How Apple Watch will be your digital wallet... and keychain

The Apple Watch is going to be different things to different people — sometimes singularly, but often in combination. One of the things that will likely be compelling to many is Apple Watch as digital wallet and keychain. We've seen Apple Pay already, but when it comes to authentication, there's a lot more to see.

Apple Pay

With the Apple Watch, you have Apple Pay — Apple's mobile payment system — right on your wrist. Load your credit and debit cards into your iPhone, put on your Apple Watch, and then authenticate with Touch ID or your passcode. As long as the sensors on the back of your Apple Watch stay in contact with your skin, you can double tap the button, use the default card or swipe to another, and use your Apple Watch to pay at any supporting NFC terminal. It uses a one-time token to protect your information, and a subtle tap confirms the purchase.

Best of all, you can use Apple Pay on your Apple Watch even when you don't have your iPhone with you. So, if you're out for a jog and need a refreshing beverage, it's only a double-click away.

Home keys

The app will not only let you monitor a live feed of your home from your Apple Watch but also do things like open or close your garage door, even when you're far from home. There are already iPhone apps that let you not only lock or unlock your front door, but allow access from afar on an as-needed basis.

The time could come where, whether we're driving home or walking to the door, our Apple Watch identifies us and authenticates us, and is the only key we need to get in.

Away keys

The Starwood Hotel & Resorts app — think W and Aloft — not only lets you check in and find your room, right from the Apple Watch, but it lets you open the door as well. No, it's not using some private NFC access, it's just using some very, very clever technology to make sure when your watch gets close to your door, it unlocks for you and you alone. Starwood may be the first, but it probably won't be the last. Hospitality could be big for Apple Watch.

Disney already uses bands to do almost everything at its parks. Perhaps one day Apple Watch will do the same, but at every venue.

On-the-go keys

In a recent interview, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said Apple Watch could replace car keys and the "clumsy, large fobs" that are used in many current vehicles.

Just like with home automation, there are already iPhone apps that allow for monitoring and accessing electric cars. Moving those to Apple Watch seems inevitable.

Voice as passport

Apple's personal digital assistant, Siri is built into the Apple Watch and into Apple's home automation framework, HomeKit. That means at least some of the tasks mentioned about, if integrated, could be performed not only with the Apple Watch's proximity, but with voice control as well.

Whether at home or away, with the lift of our wrists and a "Hey, Siri!", our voice could literally, finally become our passports.

The future of wearable security

We're at the very beginning of Apple Watch and wearable security. Traditional Bluetooth trusted devices were dumb — taking one took ownership along with it. The Apple Watch can know our identity based on Touch ID, however, and know state due to skin contact. It's trust made smart. And that opens a lot of doors, figuratively and literally.

How quickly and how well it all comes together is something only time can tell, but having become accustomed to biometrics and having tried the Apple Watch, I think it's going to be transformative.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.