Chinese smartphone manufacturer and telecommunications giant Huawei has launched a pilot program for an electronic ID (eID) that integrates into Huawei Pay.

The eID is issued by the Ministry of Public Security and stored on the security chip within Huawei phones, protecting the integrity of the sensitive identity data. According to local media, it will allow users to authenticate their identity online, but will also be available for offline use when checking into hotels.

Sun Jianfa, director of Huawei Pay’s Consumer Businesses Group, said the ultimate goal is to allow users not to use wallets. He said the company hopes to integrate ID cards, bank cards, various membership cards, door keys, and even car keys into Huawei Pay.

The digitization of government-issued ID cards in a popular trend in China, with officials hoping not only to increase convenience but also improve the integrity of personal data. In April 2018, Jiangxi Province issued the first batch of ID chips for smartphone users. The smart chips, dubbed SIMeID,  attach to the phone’s SIM card and can store sensitive identifying information for safer verification over the internet.

Huawei is not the first Chinese tech company to experiment with ID services. Both Tencent and Alibaba have also trialed digitized versions of China’s ubiquitous ID cards. Alibaba is currently trialing its Alipay-based digital IDs in Hangzhou and Quzhou in Zhejiang province, and Fuzhou in Fujian province. While the virtual IDs allow their users to book train tickets and check into hotels, they are only accepted by local authorities.

Tencent also began issuing ID cards though WeChat in December 2017. The service was first provided in the southern city of Guangzhou.

Numerous other government services have also undergone the process of digitization. Tencent has also been working with the government to provide a WeChat-based e-pass that would make travel between Hong Kong and mainland China easier for Chinese citizens.

In May, Beijing began issuing electronic health cards through WeChat for use at some of the city’s hospitals. The move forms part of a broader push to improve healthcare and standardize patient information.

Chris Udemans

Christopher Udemans is TechNode's former Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covered Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, cleantech, and cybersecurity.

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