s optional for users to use and it’s also optional for businesses to accept,” Smith says, “…Mobile ID is a great alternative, but always keep your physical credential as a back-up just to ensure you’ve got something in place and that business can accept it.”

Iowa joins Arizona, Colorado, Georgia and Maryland as states that are offering digital IDs in both the Apple and Google Wallets on smartphones. “It is the most secure way to have your ID as a user. It’s the most secure way to carry it,” Smith says, “and it’s the most secure way to verify identity as a business.”

A recent survey by Forbes Advisor found 53% of Americans are using a digital wallet more often than cash or a credit card when making purchases.