By: William Sikkens
Host, User Friendly 2.0 Saturday’s at 5:00 p.m.

Digital License Plates

Michigan is the third state to approve digital license plates.   California and Arizona are the trailblazers in this new technology.  We are living in a time where just about everything is going digital.  Some things improve while others do not.

The company Reviver has been working on this technology for a while.  These license plates offer some advantages.

You can personalize parts of your license plate.  For example, the “tag” area, with the plate number is locked to what is on file with the DMV, and the area above and under it can be customized per what is defined in state law.

You can renew your registration through your phone.  Since the “sticker” will automatically update there is no longer a need to go to the DMV.  A lot of states are doing away with emission controls and in those places you won’t even need a smog test.

If your car is stolen you can have the plate display the word “STOLEN” for everyone to see.

There are also a number of security features.  One is a “Valet Parking” mode that lets you monitor your car remotely while it is being parked by a valet attendant.  Have kids?  Another is a geofencing option that alerts you when the car is taken out of specific boundaries.

Those are just some of the bonuses but there are a few drawbacks.  The first one is the higher cost.  In Michigan, as an example, it is $19.95/month for the battery powered version and $24.95 for the hard wired.  This is on top of your vehicle registration fees.  This does include LTE connectivity and GPS functionality (hardwired version).

Another issue is the device can store location information.   “Your locational history…can reveal your associations, who you speak with, where you go to work, where you live,” Stephanie Lacambra, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s still not clear where all this information is going, how long it’s stored, or who has access to it.”   Reviver’s CEO told the Chronicle that users can turn off the location tracking.

With any new technology there are almost always positives and negatives.  Privacy is a concern with anything that knows your location and other personal information.  Cost is also an issue.  The question we have to ask ourselves is “Will this new device be worth these concerns?”

William (Bill) Sikkens has been an on-air technology expert since 2014. With an expertise in I.T., cyber security and software design he has had more than 20 years’ experience with advanced technology. Sikkens conceptualizes and designs custom applications for many professional industries from health care to banking and has the ability to explain the details in a way all can understand.  Article edited by Gretchen Winkler, who along with Jeremy Winkler are the co-hosts of User Friendly 2.0 here on The Answer Saturdays at 5:00 p.m.

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