The Apple Watch has taken on numerous roles since its 2015 introduction — fitness monitor, mobile workstation, payment provider. Add another job to that list: fine generator for the National Football League (NFL).
It seems injured Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger owes the league $5,000 for wearing an Apple Watch on the sidelines of his team’s Sept. 30 game against the Cincinnati Bengals (the Steelers won 27 to three). That’s against NFL policy, constituting a uniform violation. Roethlisberger is reportedly appealing the fine, saying there was no warning about the Apple Watch violation before the fine was imposed. Even if he loses that appeal, though, we at PYMNTS are confident he’ll be OK in the end. (As for the NFL, it could buy a few Apple Watches with that cash.)
Though certainly a great athlete and aggressive football player, Roethlisberger is hardly the pioneer when it comes to the unauthorized donning of an Apple Watch at a professional sporting event. According to 9to5Mac, “This isn’t the first time a professional athlete has been punished for wearing an Apple Watch during a game. In 2017, an Arizona Diamondbacks coach was fined for violating Major League Baseball’s on-field regulations because he wore an Apple Watch in the dugout. In 2015, a similar incident occurred with Kansas City Royals Manager Ned Yost.”
The reasons for these streaks of smartphone rebellion are not immediately clear beyond the possibility that the wearers simply forgot. That would certainly please Apple, its watches yet another doorway into its vast and changing — and sometimes less-than-impressive — ecosystem of services. Karen Webster of PYMNTS recently dug deep into that issue.
Apple and its wearables are making themselves known in other places beyond the NFL, of course. The watch keeps developing, though some plans remain in the realm of maybe-one-day.
Apple Watch Biometrics
Here’s one recent example: Apple has been granted three separate patents related to the Apple Watch, which would allow for biometric identification, automatic tightening of the band and lit indicators. The biometric sensor would use infrared to take a “picture” of a person’s wrist, then use the identifying traits as an unlocking device. Currently, there is no way to unlock an Apple Watch without using a PIN, or setting it to unlock when a person unlocks their phone.
The second patent would tighten the watch band if it sensed that it was slipping or getting loose, or loosen it if it was too tight. The third patent would put light-up indicators in the band, which could notify the wearer of incoming text messages or upcoming calendar items without having to unlock the screen display.
Apple’s patent-to-actual-product ratio is uneven — being patented doesn’t mean it will be made into a product. Apple bands are simple and swappable, and the addition of sensors could not only raise their prices, but compromise the variety that Apple customers currently enjoy.
Apple Wearables In Schools
That’s not all that is putting Apple’s wearables in the news lately. Apple has added 12 new universities to its contactless student ID program, which allows students to pay for things and gain entry to locked doors, and acts as an alternative to a physical ID card. More than 100,000 college students across the country will be able to keep their IDs on an iPhone or Apple Watch, according to a report.
Schools that already use the program are Johns Hopkins University, Marshall University, Mercer University, Duke University, University of Oklahoma, University of Alabama and Temple University. The new schools include the University of San Francisco, University of Vermont, Arkansas State University, South Dakota State University, Norfolk State University, Louisburg College, University of North Alabama, Chowan University, Clemson University, Georgetown University, University of Tennessee and the University of Kentucky.
The program was announced at Apple’s big conference, WWDC, in 2018, then introduced in October. The students can store money on the digital cards, and use them in places like the cafeteria or the college bookstore to buy supplies.
Snapping this story back to Roethlisberger, he apparently likes being on the winning team, even when the competition centers around inanimate (for now) technology. That’s a long and silly way of saying that Apple seems to be winning the wearables war. (Much like sports, business and technology — and the media that covers them — love their combat terms.)
Easy prediction that in no way makes PYMNTS liable if in error? Expect more Apple Watch-inspired fines for pro athletes.