Digital ID award: a first glimpse of the future of IDs?

January 25, 2022 Michael Van Gestel

Document verification in cyberspace

It wasn’t so long ago that we only used our identity documents in person, like presenting them for review at the bank or for international travel. There was no such thing as a digital ID check before the advances of the internet and technology.
While we still hand over passports at the airport, many of the things we once did in person, we now do online. Instead of going to a branch to open a bank account, we might go to a website. Instead of waiting in a queue to rent a car, we can do it via an app. 

But proving that a physical ID is real with a digital check presents challenges. You have to take a 3D document and review it on a screen via a 2D image, whereas having the document in front of you allows you to review many indicators and security features to determine its authenticity. 

While the identity document industry has had hundreds of years to create robust IDs with strong security features, the digital environment is still nascent and developing. Assessing the authenticity of a document in the digital world requires refined techniques. Onfido’s solution is built to deal with these challenges by using technology such as biometric verification, textural analysis to check it’s a photo of an actual ID (and not a screen), analyzing the layout to ensure it’s not a digitally edited forgery, and looking for data consistency to identify any modified documents. These solutions are proving more valuable and necessary for businesses for fraud detection that balances digital security with a smooth user experience.

The benefit of digital ID cards

We’re starting to see a bridge between digital checks of physical documents, and the official documents themselves being digital. Argentina's Smart DNI – a national identity card with a digital counterpart –  isn’t the first move towards digital ID documents, but it is the first time one has won an award. 

The High Security Print Awards are an interesting and insightful showcase of some excellent examples of banknote and security document design and manufacture.

Argentina's Smart DNI was a noteworthy win in the ‘Regional Banknote & ID Document of the Year Awards 2021.' It was awarded the Best New ID or Travel Document in Latin America: the first physical document award winner that has an associated smartphone (digital) counterpart.

This is recognizing an increasing trend of government authorities around the world to invest in or explore issuing digital documents in place of physical ones. It is indicative of how reliant we have become on our mobile handheld devices for so much of our day-to-day needs and business.

Digital ID Cards: the future?

The creation of virtual identity documents are a response to the growing trend for consumers to have access to everything via their portable devices, a more convenient way to access your identity documents and prove your bona fides.  This new approach presents us with new challenges compared to the traditional physical form. Does this improve security and fraud prevention, or does it simply move the potential threats to another arena, with different detection methods? 

While there is still some value in the more traditional methods of examination, new tools must be brought to bear. The ease for the end user, coupled with the reduction in issuing and manufacturing costs makes the digital identity document a very attractive prospect for any issuing authority. While some government bodies around the world are introducing virtual documents alongside their physical counterparts, it is clear that the final destination is a purely digital document.

Are digital passports next?

While this trend is currently around internal documents, like national identity cards and driving licenses, it might only be a matter of time before the passport is next. Onfido’s most recent annual fraud report showed that passports have overtaken national IDs as the most compromised identity documents. 

To learn more about how fraudsters are targeting identity documents and how to protect your business from identity fraud, download our 2022 Identity Fraud report here.


About the Author

Michael Van Gestel

Michael Van Gestelis the Global Head of Fraud at Onfido. He leads the Document and Fraud Strategy Team and has a central role in Onfido's product development strategy. Michael started his career in the security sector at the Dutch Immigration Office and the Forgery Department at Schiphol Airport and since then has worked as a document expert and international trainer at several global document checking and referencing companies. Bringing hands on experience, knowledge and perspective, Michael has also served as an Identity Document Authentication trainer at the Expertise Centre Identity Fraud and Documents (ECID), sharing his knowledge with embassies, consulates, airlines, security agencies, immigration offices and police departments all over the world. He continues to provide combined training sessions together with Interpol.

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