What if your phone became your ID?

With the NFC chips finally brought to the iPhone (though an SDK for developers to access hasn't been made available), as well as Host-based Card Emulation (link) on Android, I wonder if the phone could become not only a place where we connect to people and information through cell/data/wi-fi networks or purchase goods using NFC payment systems from Google, Apple, or even Windows, but a one-stop for everything that was carried in a wallet. This means extending the phone from carrying rewards/membership cards and credit cards to IDs such as a driver's license or corporate ID. There are several benefits that people could garner from being able to accomplish everything they need throughout their day with a single device that they would carry anyway.

  • Reduce the amount of items that need to be carried around and kept track of by people through their daily life.
  • More secure protocol can be used to ensure that ID information is only used by the individual it was assigned to with consent.
  • Enable people to actively manage information for their identification (i.e. address) without being required to get a new physical card printed.
  • Enable notifications to be used when ID is used in an unexpected place and potentially prevent some identity thefts from occurring.

However, this would also introduce new challenges and potential issues:

  • What amount of risk are we exposing ourselves to by making one device even more invaluable in our daily lives and what happens when such a device is lost or stolen?
  • How can fraud and fake credentials be prevented when ID is managed effectively by corporations when a phone app can grant access to a premise rather than needing a specific card?
  • How to manage environments where not everyone has, wants, or can have a smart device with NFC and must use a physical card for identification and possibly access to a restricted area.
  • As simple and obvious as it may seem, ensuring that the device that you are using always has enough charge to make it through the full length of time you need to use it.

Overall, the simplicity and ease of use for the end user to only have one item that they have to manage is very appealing and would likely be greeted with wide acceptance, especially for corporate ID. This may also enable many companies and government agencies to invest heavily in creating systems that more effectively secure the cards and interaction mediums that are used by those consumers. However, this could also increase the risk of current issues plaguing the public such as identity theft and fraud as everything could be accomplished electronically.