A smartphone showing what a Digital ID card could look like employees
By Mark Zucherman | March 10, 2021

The ID Card is Changing: 4 Things to Know Before Creating a Digital Version for Your Employees or Customers.

New Zebra CardStudio 2.0 software allows you to start with a standard card design or customize your own to ensure digital IDs work for your specific application and use case.

Some say the days of physical identification (ID), membership and loyalty cards are long gone. The sheer number of cards that we must carry these days to verify who we are, the organizations and loyalty programs to which we belong, the events to which we have access, and even the vaccines we’ve received is quite overwhelming. As a result, many people are downsizing their wallets by creating digital replicas that can be stored and accessed on their mobile devices. In developed countries, it’s common for people to only carry a smartphone with a single physical ID card, such as a driver’s license. At the same time, COVID-19 precautions demand more contactless interactions, and concern about the state of the environment and economy is spurring organizations to adopt more eco-conscious and cost-conscious business practices. All of this combined is driving up the value proposition for digital IDs.

The Ease of Digital IDs

Modern technology enables organizations to quickly issue a digital ID card at the same time a physical card is printed and issued or by itself using the same physical card issuance process in place today. The latter helps to reduce card-related waste, and having a digital ID option can provide both organizations and cardholders with a better check-in and verification experience. Plus, the cost of the software is minimal, especially if you’re using the new Digital ID option in Zebra’s CardStudio 2.0 software suite).

Even more, a digital ID offers a convenience, redundancy, and added layer of security over printed ID cards. If you lose a phone that contains a digital ID, it can quickly be located and/or locked down. How many times have you lost your physical ID, loyalty card or, worse, your entire wallet only to panic for days (or years) about who may have gotten their hands on it?

In other words, there has long been a need for retailers, gyms, libraries, schools and many other types of businesses to make the leap from the physical to digital card realm. However, many of the digital ID solutions that offer fully managed credentialing capabilities – and unmatched security – come with a high price tag and are complicated to issue and manage, making their adoption very difficult and unattractive.

That’s a large reason why we created the Zebra CardStudio Digital ID tool as a complete “out-of-the-box” solution. We wanted to give organizations of all sizes a way to quickly and easily incorporate a digital representation of the physical ID card they would normally issue – complete with a photo and barcode – into their standard card issuance process. (You can learn more about how CardStudio 2.0 enables you to create digital IDs in three simple steps here.)

Not All Digital ID Solutions are Created Equal

I realize that you will likely investigate and shop around a bit before committing to a digital ID card solution. So, I want to remind you of the four key things to look for when evaluating your options:

1. Simplicity – Even if your business requires a more complex card design, the process of customizing the template, inputting cardholder data and issuing a digital ID should not be difficult. You should be able to learn and issue a new digital card in a matter of minutes using your existing staff and resources. There should not be a learning curve with the software. At the same time, it should be super simple for cardholders to download and save cards via an email to their mobile devices – self-explanatory, really. For example, the Digital ID tool in CardStudio 2.0 gives you the option to either send the digital card as a PDF or a version that can be saved on devices. If the recipient has an iOS device, the card will be saved in WalletPass. Those who have Android will be able to directly download the card to their devices using the industry standard pkpass format. Either way, the recipient receives an email when the digital card is ready, outlining the easy steps that must be taken to “accept” and save the card on the phone.

2. Flexibility – Make sure you’ll be able to personalize the cards to meet your brand and card application use case and needs. Ideally, the solution should provide both standard and customizable card templates as well as variable data input elements, such as the person’s name, picture, and unique ID number. If you still need to print a physical card for certain applications and simply want to issue the digital version as a backup or duplicate, verify that the software also offers “specialty ribbon” options. This will enable you to create your physical employee, student, loyalty, or membership card designs with added security and eye-popping card effects. And, regardless of your card strategy, confirm that the software duplicates your physical card’s design perfectly – to include the 1D/2D barcode and/or QR code. This will help ensure that digital ID cards stored and scanned via customers’ mobile devices will function exactly the same way as printed cards.

3. Security – Even though the card may only be used for visual identification or external validation via a barcode or QR code, it is important that your card creation system give you complete control over the amount, type, and sensitivity of any personal information contained within that scan or in the digital ID. This helps to ensure that only the organizational and personal customer data necessary to execute your specific digital ID application is ever disclosed. Look for additional safeguards as well, such as advanced end-to-end security and encryption mechanisms. Ultimately, you want the digital card to be as secure as any printed machine-readable version – if not more so.

4. Support – Will you need help downloading, installing or learning the software or is it self-explanatory? And does the software provider offer online tutorials that you can reference if needed? Be sure to ask these questions. Also confirm that you will automatically receive new templates, design features, security updates and management capabilities when offered by the software manufacturer. This is important, as you want to use the latest technology to create and secure your digital cards.

The Takeaway

While I still foresee a future where physical badges may have to be swiped to access highly-secure facilities, digital credentials are certainly gaining favor among those who frequent retail stores, event venues, gyms and libraries. Even students, most of whom now have smartphones, would probably prefer to scan a barcode or QR code to confirm their identities than stuff another card into their wallets or backpacks (which they may or may not carry).

In other words, if you are printing ID, membership, vaccine verification or loyalty cards today, you should strongly consider if a digital ID option will better serve your organization and/or enhance your customers’ experiences. The cost is going to be on par with what you’re paying to create a personalized physical card now, and possibly even a little less if you typically use a fancier media. And there could actually be cost savings in the long run, as digital ID cards can be updated or augmented without using any more media if access/membership status changes. The time commitment to create the cards is almost identical and defined solely by the time it takes to collect and input a user’s email address.

If you’re curious about whether a solution such as CardStudio 2.0 with Digital ID will help enhance your ID card application or issuance process, reach out to my team. We can review your specific needs and recommend the best card strategy for you – whether you ultimately need a printed or mobile-delivered digital ID solution.

Healthcare, Innovative Ideas, Retail, Hospitality, Public Sector,
Mark Zucherman
Mark Zucherman

Mark Zucherman is currently a Senior Software Product Manager at Zebra where he is responsible for CardStudio as well as several different software and partner initiatives. 

He has more than 25 years of experience with software, hardware and enterprise applications and has had extensive success working with customers, application vendors and partners in driving new markets and opportunities for secure ID card printers, managed print solution offerings and other innovative solutions across multiple vertical sectors.

Mark holds a BSIE from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and a Masters of Engineering degree from UCLA.

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