Some days ago the German government announced a list of 30 companies with test cases for the upcoming eID card, which will be available starting November, 2010. The good news is that the BMI (Federal Ministry of the Interior) has managed to get a good number of test scenarios outside of eGovernment. The identification of flight passengers at airports, hotel check-in, online shops, and some use cases for age verification are on the list of published test cases.
For sure there are as well many eGovernment applications amongst these 30+ scenarios but the real important thing is that there are obviously many partners outside the eGovernment which are interested to use the eID card for identification (or age verification) purposes within their specific business use cases. If they succeed, there will be a lot more partners once the eID card is officially issued - and the more companies will use the eID card, the more momentum will be there for "buying" the eID card and switching to it from the current conventional ID card. That is about "buying" because the eID card is mandatory when renewing the current eID card (which is valid 10 years from the date of issuance). That fee will be accepted more likely when the card can be used for many use cases.
Overall it appears that the German government is doing a good job in creating some interest in and momentum behind the eID card. And doing a broad test with many partners more than one year before the card is distributed widely is definitely important - there will be many lessons learned. Anyhow, the biggest threat for the eID card still will be the acceptance. Test cases are one thing - the other aspects are usability (make the eID card as easy to use as possible, even from home) and trust. There will be a lot of discussions around the eID card, and educating users about the security and privacy (which is pretty good in the eID card concept) is extremly important for the success of the German eID card. But there will be a lot of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) raised around this issues, like "the fingerprints aren't fully secure". Yes, in fact, there is some slight chance of abuse - but what the eID card provides is a big step forward for most of the users. Thus, we should look at it more positive and understand it as an important improvement for security in the Internet - with some shortcomings (national, time-to-market,...).
It will be definitely interesting to observe the different test cases and the lessons learned there. Despite all doubts, the German eID card has a good chance of becoming a successful project.