Florida pulls the plug on digital ID app, surprising the few who used it

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TL;DR: Florida has discontinued its Smart ID app, pulling it from digital stores and telling users to delete it. Slow adoption, lack of use by law enforcement, and "technical difficulties" are to blame. The state hopes to bring it back through a different vendor.

In an email to app users, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) said it is ditching its Smart ID app. The move seems temporary, as the message said the state wishes to bring the digital ID service back sometime in early 2025 after partnering with a new vendor. In the meantime, Florida residents will have to go back to using physical ID cards and driver's licenses to verify their identity.

The app allowed people to pull up and show their IDs to police and merchants on their phones instead of using a physical card. However, Florida residents were slow to adopt the service. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel noted that only around 95,000 of Florida's 17 million licensed drivers had activated the app as of April last year.

Many were surprised by the abrupt shutdown. One user took to X to vent his frustration, saying the whole thing was "a mess."

I've been using the Florida smart ID for a while and just received an email out of the blue that they are redeveloping with a new vendor and thus the virtual ID can't be used until 2025. What the heck. Florida is such a mess.

– Korin Reid (@korinreid) July 10, 2024

Many local police departments reportedly weren't using the app to verify identities because the legislation allowing digital IDs stipulates that Smart ID is not a replacement for a physical driver's license. Clearly, many residents felt that if you still have to have your physical ID on you, what's the point of the app?

Still, the complete shutdown with no interim solution feels like a misstep by the state agency.

"The Florida Smart ID applications will be updated and improved by a new vendor," the FLHSMV said in a statement. "At this time, [we are] removing the current Florida Smart ID application from the app store."

The department pointed to technical issues in late June before pulling the plug, saying its driver license systems are experiencing degradation of services while it works with a vendor to fix them.

Despite the setback, Florida is ahead of several states attempting to roll out digital ID cards and driver's licenses. The shift from physical plastic cards to smartphone-based credentials has been a glacially slow process across the United States. However, while state agencies and lawmakers are still trying to figure it out, smartphone makers are ready.

Apple added digital ID support to its Wallet app in 2021, with Google following suit in 2022. Maryland, Arizona, and Georgia support digital IDs added to Google or Apple Wallets. Louisiana is still trying to implement digital IDs, while New York follows Florida's example in developing a standalone app.

While the convenience and security benefits of ditching physical IDs are clear, the piecemeal rollout has been confusing. First, states had separate apps, then some supported storage in Apple Wallet but not Google's equivalent, and policies differed across jurisdictions. So it's not just Florida that's "a mess."


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