SingPass may soon be used to verify age to buy alcohol at machine

It is one of several new ways of using the identification system as it undergoes rebranding

It may soon be possible to use a person's SingPass to verify their age to buy alcohol from vending machines, even as the Government plans to make the national identification system a common tool to authenticate digital sign-ins.

In the second or third quarter, fintech company Ascan plans to launch a new feature in vending machines that allows customers to buy alcoholic beverages using SingPass, instead of a physical NRIC at shops to confirm they are at least 18 years old - the legal drinking age here.

They will be able to do this by using the SingPass mobile app to scan a QR code on a vending machine, and then verifying their identity with the app by keying in their six-digit app passcode, or scanning their fingerprint or face.

Once they agree to let SingPass send details of their date of birth, and their age has been verified, they can select the alcoholic beverage they want.

The verification step is similar to that of using SingPass to access government e-services, like applying for public housing. But users must first do a one-time set-up for the app using their SingPass username and password.

The vending machine example was one of several new ways of using SingPass that the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) showcased yesterday as it launched a new logo for SingPass, the first in 18 years since the service was introduced in 2003.

GovTech, which developed SingPass, said that at the heart of this rebranding is an "even better SingPass that offers new features and provides convenient access to a larger range of services".

Transactions facilitated by SingPass last year doubled to more than 170 million, as more people turned to digital transactions during the pandemic, said GovTech.

The identification system now powers more than 1,400 services offered by about 140 public and 200 private sector organisations. The number of people using the SingPass app also tripled in the past year to 2.5 million.

The agency added that SingPass has "played an important role in the fight against Covid-19" and has supported pandemic contact tracing efforts with SafeEntry check-ins through the SingPass app.

The SingPass app stores a user's NRIC barcode and retrieves personal details from government sources, such as marriage certificate numbers, birth records of children, and Central Provident Fund records.

Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative Vivian Balakrishnan said at the SingPass rebranding event yesterday that with all the features built into SingPass, "it is not a stretch to imagine that (SingPass) will eventually evolve into an international digital identity or... passport".

Work has already started on this.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.