Cut the Card

Samsung’s Galaxy S20 range will store German national ID

Smartphones have become an indispensable part of our lives, having replaced so many other objects and devices, from keys to cameras. Now, Samsung is working with the German federal government to enable its smartphones to store citizens’ national identity card.

On 23 July, Samsung announced that it’s teaming up with the German Federal Office for Information Security, Bundesdruckerei — a state-owned high-tech security firm — and Deutsche Telekom Security to allow its devices to act as electronic identification. This digital ID service will be available on the Samsung Galaxy S20 family of smartphones in Germany.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 range features an embedded Secure Element component that stores all the sensitive data on a separate processor in the phone. The component also offers proper isolation and protection against hardware attacks and attempts to copy information stored on it. Samsung claims that its embedded Secure Element solution currently provides the highest level of security in the smartphone industry, protecting stored data from getting into the hands of hackers.

German citizens who own a phone in the Galaxy S20 line-up will be able to sign up for the electronic ID programme to replace their physical identity card with a digital version. They will need to add their national ID to the phone through a dedicated app, which will be distributed by Bundesdruckerei and will be made available on the Play Store.

In 2016, the EU introduced its eIDAS regulation in 2016. This is essentially a set of rules that says all organizations delivering public digital services in the EU must allow citizens to use their electronic IDs rather than physical methods. Samsung’s security solution also complies with this regulation.

Samsung isn’t the only company trying to normalize the use of electronic ID in countries. Apple has also been working to replace physical government IDs with digital credentials on Apple devices. And in July 2020, South Korean telecom operators SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus joined forces with authentication company Aton to integrate digital driving licences into an app called Pass, which is also used to verify mobile payments. The Korean National Police Agency has also played a part in the development of the app.

Samsung sees several other uses for its embedded Secure Element solution, including allowing consumers to store other important credentials like a driving licence, national health insurance card and even car and house keys in the future. Users will also be able to digitally verify their identity when voting, opening a bank account or handling confidential medical records.

When it rolls out later in 2020, this electronic ID service will make the smartphone even more indispensable. The smartphone’s role in authenticating identity holds huge promise, and although countries and governments will move at wildly differing speeds, the long-term trend is clear. More power to the smartphone.