I wonder if a watch could change the world. The introduction of Apple Watch could be such a game changer but not in the way you might expect. A straight line analysis of the Watch’s importance might tell us to expect greater efficiencies in business with all the reminders it can deliver but let’s face it, reminders come at us all the time on our computers and phones.
Another device doing the same thing is not going to change the world by emulating older technology. That is the way of technology introductions though. First they do what older tools did, just better, faster, and cheaper but soon enough we all realize that old processes are not what the new device is for. Just as information is the addition of data to other data and information to produce some new insight, an accumulation of the newest technologies might offer a glimpse into the uncharted future.
I am thinking of the combination of the Watch and Apple Pay or any other payment service that uses the hardware for instant payments. That’s not enough though, I am also thinking about the European continent and specifically the self-inflicted economic malaise brought on by the euro and austerity budgets. This is complicated and I will try to be brief.
The euro is a currency without a nation, which has caused all sorts of problems. The greatest is that no user of the euro can do much to adjust naturally occurring differences from nation to nation such as GDP, inflation, productivity, and spending. This has placed a straight jacket on the member states of the European Union with some doing well, like Germany, while others suffer.
Southern European countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal, and especially Greece are having to run severely austere budgets that are crippling their economies and hurting a lot of people. For sure there is no common agreement on the root causes of the problem but my lying eyes and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman both tell me that the European experiment is going at least sideways because we can’t figure out the euro.
So what’s the Watch’s connection?
Simply this. The common currency was established to create a common trading area across Europe to facilitate exchange and trade and bring the nations closer together. It has too, though but at the price of austerity, which might be too much to bear.
But I suggest that a common currency to speed transactions by individuals and businesses is no longer needed. As the Euro has grown up, technology to effect transactions in any currency has matured to the point that today, you can pay in one currency such as the euro but still keep your wealth in another currency.
We see this all the time. You use your credit cards in any country and the back end computing apparatus does the conversions for your monthly statement. The Watch and Apple Pay can do the same thing with the result that you could pay your international debts in euros but still maintain a domestic currency.
Doing this would enable Eurozone countries to have their own currencies again and to let them float in the marketplace. Inflation is a big scary thing for many European countries like Germany and they’d want to hold it down. But countries like Greece, Italy, Spain and others could significantly benefit from having the ability to manage their own currencies again.
While it’s true that countries would be exposed to currency risk from other countries’ inflation, it would be limited to new purchases; old debts in euros would be unaffected and debtor nations would be on the hook to pay back the euros they borrowed by buying euros with their less valuable sovereign currencies. Thus a more natural control apparatus emerges.
It sounds complicated but the point is that we have the ability to reintroduce some of the benefits of national currencies while still preserving the euro and its trading area. Skeptics will say that paying for gum and a newspaper with something like Apple Pay isn’t going to solve the problem of business-to-business commerce but I disagree. Currency transformations already happen in those larger deals.
For instance, a French company buying British goods still has to convert euros to British Pounds at some point. That mechanism is alive and well. Introducing personal technology and services that enable individuals to manage their spending and conversions would provide the necessary stimulus to get many economies moving again. Of course the rub is that they’d need more hardware and software than many people currently have. But as a wise woman once told me, that would be a high-class problem.
(Cross-posted @ Beagle Research Group)