Since 2018, all of Google’s Pixel phones have included a Titan M chip. It’s what’s known as a Secure Element (SE). Separate from your phone’s processor, it does things like store encryption keys and validates the operating system. And now Google sees the Titan M and other Secure Elements like it as the key to bringing features like digital passports and identity cards to Android phones.
To that end, the company has formed the Android Ready SE Alliance (via 9to5Google), a coalition made up of SE vendors and device manufacturers that aims to accelerate the adoption of those features in Android. They’ll work together to create a collection of open source and ready-to-use applets for SE chips. The group has already launched its first applet with StrongBox, a tool for storing cryptographic keys.
“We believe this SE offers the best path for introducing these new consumer use cases in Android,” the company said. In the immediate future, the alliance will focus on use cases like digital car keys and mobile driver’s licenses. On that first point, Google is playing catch-up to Apple. One day, the technology could enable things like ePassports. Google doesn’t mention digital vaccine passports, but that’s another potential use case for the tech.
And while phones and tablets are an obvious starting point, that’s just the start. 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.