Some clothes already hang out on the Internet. Pharrell Williams’s hat has its own Twitter account, as does Mark Zuckerberg’s hoodie. Your clothes could be next to get online identities, though it won't make them famous.
IoT startup Evrythng is teaming up with packaging company Avery Dennison to give apparel and footwear products unique identities in Evrythng’s software right when they’re manufactured.
The companies have high hopes for the Janela Smart Products Platform, seeing a potential to reach 10 billion products in the next three years. The system could put a simple form of IoT into the hands of millions of consumers who weren’t even shopping for technology.
Evrythng and Avery Dennison don’t want to make your clothes into online celebrities, they want to make them more useful. What they're doing may make it harder to counterfeit desirable products and commit fraud at the returns counter. There could be some fun features for consumers, too.
When a shoe or piece of clothing rolls off the assembly line, it will get a physical marker that matches a specific entry in the Janela platform. That pairing will last for the life of the product.
The system can use different kinds of markers, including RFID (radio frequency identification) tags that can be read over the air and two-dimensional tags, such as barcodes, that smartphone cameras can read.
A piece of clothing that can account for itself might be a boon to makers of widely copied items. The OECD estimated the global trade in counterfeit goods at US$461 billion in 2013. Presumably, a product “born” with a unique identity that’s stored in the cloud would be harder to fake. Sports brands, which include makers of highly coveted athletic shoes, are among the target markets for the system.
Retailers might also be able to clamp down on returns. The U.S. National Retail Federation estimated last year that fraudulent returns during the year-end holiday season would cost $22 billion. With Janela, products would carry data with them about where and when they were purchased, making it harder to fake having bought an item.
The perks for consumers are small extras that might come in handy. Smartphone apps could read the label and tell a shopper about the product’s history, including where it was made, what’s in it, and how it was distributed. After buying the product, the owners could use an app to call up special offers and services associated with it.
The Janela platform could also be used for reordering a product, or others related to it, and ultimately it could deliver information about how to reuse or where to recycle the product.
Evrythng, based in London, was founded in 2011 and has attracted investments from companies including Cisco Systems and Samsung.