National standards for IDs in the United States have been a topic of discussion and debate for several years. Most Americans present a state issued driver’s license when asked to provide identification domestically, and this practice spread beyond driving to almost every facet of daily life from opening bank accounts to registering at a local gym, and visiting a doctor’s office, or going out to a club. The rise of terror threats and need for additional security measures after 9/11 lead to the creation of a federal law called the Real ID Act in 2005
, which mandated minimum standards for states when they issue identification documents. Full implementation is yet to take place, though many states have already complied with the provisions of the law. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security lists more detailed information about the current status of this effort on their website https://www.dhs.gov/real-id-public-faqs
Reasons behind the REAL ID standards
Even though the law was enacted after the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, there are a number of other useful effects outside of terrorism protection. The most prominent one is the new uniform data structure design
and advanced security features
that will allow all states to follow common guidelines when issuing IDs and Driver’s Licenses in order to effectively fight fraudulent IDs
. Another positive aspect is the overall increased awareness among officials and employees, who check IDs daily in the course of their work, whether for law enforcement purposes or other use cases like age verification at liquor stores, or customer identification in the banking sector. All in all, more secure cards should lead to more secure identities.
The REAL ID design
A key feature in these new IDs is the standardization of data fields
. The Real ID Act specifies mandatory data fields that must be displayed, and compliant IDs receive a gold star logo
. Another characteristic is the switch from magnetic stripes to barcode technology, which must list specific items of personal data according to the law. On top of these, a host of modern security features
are prescribed, such as watermarks
, holograms (and other OVD items), special ink, as well as OVI elements, just to name a few.
Process – where are we now?
Things finally seem to be on track for full implementation nationwide. 28 states/territories are already fully compliant
and 26 have been granted extensions through Oct. 10, 2018. Only American Samoa and Northern Mariana Islands have pending applications for extension that are awaiting approval.
Advantages for individuals
Residents in states that are already in compliance with Real ID rules can already enjoy the benefits of carrying advanced identification documents that allow them to easily board federally regulated commercial flights
, and gain easier access to other federal facilities. Others are encouraged to consider applying for passports in order to ensure that their air travel will not be interrupted in case their states fail to comply by the final deadline of October 1, 2020. Those, who do not wish to carry a passport on a domestic flight, perhaps an enhanced ID or trusted traveler cards could serve as an acceptable alternative.
Advantages for ID scanner manufacturers
The picture is less rosy from an automatic OCR and authentication perspective since neither the location of the data fields, nor their font size or font type and other security features are subject to standardization. This means that recognition engines must be trained to handle each document type separately. Nevertheless, it will be a definite advantage over the current situation to work with higher quality cards
, which will lead to increased reading and authentication accuracy overall. The increased presence of special security features is expected to compound the need for specially developed identity document readers that can verify document authenticity by checking these security features safely, quickly, and effectively, usually within only a few seconds
. Such units form the cornerstone of ARH’s reader portfolio
, and they resolve fully automated data entry and wide-ranging authentication tasks reliably.