Germany to launch digital ID smartphone service

By on 06/08/2020
Germans will soon have access to a national digital identity service, built around the existing ID card system and available on Samsung smartphones. (Photo by Sergey Galyonkin via flickr).

The German government is to launch a national digital identity platform, built around the National ID service that underpins the country’s identity card system and available on smartphones.

The German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), government-owned security firm Bundesdruckerei and Deutsche Telekom Security are working together “to develop a hardware-based security architecture that allows citizens to securely store their National ID on their smartphone as an eID,” mobile phone maker Samsung has said, with the aim of launching the system “later this year”. Samsung Galaxy S20 mobile phone consumers will be pioneers of the new government-backed service.  

Phone users will be able to verify their identity on the platform by tapping National ID cards equipped with ‘near field communications’ (NFC) on the back of their phone. “Once verified, the mobile eID will be stored securely on the smartphone and can be used to open a bank account, use eGovernment services and more,” Samsung says. The mobile ID application will be distributed by Bundesdruckerei, accessible via Play Store, and initially available for Galaxy S20, S20+ or S20 Ultra smartphones, with other Samsung smartphones following.

Firm foundations

Germans already use their national ID cards when using many public services, and the new system will ease access through digital platforms. “In cooperation with Samsung and Deutsche Telekom Security, we now have the chance to combine the high level of trust in the physical document with the user friendliness of the smartphone,” said Bundesdruckerei CEO Dr Stefan Hofschen.

Samsung has made available a software development kit (SDK), enabling trusted service providers and app developers to build the ID system into their services. “As a result, applications and services will be able to work seamlessly with the eID programme and German citizens can enjoy them with peace of mind, knowing their information will be protected,” the smartphone developer says.

The firm believes that citizens will quickly begin to use the platform for a wide range of applications, both within the public sector and beyond it. “Similar to contactless payments a few years ago, consumers will quickly realise the benefits of having key credentials including their driving licence, national health insurance cards, or even their car and apartment keys available on their mobile phone, securely stored at all times,” the company said. “Soon, they may also be able to remotely verify their identity to access and send confidential medical records, open a bank account, or vote using their smartphone.”

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