Introduced in 2009 by the Emirates Identity Authority, the Emirates ID is a mandatory card for all residents in the UAE. Under federal law, residents are legally required to carry these cards at all times. Its electronic chip contains vital information as well as bio-metric data on each cardholder. Today, the Emirates ID is mostly used by government bodies and some private organizations such as banks and employers as a means of record keeping and identification.

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Increasingly, this important piece of plastic is becoming a multi-purpose card. There has been much discussion over the last few years on where it could be used in the future and the value it could provide cardholders.

Link to banking

It has become pretty standard for banks across the UAE to require an Emirates ID when opening of new accounts or issuing loans. More recently, the Emirates ID has started being used in place of bank cards during point of sale transactions, cash withdrawals at ATMs and even money transfers. Following a successful trial operation in 2014, Al Hilal Bank started using the ID card in this way. Its customers can register for the service at any of the bank’s ATMs and the same PIN would automatically apply for both their ID card and their debit card.

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However, most UAE banks have yet to roll out these types of services as they continue to study the concept and customer attitudes towards the technology.  Last year, NBAD began to allow the use of the Emirates ID as a pre-paid card, limiting the service to existing card holders. Customers are required by the bank to enable the services on their ID cards, while all cards issued after December 2014 were said to automatically have the feature built into the card.

Immigration and travel

Although most residents may be somewhat familiar with the smart gate or e-Gate system at UAE airports, many are still not aware that their Emirates ID can be linked to an e-Gate card. The feature can be activated on ID cards upon paying a two-year fee of AED 150 at any Emirates ID Authority service center or DNRD offices at all UAE airports.

Upon swiping an Emirates ID card linked with an e-Gate, the traveler will then have to scan their finger on a screen, Once all of the data is verified, the gate will open and the cardholder can then proceed to the baggage area, bypassing long queues altogether.

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Health Insurance

Insurance appears to be the next frontier for advanced identifications technologies. In March, the Dubai Health Authority announced that all government health insurance cards would be merged with Emirates ID cards as of 2016.

Last month, the UAE’s largest health insurer Daman Insurance said it’s currently planning to use the ID card as a means of identification for patients visiting hospitals. The move will aim to help Daman collect real-time information on services provided and transactions, making the entire process more transparent, not to mention it would significantly cut down the need for paper files.