Smart labels – Connecting Fashion, Healthcare and IoT.
Here’s the thing with the fashion. Some people get it; some don’t, and that is just fine as fashion is not for everybody. However, fashionable or not, we still need clothes. By law, we all have to wear clothes, irrespective of our gender, age, political views or religion.
We have always covered our bodies, with animal skins in the dawn of our civilisation, to the 21st century; the needs of wearing clothes will never change. However, the garments we wear and their composite materials change and evolve all the time. The clothes we wear nowadays are stronger and lighter as a direct consequence of the technological advances.
We have come a long way, from the prehistoric times and the wild animal skins we used to cover our hips with, to the ages of connected self, smart textiles, cognitive dresses, chemically infused garments, we use nanotechnology and wearable tech.
Evrythng, is the perfect example of what is coming, from the smart, connected garments point of view. The London-based company, together with Avery Dennison, a global manufacturer of clothing labels, have created a new type care label able to connect to a cloud-based digital profile, unique to each garment.
Evrythng’s technology raised $14.5 million from Cisco, Dawn Capital and Atomico amongst other investors, and allows the company “see” and monitor any objects connect to the internet. Evrythng knows their location, health status, and environmental data, all in real-time.
With Avery Dennison’s help, a Fortune 500 business and no 1 in supplier in the world for care labels, counting Nike, Hugo Boss and Under Armour amongst its vast clientele, Evrythng hopes to integrate and monitor 10 billion clothes, shoes, and fashion accessories, over the next three years.
Smart Labels And The IoT
“We want to drive new consumer experiences, protect the brands and also provide the supply chains with real-time analytics,” said Mitchell R. Butier, Avery’s President and CEO.
The “smart label” confers each garment with a unique identifier allowing 24/7 monitoring thanks to “Janela,” Evrythng’s cloud-based platform for connected objects.
“There are almost 10 billion connected objects in the cloud, each one of them with its own footprint, its unique identity. The market is huge, and we are just getting started,” said Andy Hobsbawm, Co-founder of Evrythng.
Indeed, the IoT market is expected to grow from 10 billion connected objects – mid 2015 – to 35 billion by the end of 2020, without taking in the calculation the so-called “Internet of clothes.”
Smart labels are nothing new. We already use them to mark everything around us; food, mobile phones, toys and even humans. Still, Avery’s new type of label encapsulates the technology we need to take the next step and move from the limited QRs and RFIDs tags.
“Upgrading” to “smart labels” is crucial in ensuring compatibility with emerging technological tides, increasingly intersecting with the fashion industry: Virtual and Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Wearable Technologies, Internet of Things and Big Data.
Smart Labels In Fashion
In this new world of data-powered advertising and content, where marketing and data science teams operate as a single unit, where predictive analytics are spurring sales, the customer’s data is the rocket fuel for the future of marketing and not only.
Artificial Intelligence already helps marketers gain insights into comprehensive arrays of information and opportunities. And yet, to better identify patterns and make previously impossible connections, the A.I. needs more than just sales and conversational data, and the “smart label” could provide the A.I. with complete sets of data: user biometrics at a granular level, geographical, environmental, behavioural data (masses) and so on.
Thanks to the smart label technology, your sneakers could “talk” to you via text messages, alerting in the case of a malfunction, how to best repair, clean, or even recycle them at the end of their life.
Alternatively, you could use your mobile to scan the “smart label” and see if the trousers you are about to buy are genuine, made of organic cotton and environment-friendly, just as advertised.
Smart Labels In Healthcare
Not only the fashion industry benefits from “upgrading” to smart labels, but the healthcare system also does. There is much more to what the “smart labels” could do, beyond ending our dependency to fitness trackers and unfashionable accessories.
This new type of label is the perfect candidate for biometric data collection, thanks to its natural “on the skin” placement, via bras and underwears, for example, technology tested since 2008 at Harvard University.
“Here we demonstrate a simple process of transforming general cotton threads into intelligent e-textiles using a polyelectrolyte-based coating with carbon nanotubes…can be used to detect albumin, key proteins, blood, with high accuracy.” Nano Letters, vol. 8. Issue 12, pp. 4151-4157. December 2008; Wearable Fabrics For Human Biomonitoring.
The “smart label”, is the future of data collection, as an inexpensive and non-intrusive way of monitoring the wearer, that could finally provide the healthcare with sufficient data to better understand our medical conditions, illness and disease.
Combined biometric with environmental, geographic and internet “footprints” from smartphones, tablets, wearables, would help in addressing not only difficult medical problems but also the social challenges of our modern life; stress, diabetes, obesity, loneliness and so on.
We need data; the more data we have, the better. Data we could use to compare patterns, test and measure the efficacy of new drugs, illuminate genetics, and overall, improve our lives.
Smart Labels – The Hidden Dangers
The downside? Undoubtedly, “smart labels” are going to accelerate if not complete the creation of the “digital persona” profile. Sooner or later, it is inevitable; if not through smart labels and smart clothes, then for sure via implantables and replacement organs.
When activated, the “smart label” will become a key component in a global, steadily growing IoT infrastructure that has inherited some of the original security problems, from the PCs era.
The IoT does not just relate to household or edge devices, and we must acknowledge the IoT in a broader context that is encompassing messaging and transport protocols, Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), data analytics, storage, software, and several other technology concepts across all existing industries.
From heavy pieces of machinery, such as jet engines and drills for oil rigs to daily smart clothes and connected jewellery, the IoT infrastructure requires solid knowledge in hardware, firmware, software and a plethora of protocols.
Adding to this extremely complex “organism” the “internet of clothes” and the “internet of humans” and here’s a ticking bomb, ready to explode with disastrous consequences if not properly secured or simply misused.
Smart Labels – Conclusion
However, if properly used and protected, behind the dangers of the digital world, smart labels hold the key to augmenting Fashion, Healthcare, and IoT. Conform to U.S. Customs; in 2015, the counterfeit fashion goods were a $600 billion “industry.”
Smart labels alone, with their 24/7, real-time monitoring capabilities – rather than just simple tracking, back to the production line – would dramatically impact the counterfeits “industry.”
Also, retail insights which once would have emerged from human intuition, are nowadays obtained by straining vast amounts of consumer data through advanced learning algorithms. Big data and AI are taking the guessing work out of the equation by precisely anticipating how, what, when and where the consumers want.
Understanding the generation gaps, the differences between millennials, generation Z and generation alpha, their values, their shopping habits, thus saving time and resources.
Finally, the smart labels or internet of clothes give way to instantaneous interactions with the entire IoT ecosystem. Instant exchanges of data – security, monetary, health – with smart appliances, self-driving cars, robotic shop helpers, connected cities infrastructures, therefore simplifying yet enhancing our lives.