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Iowa testing digital driver's licenses

Spinning photo similar to 'Harry Potter' movies

Iowa Department of Transportation director Paul Trombino demonstrates a digital driver's license prototype at a state budget hearing in Des Moines Monday. (Erin Murphy/The Gazette)
Iowa Department of Transportation director Paul Trombino demonstrates a digital driver's license prototype at a state budget hearing in Des Moines Monday. (Erin Murphy/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — A digital driver’s license capable of being stored on smartphones with a photo straight out of the “Harry Potter” movies may soon be available to Iowans.

The Iowa Department of Transportation is working on producing digital driver’s licenses that can be saved and stored on smartphones.

The digital license, which could be unveiled as early as 2015, can be stored on mobile devices and would look similar to a current driver’s license but would instead be an electronic image with digital coding and a rotating photo.

Iowa Department of Transportation director Paul Trombino joked that the photo looks like it comes from the “Harry Potter” movies, in which a wizard world’s publication displays images in motion.

“We’ve had a lot of strong interest in this. It creates quite a buzz,” Trombino said.

The digital driver’s license would be optional and could be used as a complement to or substitute for an individual’s physical license. The digital license would contain all the necessary coded information — and perhaps more, Trombino said — that is contained in current licenses, so it could be used during traffic stops or whenever a driver’s license is required as a form of identification, such as at the airport.

“It really opens up the doorway I think for a lot of different types of transactions from its utilization,” Trombino said. “Most people do a lot of functions off their phone and really live off their phone. What (the digital driver’s license) does is it allows you to have your driver’s license all the time.”

Trombino likened the digital driver’s license to smartphone apps that store users’ credit card information. The license would be password protected on the user’s phone.

Trombino said the project still is being developed, and he did not have a cost estimate for implementation. He did say issuing digital licenses would come at no extra cost to the driver.

Trombino said Iowa could become the first state in the nation to produce digital driver’s licenses.

“I think it changes the landscape,” he said.

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