Apple Watch Is Old Tech

Apple Watch is old news. We’ve had something better for years.

As thousands of tech geeks gather in Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show this week, the hottest trend in the desert is wearable tech — things like watches and wristbands that measure body temperature and heart rate. And one of the great hopes of wearable tech is that it will aid consumer spending by facilitating identity authentication. In other words, your smart watch will be able to vouch for your bank account.

Apple, whose wearable offering launches in March, already has something similar in Apple Pay. Users can pay at thousands of retail outlets just by waving their iPhone at a pay station. And how do they guard against unscrupulous techies paying with stolen phones? The iPhone authenticates its user’s identity by reading her fingerprint.

These tech advances are exciting and convenient, but they aren’t new. Wearable tech seeks to reinvent a wheel that has existed for all of time — human trust.

Long before wearable tech was a thing, my wife had an experience that illustrates my point. It also involved a watch. Christine grew up in Houston, so the first time she visited my hometown, it was a bit of a shock. Booker is home to 1,200 souls. Most of them know one another. They eat and cheer and worship and talk and do business together every week. On her first visit to Booker, Christine went for a run, and on her run she realized that the battery in her sports watch was dead. Cooling down from her run, she walked past the local drug store, the only place in Booker that might sell watch batteries, so she popped in and asked if they carried the right battery for her watch.

“Sure, let me check,” David Huffman said. Mr. Huffman is Booker’s pharmacist, and he has owned that store for decades. He took the watch in the back and reappeared a few minutes later. “There you go. Good as new.”

Christine was surprised. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for you to replace it. I don’t have my wallet with me.”

To which Mr. Huffman replied, “Oh that’s ok. You’re Bary Sanders’s son’s girlfriend, right? Just pay me next time you come by.”

These days, I live in Dallas — Fort Worth, and I realize the limitations of this kind of trust. You can’t know everyone in DFW, let alone trust them. We can’t just decide that we’re going to take people at their word and do away with all our passwords and PIN codes and locks on our doors. Accountants and store owners would have a fit if their employees started making little loans to their friends. Thus, we have to verify our account information with password, PIN, security question, mother’s maiden name, blood type, secret birthmark, and retina scan. But I wonder if, in all our high-tech conveniences, we’re tempted to overlook the most reliable, low-tech system for identity verification — people. I wonder if we’re forgetting to be human.

Do you know the name of that retiree who comes into your store every morning? Or the barista who serves up your latte? Or the guy who mows your lawn? And do they know you? Do they know that you care about your kids and you attend church on Sundays and you cheer for the Cowboys?

This isn’t just a good idea so that you’ll get a favor in case you ever forget your wallet. I’m not saying we should make personal contact with people to promote commerce or convenience. It’s much more important than that. I believe we should seek out personal contact with people because they’re people! Because we believe they are eternally sacred children of the living God. Because we see in them immeasurable value and promise reflected in the very thumbprint they use to verify their identity.

What if Christians were the people who knew people? What if people of faith were the first to show faith in their fellow man? What if that was one of the little ways Jesus meant for us to stand out when he told his disciples, “They will know you by your love.”

The Apple Watch looks really cool, and I’d love to have one some day. But I doubt I’ll be telling stories, years on, about the first time it worked.

Christine, on the other hand, did go back and pay Mr. Huffman, and now, 20 years later, she still tells the story of his kindness.

Who’s telling the story of yours?