UT should offer digital IDs as as alternative for students

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Photo Credit: Helen Brown | Daily Texan Staff

I shuffled through my bag frantically for the fifth time that week, but my student ID was nowhere to be found. Instead, it lay forgotten on my desk — again. 

Physical identification cards are a nuisance. They are easily misplaced or stolen, wasteful and extremely impractical, especially considering many other universities have already transitioned to digital IDs. 

While UT does have a virtual ID option, it can’t be used to access buildings, buy food with meal plans or serve as a form of identification, rendering it useless. If you lose your physical ID, getting a new copy can be an inconvenient process and an unexpected expense. Students need functional digital IDs as  an option for convenient access and use as well as peace of mind. 

“I’ve never really lost my phone, but I’ve had to replace my ID five times,” sophomore business honors Kirsten Wunrow said. “It’s inconvenient if I lose it because I can easily find my phone with an app. It’s not that I don’t want to carry around an ID, it’s that I misplace it so often.” 

Implementing digital IDs has been, and continues to be, a topic of conversation among students. Earlier this year, Abhirupa Dasgupta, columnist and neuroscience sophomore, argued that work on digital ID technology could be outsourced to students to create a digital ID specific to UT. However, using existing technology would allow the University to provide students with digital IDs more quickly.

Many universities, including the University of Oklahoma, have partnered with Apple to bring contactless IDs to campuses nationwide. Students can use their IDs from their Apple Watches and iPhones to access buildings and dining halls without fear of misplacing a wasteful piece of plastic. 

Like putting your debit card on Apple Wallet, digital IDs would save time and improve security —  physical IDs are more easily stolen than a digital copy. 

The University is in the process of “a multiphase software upgrade project for the campus security system,” said Melissa Loe, director of communications of Financial and Administrative Services at UT. 

The Electronic Physical Security System project started in September to replace the older system and its associated hardware. The project is anticipated to take two years, said Michael Martell, interim director of Data Centers & Electronic Physical Security Systems at UT.

“The current system is aged and does not support the capability for a mobile credential on your phone,” Martell said. According to Martell, the project would potentially “support the use of a mobile ID down the road.” 

As the University currently works on replacing the older campus security system, it’s the perfect time for UT to consider digital IDs as a convenient option for students. However, digital IDs should serve only as an option, not the only means of identification. It can exclude students that do not have Apple devices, and students may still need a physical copy if technology systems go down. 

“I don’t want it to just be on the phone because my phone dies too often, but I think it would be a good backup option,” Wunrow said. 

With the new technological potential for digital IDs, recent student action and the fact that other universities, namely the University of Oklahoma, already have mobile identification technology, it is the prime time for the University to make the shift. 

Dang is a sustainability studies and business honors freshman from Kerrville, Texas.