A survey from the U.S. Travel Association found that 72% of Americans do not have a REAL ID-compliant license or are unsure if they do. Furthermore, more than half (57%) are unaware of the October deadline and it is estimated that 39% of Americans do not hold the proper identification to board an airplane starting next October.
So what so you need to know? Nearly 20 years after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the REAL ID Act of 2005 is becoming a reality. Beginning on October 1, 2020, anyone traveling on commercial airlines in the U.S. will need to produce identification that meets the minimal security standards set by the federal government. Examples of compliant identification include REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or ID card, passport or passport card.
U.S. Travel economists estimated if REAL ID standards were to be fully enforced immediately, at least 78,500 air travelers could be turned away at TSA checkpoints on the first day, costing the U.S. economy $40.3 million in lost travel-related spending. That is just one day!
Between now and October, state agencies will be taxed to deliver REAL ID-compliant documents to meet demand. The Act compels states to require additional paperwork such as proof of residency and social security number. It is not uncommon for applicants to make more than one trip due to not having all the necessary paperwork on the first visit. Scaling up to meet that demand is no easy feat in an economy with record low unemployment rates.
Given those grim statistics, next fall could be fraught with delays and headaches for all travelers. As the U.S. Travel report stated “we need all hands on deck to avert a big problem next October.”
While we are in agreement that stronger security standards for IDs are a necessary measure to reduce fraud, there are new technologies that can help improve the process that weren’t available in 2005 when the Act was passed by Congress. For example, in 2008 when the DHS defined REAL ID standards the iPhone had been introduced just months before. Today, smartphones are ubiquitous and are now used to verify identity and secure documents – even for sensitive industries such as healthcare and banking.
As such, it is time to modernize the REAL ID Act and leverage today’s modern identity verification solutions to better prepare for the October deadline.
- Mobile and web-based REAL ID applications could alleviate the backlog of applications at the state agencies such as the Department of Motor Vehicles who have been tasked with reissuing IDs for all of its residents who want to comply. Applicants could use a mobile or web-based enrollment process that reduces the number of visits to the state office and streamlines the in-person appointment to just minutes.
- Accepting mobile or digital REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses or ID cards can speed the TSA checkpoint process. We have seen in our own research that Americans have an appetite for better technology at TSA checkpoints. Nearly half of Americans (45%) are on board with using digital IDs and more than half (56%) believe it would improve speed and efficiency in security lines.
- Using automated identity verification technology at checkpoints will improve efficiencies. That same survey found that more than 4 in 5 Americans (84%) feel that biometrics will improve travelers’ airport experience and nearly 3 in 5 (59%) believe that biometrics will increase safety because of improved identification accuracy.
If the U.S. hopes to avoid a disaster for air travelers next fall, it will take innovative new technology solutions to smooth the process for everyone involved.