In Your Back Pocket

Getting everything you really need onto your smartphone.

by André Natta

There are many of us who cannot go anywhere without our smartphone. We already rely on it as a news source, photo album, and music player. We do use it as a communications device, though it could be for sending tweets, texts, or status updates, participating in a video conference, or maybe even an actual old-fashioned voice call.

Interest appears to be increasing for another use for the device in recent years—as a wallet. Many of the current tools available are focused on providing you access to your financial information, including the ability to pay using your phone. Herbert Beville Jr., one of the founders of No ID, LLC (, is banking on the ability to carry out the idea of the phone as wallet completely.

Beville is a Birmingham native who grew up in the city’s eastern section and graduated from Ramsay High School. The business calls downtown Birmingham’s Innovation Depot its home.

He said the inspiration for the service came from personal experience: “I’m always leaving my driver’s license at home. I came up with the idea one day when I was heading to the bank, and I realized I’d left my license at home again.” He thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if you’d be able to carry your identification on your smartphone?”

While the service will be available as an app, you can’t just visit your phone’s app store and download it to install. There is an app in addition to proprietary software. The issuer of the ID will provide you access to the information and the app in order to download. Says Beville, “The reason we did it like that was because we wanted to make it as secure as possible.”

Those of us who use an access code or password to keep others out of our phone will simply be adding an additional layer of protection to our identification. You’ll need a password to access the personal identification on the device. If it’s ever stolen or misplaced, Beville says it shouldn’t be a problem. He said, “You’ll be able to go to any computer, log in, and delete the information from your phone,” adding additional peace of mind.

Beville suggested the service would also allow the issuer—anything from a state department of motor vehicles to a college or university to a gym and beyond—to communicate with you securely, including important notices to help you accomplish your goals with the account or opt-in marketing opportunities.

Some may want to draw comparisons to products like Google Wallet, but Beville said he didn’t even know the service existed before he started developing his software solution. That said, there will most likely be some who think there may not be a need for such a product. “It’s kind of ahead of its time but it’s on-time,” said Beville.

While No-ID is currently focused on identification, there are other possible uses. The ability to customize the product allows for it to potentially be used as anything, including a check card, a ticket to get into a baseball game, or a key to a hotel room. The ability to access your identification in order to verify and validate who you are allows it to become the framework for something much more powerful.

Beville has a lot of faith in the future of Birmingham as a hub for technology. “There’s a huge tech community in Birmingham, and it’s growing every day,” he said.

As someone who currently uses his phone as a modern digital Swiss Army knife, I welcome the opportunity to carry a little less on my person during an early morning run. I also welcome the emergence of the local tech scene on a larger, national stage.

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