On November 8th, the European Council and Parliament reached a provisional agreement on the new framework for a European digital identity (eID).

Over a decade in the making, we Europeans are now finally taking a fundamental step so that all EU citizens can have a unique and secure digital identity. This is a key advancement for the European Union to be a global leader in the digital identity field, enabling all 27 member states to reap the benefits of digitalisation.

The new European digital identity wallets will enable all Europeans to access online services throughout Europe with their own national digital ID, without having to use private identification methods or unnecessarily sharing personal data. Self-sovereign identity (SSI) principles help to assure that only information that needs to be shared will be shared. Security and privacy are paramount to any electronic identity ecosystem, and I have previously highlighted some of the concerns and trade-offs in the first of this EUDI blog series; Introducing European Digital Identity (EUDI): The Future of Secure and Accessible Identity.

Understanding the EUDI Wallet Pilots

Running in parallel with the legislative track are the actual pilots of the EUDI wallets and end-user services. This is a great advantage from many perspectives, not least striving to avoid the fate of eIDAS v1, which suffered from the ‘chicken-and-egg’ problem from the start. It is surprising how the pilots have flown under the radar despite there being over 250 private corporations and public authorities participating in the four largest pilots alone, supported with €46 million investment from the EU Commission, as discussed in the Provisional Political Agreement EU Commission article.

EUDI Pilot Categories

The pilots can be broadly divided into three categories: User Authentication, e-Signing, and Website Authentication or Qualified Web Authentication Certificates (QWACs). As the last category is outside European control and looking increasingly unimplementable, I will focus initially on the User Authentication and E-Signing.

Beside the QWACs, a wide range of use cases are part of the EUDI pilot projects. These include:

  • Using the wallets to host user credentials for accessing government services
  • Activating SIM cards for mobile network services – in those countries which forbid anonymous SIM cards
  • Signing B2C and G2C contracts
  • Facilitating travel via digital driving licences and identity documents
  • Presenting educational credentials previously standardised under the Bologna agreement

All together, these use cases highlight the broad applicability of the EUDI. Basic user authentication is but a small part of its capabilities.

The European Commission has acknowledged that a digital identity can be used for much more than authentication to existing services. It frequently plays a part in the EUDI’s wide capabilities, as convenience features even at the highest level. For example, in the 2020 State of the Union address, the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, highlighted how users will be able to use the EUDI wallets to file tax returns, check into hotels, rent cars, and securely open bank accounts across borders. Looking further, a European Central Bank policy brief on the European Digital Identity Framework suggests that the EUDI wallet will include support for the Digital Euro.

The Four Major EUDI Pilots

There are several multi-year pilot projects running, of which the four largest are introduced below. In the first phase, which is currently ongoing, the pilots are centred on individual identities and the most common B2C use cases. After the launch of the EUDI for private persons, it’s expected that it will (at last) be the turn of organisational identity.

EWC – EU Digital Identity Wallet Consortium

The EWC pilot is coordinated by Sweden with the involvement of 18 Member States and Ukraine. It is a major undertaking that involves 15 public entities and 40 private organisations. The pilot is centred around travel and tests the storage and display of digital travel credentials and instant payments. First becoming an alternative to, and later replacing, European passports is not a realistic goal at present. But since a national identity card is a valid travel document within the EU, accepting EUDI as a travel document within the Schengen zone (the 27 European countries that have removed the need for passports and many other types of border control at their mutual borders) would be a much more realistic development.

The Digital Euro will be a central component of the EUDI instant payment system, scheduled to launch in 2027+. The Digital Euro seeks to bring instant electronic payments to the masses. However, it will not be as big of a change in the Nordics as in other countries, due to electronic payments already being the default. The Euro represents not value but debt; most of the European money supply exists purely in the digital domain already.

POTENTIAL – Pilots for European Digital Identity Wallet Consortium

The POTENTIAL Pilot is coordinated by Germany and France with the involvement of 17 Member States and Ukraine. It is the largest of the pilots and involves over 50 public entities and over 80 private organisations. The pilot will use the EUDI wallet for several use cases around user authentication including; accessing government services, opening a bank account, e-prescriptions and Digital Driving Licences.

The Digital Driving License is a good example of how having a widely available, strong digital identity opens up a whole range of possibilities for enriching the identity with additional attributes. In this case, using the Digital Driving License to operate motor vehicles within the EU. Every country already has a database of valid licenses granted by the national authorities, so enabling the end user to present this data alongside their digital identity replicates the function of a dedicated physical driver’s license card. This makes tasks like car rental a faster and less error-prone process. It also allows end users to prove both their identity and their vehicle operation licenses online, without the need to send photos of their documents alongside selfies holding those documents to the third party – a goldmine for any identity thief.

NOBID – Nordic-Baltic eID Wallet Consortium

Interestingly the NOBID Pilot is led by Norway, a non-EU country, with eight member states also involved. Overall, it involves 5 public entities and over 15 private organisations.

The pilot will focus on a single use case: the use of the EUDI wallet for the authorisation of payments for products and services by the end user. Unlike the EWC, it will concentrate on addressing the issuance of wallets, the provision of payment means by financial institutions, and the secure and convenient acceptance of payment in a retail (B2C) context.

DC4EU – Digital Credentials for Europe Consortium

The DC4EU Pilot is led by Spain and involves nearly all other member states, as the pilot trials the use of the EUDI wallet in the educational sector and the social security domain. The pilot project aligns with the European Social Security Pass and the European Learning Model.

With tens of universities from around Europe together with government officials and research associations, the pilot is clearly focused on the higher education sector. Technically it is very different from the other pilots, as it trials the use of the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure (EBSI) in the context of the EUDI wallet. Educational records could be especially suitable for a distributed database model, because educational degrees are revoked only under extraordinary circumstances and the range of educational institutions is very broad – from small private institutions to massive state-run universities and polytechnics. The project is scheduled to run until April 2025, and they also maintain a handy list of related acronyms on the project site.

EUDI Pilot Overview

Here is a brief overview of the four major EUDI Pilots;

Participating Countries Public / Private Entity Involvement Key Focus
EWC

(EU Digital Identity Wallet Consortium)

Coordinated by Sweden, with involvement from 18 member states and Ukraine. Involving 15 public entities and 40 private organisations. Travel & testing the storage and display of digital travel credentials and instant payments.
POTENTIAL

(Pilots for European Digital Identity Wallet Consortium)

Coordinated by Germany and France, with involvement from 17 member states and Ukraine. Involving: over 50 public entities and over 80 private organisations. Use of the EUDI Wallet for User Authentication. For example: accessing government services, opening bank accounts, e-prescriptions & digital driving licenses.
NOBID

(Nordic-Baltic eID Wallet Consortium)

Coordinated by Norway, with involvement from 8 member states. Involving: 5 public entities and over 15 private organisations. Use of the EUDI wallet for authorisation of payments, for products and services, by the end user.
DC4EU

(Digital Credentials for Europe Consortium)

Coordinated by Spain, with involvement from most other member states. Involving: 43 public entries and 49 private organisations. Use of the EUDI Wallet in the educational sector and social security domain.

The EUDI pilots are well underway and will continue to late 2024 with some even heading into 2025. It is clear then that the original 2024 launch date for the EUDI is not tenable, at least when talking about a mass launch. But I do hope that by this time next year, there will be a limited release available in order to truly start exploring the capabilities and practical features of the EUDI ecosystem. The potential scale of the EUDI is immense but is certainly doable – as the credit card industry has proven, for example.

In addition, I cannot wait to see organisation identity, identity context and right to represent included in the EUDI Pilots as soon as possible, but perhaps this is one of the occasions where even in the modern world it’s worthwhile to measure twice and cut once.

Are you prepared for the EUDI?

Contact Ubisecure to discuss EUDI opportunities with our team of digital identity experts, and how it may affect identity management in your organisation. Follow this series of blogs on the EUDI, as we follow the continued movements within the EUDI ecosystem – sign up to our newsletter for updates.