Image taken from Sony Pictures' Superbad
The wet blanket overlords–suburban cops, helicopter parents, the University of Chicago administration–can welcome a new group to their gloomy cabal of buzzkillers. BarZapp, a new app developed by Intellicheck Mobilisa, is smartphone software that uses a phone's camera to verify the authenticity of an ID. This may become the most poorly-rated iStore app when college freshman start getting their fakes snatched at the door of every bar near campus.
The app uses patented software to scan the information encoded in the bar codes and magnetic stripes of drivers licenses, identification cards, and government IDs to reveal the cardholder's name, date of birth and the card's validity. An invalid or fake ID will display a scrambled message or an invalid stamp. BarZapp also provides a database of pictures that show what real licenses look like, for bartenders to refer to, and tells users whose IDs have been scanned and when.
Above is a screen shot of the app verifying my legal status
When I tested the card on a friend's particularly high-grade fake (ordered online for a whopping $200—it supposedly bested blacklights and bouncers' scanners in the past), BarZapp did not say it was invalid, but it didn't approve it either. The phone more or less froze, suggesting that the technology is not 100 percent fool-proof yet. A street-smart 18-year-old could claim that the lack of an "invalid" message does not prove the card is a fake. Similarly, one could always use a sibling's expired ID to triumph the app, though outsmarting the bouncer is another story.
Intellicheck Mobilisa has been developing driver license-reading technologies since 1994, though BarZapp is the company's first app. The company hopes this app will help bars and restaurants feel secure that they won't get penalized by serving underaged drinkers, and at $1.99, BarZapp may be a more affordable option than artillery-grade scanners and blacklights.
While the dreaded bouncer-snatch is certainly a threat to those under 21, we all know that major cities like New York still aren't particularly strict about IDs, as past pieces of gonzo-journalism have demonstrated. If BarZapp does kill your buzz, you can always ask a sympathetic homeless person to buy you beer. Or, you know, make a road trip to Canada.