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Google unveils secure element alliance for biometric passport and mDL development

Google unveils secure element alliance for biometric passport and mDL development
 

In 2018, Google first started using the Titan M Chip, also known as Secure Element (SE), on its Pixel 3 phones, and now the tech giant is planning to leverage the mature technology to enable digital identity development.

The SE operates separately from the processor and has until now been utilized for storing passwords and providing tamper-resistant key storage for Android Apps using StrongBox. StrongBox is a key storage for Android devices, operating in the SE, that paved the way for new features, including digital identity tools.

Now, Google is unveiling new plans for its SE chips, saying it intends to use them to bring biometric passports and identity cards to Android smartphones.

To that end, the company founded the Android Ready SE Alliance, a coalition of smartphone vendors and manufacturers with the common goal of accelerating the development of this technology.

From a technical standpoint, the Alliance’s efforts will focus on the creation of a large collection of open source and ready-to-use Applets for SE chips. These will include digital identity credentials like mobile driver’s licenses (mDLs), national IDs and biometric passports, according to a blog post on the initiative.

Together with the Alliance’s establishment, Google has also recently launched the General Availability (GA) version of StrongBox for SE this week.

The applet is qualified and ready for use by the company’s OEM partners, including Giesecke+Devrient, Kigen, NXP, STMicroelectronics, and Thales.

Thales has invested in the development of smartphone-based digital identity credentials, and is expected to launch mDLs in Florida this year.

Moving forward, Google also sees this project evolving to allow smartphones to hold digital IDs and replace car keys, but implementations could possibly go further.

Writing in the blog post, Google specified that the new features are not limited to phones and tablets, but will also be compatible with WearOS, Android Auto Embedded, and Android TV devices.

“We already have several Android OEMs adopting Android Ready SE for their devices,” the blog post reads.

“We look forward to working with our OEM partners to bring these next-generation features for our users.”

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