Google’s new alliance wants digital keys and mobile IDs to work on Android

Since 2018, all Google Pixel phones have included a Titan M chip. This is called a secure element (SE). Separated from your phone’s processor, it does things like store encryption keys and validate the operating system. And now Google sees the Titan M and other similar secure items as the key to bringing features like digital passports and ID cards to Android phones.

To this end, the company formed the Alliance Android Ready SE (via 9to5Google), a coalition made up of SE vendors and device manufacturers which aims to accelerate the adoption of these features in Android. They will work together to create a collection of open source, ready-to-use applets for SE chips. The group has already launched its first applet with StrongBox, a cryptographic key storage tool.

“We believe this OS offers the best route to introduce these new consumer use cases to Android,” the company said. In the immediate future, the alliance will focus on use cases such as digital car keys and mobile driver’s licenses. On this first point, Google plays catch up with apple. Someday technology could enable things like ePassports. Google does not mention digital vaccine passports, but that’s another potential use case for the technology.

And while phones and tablets are an obvious place to start, this is just the beginning. As Google points out, StrongBox is also available on WearOS, Android Auto, and Android TV devices. In the meantime, the company says it already has “several” Android manufacturers adopting Android Ready SE for their devices.

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