Apple makes airport security less painful for some travelers

YesYou rush to catch a flight with a suitcase in one hand and a baby, drink, or purse (or maybe all three) in the other. One of the last things you might want is to rummage through your belongings for your driver’s license or ID to flash to the Transportation Security Administration agent.

But for Arizona residents departing from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, this process might be a little easier, provided they also have an Apple Watch or iPhone. Apple launched the first driver’s license and state ID in its Apple Wallet on Wednesday. This could be useful for travelers, as they will be able to add their driver’s license or ID card to Wallet, without having to present a physical copy to security officers.

For now, the only airport that accepts Apple Wallet ID versions is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, and even there it’s only available at certain security checkpoints in the city. TSA. But Apple said it’s working with 11 other states and Puerto Rico to deliver this feature.

The move heralds a future of travel where important documents can be digitally stored and accessed in one place through your smartphone or smartwatch. Nowadays, the devices are capable of functioning as digital hotel room keys. They serve as digital queues for everything from airport security to theme park rides. They allow you to order room service and unlock rental cars. And now they allow you to pass through airport security without needing a physical ID card.

(Photo courtesy of Apple.)

How does Apple Wallet’s new driver’s license feature work at airport security?

To use Apple’s new ID feature, Arizona residents must access the Wallet app on their Apple device and select “Driver’s License or State ID”. From there, Apple presents a series of on-screen instructions to start the setup and verification process, which includes taking a selfie and scanning the front and back of their driver’s license or ID card. Fraud prevention measures include prompting users to perform a series of facial and head movements during the setup process.

The State of Arizona (not Apple or Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport) is responsible for reviewing and approving requests to add a driver’s license or state ID in Wallet.

At a participating airport security checkpoint, users present their iPhone or Apple Watch to an ID reader. From there, the traveler’s profile information is presented digitally via encrypted communication directly between their device and the airport ID reader. Travelers will then give consent via Face or Touch ID, all without having to show physical ID. The TSA will take a photo of the traveler for verification purposes.

(Photo courtesy of Apple.)

Is adding your ID card to Apple Wallet safe?

Losing your device may actually be safer than losing your physical ID. For starters, you can use Apple’s Find My app to lock your device or help locate it (or both). This app also allows users to choose to remotely wipe their device. Additionally, biometric authentication using Face ID and Touch ID is there to help ensure that only the person who added the ID to the device can use it.

Traveling with a physical wallet full of credit cards, room keys, and IDs means one more thing to worry about leaving in the back pocket of an airplane seat. It’s one more thing a pickpocket could steal, and it’s an opportunity for your virtual money to be subject to a credit card skimmer.

Of course, virtual versions of these cards are certainly prone to security issues, like data breaches. But if you simply forget to pack your wallet (or prefer to leave it in the hotel safe while you explore), the latest news from Apple Wallet suggests that it will become increasingly possible to travel without purse or wallet.

How Apple Wallet is disrupting travel

Over the past few years, Apple Wallet has revolutionized multiple aspects of travel. Many retailers allow you to pay in-store with linked debit or credit cards. More and more transit agencies allow you to store tickets on Apple Wallet, as do many cinemas, stadiums and concert halls. And in December 2021, Hyatt became the first hotel brand to offer room keys in Apple Wallet, allowing guests to use their iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock rooms at participating hotels.

Apple Wallet ID functionality is only available to residents of Arizona at this time, but Apple has announced plans to add the functionality to residents of Colorado, Hawaii, Mississippi, Ohio and Porto Rico. This follows an announcement in September 2021 that the feature would also be available to residents of Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma and Utah.

And while even Arizona residents still need to travel with a physical ID card to exit other airports or enter certain establishments, the proliferation of virtual cards may eliminate this in the future.

Overall, features like Apple Wallet have taken away some of the headaches that come with searching for maps and keys while you navigate your vacation. But there are compromises – and they will inevitably force one thing you’ll most likely need to pack: a cell phone charger.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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