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You could store a digital driver's license on your phone soon. Here's how it works

Google's ID accreditation will work with certain phones that run Android R and Qualcomm's Snapdragon chip.


Your phone could become more of your mobile wallet than ever before.

Angela Lang/CNET

Using your phone as a form of ID at the airport or bar could become a reality. Qualcomm and Google have partnered up to work on a system secure enough to store a digital copy of your driver's license, passport and other forms of identification on your phone. 

The first phones to access the technology, which is still in development, will use both Qualcomm's premium Snapdragon 865 chip and Android R, the next version of Google's operating system for phones. Phones with Snapdragon 865 will start to arrive in 2020.

The announcement arrived on Wednesday at Qualcomm's third annual Snapdragon Tech Summit in Maui, Hawaii, where the world's largest mobile chipmaker introduces its next mobile chipsets for 2020 phones, laptops, smartwatches and VR headsets. 

We saw a demo of how it could work on a mock-up scenario and test device running Snapdragon 865.

In one example, you'd go into the digital wallet app on the device and pull up your electronic ID, which presents a QR code for a different device to scan with the aid of a simple app. Your verified credentials then appear on the device that did the scanning. None of your personal information is stored in the QR code for privacy reasons, and you might even show a restricted version that just shows your name, face and confirmation that you're of drinking age (handy if you're going to a bar).

Pilot programs are underway, Qualcomm says, and some states and agencies could require additional security authentications for different documents, like dual authentication for a passport functionality. The wallet might also operate much like your mobile banking app.

As always, phone-makers will have the option of using the chipset's features, but it's no guarantee that they will. Still, support for Google's mobile ID credential program will give top-tier devices an advantage over phones that lack this feature. Google is expected to announce Android R capabilities at its annual I/O conference, usually held in May.

In addition to supporting Google's mobile driver's license, high-end phones that run Snapdragon 865 will be able to tap into a 200-megapixel camera, ultrafast 5G speeds and a larger in-screen fingerprint reader touted as being faster and more secure. Qualcomm also introduced a 5G chip called the Snapdragon 765 that will help make 5G phones cheaper with better battery.

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Originally published earlier this week.