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Local businesses react to new license

BY NICK MOFFITT | DECEMBER 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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For Iowans, their smart phones could soon be capable of eliminating their wallets.

The Iowa Department of Transportation said in early December at a budget hearing that sometime in 2015, a digital-license app will be available for Iowans, but this has some Iowa City businesses skeptical about the launch as it relates to alcohol sales.

While DOT Director Paul Trombino noted police stops and airports, the digital license would be in a smart-phone app that would require a pin number to unlock.

Colton Hadden, the manager at Liquor House, 425 S. Gilbert St., said he’d have a hard time believing the technology at first.

“If they’re just fumbling around with the phone, I’d rather have them just have the real deal,” he said. “I just don’t trust the technology.”

He noted that while the state has been great about educating those who sell alcohol with the IPACT program, it would take a lot of training before he felt comfortable in the future.

According to the Property Casualty Insurers, an industry trade group, Iowa is one of 37 states that allows proof of insurance via smart phone to be shown during traffic stops.

The Iowa City police are aware of the potential change but haven’t made any procedural or policy changes for the upcoming digital license.

Sgt. Scott Gaarde, the information officer for the police, wrote in an email that the change may make things easier.

“Quite frankly, it may make it easier for community members to have their IDs or licenses on their person as required when driving,” he said.

Leah Cohen, the owner of Bo-James, 118 E. Washington St., said she would welcome the digital licenses but only on one condition.

“I would guess it would be a hassle,” she said. “In order to do it, we would have to have some sort of machine.”

The positive side of things is that it could make it easier to detect fake identifications, she said, and it would most likely eliminate the push for license renewal upon turning 21.

“The bars have pushed that at 21, you’d have to renew your license and go from vertical to horizontal, but this would fix that,” she said.

UI student Austin Klimes, a member of security at the Airliner, 22 S. Clinton St., said the digital IDs would be welcomed because they could make things more efficient.

“If it was secure and handled well, I think that it could be very productive and speed things up at the door,” he said.

Security is a central issue of the digital license for Michael Connor, the general manager of Liquor Downtown, 315 S. Gilbert St.

He said that despite the potential to eliminate fake identification and cut back on underage sales, the downsides of hacking or identify theft could still loom.

“I think [the state] would need to seriously test the technology before it tries to release something like this,” he said.


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