Is the Internet of Things (IoT) the new fashion disruptor? Just style
Not limited to the electronics industry, we’ve seen the Internet of Things (IoT) slowly emerge in the apparel industry as forward-thinking companies looking to innovate and stay ahead of the curve invest in the development of smart clothing and textiles.
Defined as “physical objects with sensors, processing capability, software, and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet or other communications networks,” it’s hard to imagine what the role is. IoT: should play with clothes. However, we’ve seen smart wearables, smart shoes and smart textiles developed in recent years, but adoption has been slow. IoT adopters in retail and apparel include Amazon:Auchan, Ikea, J.D.com, NIKE: Inc, and Rewe.
Embracing innovation in IoT
Nike Inc has designed and launched a pair of self-adhesive trainers that adapt to the shape of the wearer’s foot and can be controlled via smartphone. When the shoe is placed on the foot, a special motor senses the required fit and adapts to the foot. Wearers can adjust the settings when they want the shoe to be looser or tighter. The concept is based on research that shows that feet swell when playing sports.
The app also allows users to customize the LED colors on the shoe, each representing a level of tightness.
Cyrcadia Health has launched the iTBra, which aims to alert women to the early signs of breast cancer. By wearing the bra for up to 24 hours, it assesses breast health. As breast cancer cells generate heat, the bra detects the temperature of the cells and transmits the data to a real-time database. Any abnormal reading sends an alert to the user and their doctor via a smartphone app.
Wellness is a running theme with IoT in apparel. Sensoria Fitness has launched a line of exercise equipment that tracks health and performance capabilities and communicates measurements to a smartphone app.
Meanwhile Tommy Hilfiger has implemented IoT in its Tommy Jeans Xplore line of casual wear.
In textiles, a user-controlled color-changing fabric called ChroMorphous can change color with changes in temperature and can be altered accordingly.
In the IoT supply chain
According to a recent report by Global Data. “Internet of Things in Retail and Apparel”technology that can move products through the supply chain with minimal human intervention is also becoming increasingly popular among retailers.
“Automating the supply chain and reducing labor can bring great efficiencies. This sector is becoming important as retail trade increasingly bypasses stores and wholesalers and goes directly to consumers,” the report said.
“Smart shelves, cameras and radio frequency identification (RFID) chips on products in stores or warehouses help to instantly update inventory records of retail products. They also enable faster coordination between retailers to replenish inventory.”
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 8% of consumer goods sold in the US are returned annually, equivalent to $260 billion worth of goods. IoT can be used to diagnose problems with products in transit, thereby significantly reducing the possibility of returns and associated costs for retailers.
“Remotely diagnosing supply chain issues benefits both retailers and customers, as retailers can minimize costs and reduce the burden on their supply chains while keeping customers content,” GlobalData said in a report.
For example, IoT shipping startup Living Packets packages items in bags with automatic locks and internal sensors that monitor temperature, weight, humidity and shock to prevent damage to contents. If the goods are tampered with, both the company and the sender receive a notification. GPS tracking is also used to monitor goods in transit in fleets to prevent cargo theft and provide visibility of inventory in transit.
Capitalizing on the retail shift
IoT appeared to be easier to adopt in the retail industry, with companies looking to capitalize on the shift to online shopping amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
The pandemic accelerated the release of interactive web pages, apps and new creative products to keep customers interested and improve retention. In fact, IoT adoption in retail has come in many ways.
Athleisurewear brand Lululemon is one such adopter. The retailer, which acquired fitness tech startup Mirror in 2020, has put the power of stock inventory management in the hands of its customers. Instead of asking a store associate for assistance, customers scan the barcode on a product label with the Lululemon app. This redirects customers to the product page of the online store. It then takes a real-time inventory to check stock in all its local stores, sorted by proximity.
According to GlobalData estimates, the global IoT in retail market will be worth US$25.6 billion in 2025, up from US$19.3 billion in 2020, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8 percent.
Nikki Baird, vice president of strategy at US retail technology solutions company Aptos, tells Just Style that they see the greatest demand for IoT around all different channels.
“From mid-2020 to mid-2022, our clients’ omnichannel businesses and the amount of revenue they were generating or driving from home to ship to store doubled in two years, and at the same time, online business was growing at an alarmingly high rate. Many tests are being done. that’s what we see from our customers.”
An industry that keeps up with the times.
However, as the report notes, IoT adoption in retail has been slower than in other industries because its technology is often adopted within the confines of retail supply chain analytics or personalization, which make up a small part of the overall retail picture. And the adoption of IoT in apparel has failed to make it mainstream.
Edwin Keh, CEO of the Hong Kong Textiles and Apparel Research Institute (HKRITA), believes IoT is a much talked about topic with limited adoption.
“The main application I see is with consumer-facing applications. The pandemic has brought a lot of technology into stores and into the customer interface. Contactless shopping in stores, customer service online, predictive tools have all made inroads in the past few years. As market turmoil has made much legacy regression analysis more imprecise and a poor predictor of future preferences, much more attention has been paid to advanced real-time tools. IoT provides a big opportunity here.
He explains. In the supply chain, IoT is increasingly used to track production, improve transparency, and reduce lead times. However, it looks like there is still a lot of work and opportunity here. Supply chains in general still seem to be lagging behind the adoption times of new tools. A key driver of further adoption is that IoT can accelerate deliveries, reduce inventory risks, increase agility and reduce costs.”
The future of IoT in retail and apparel
When it comes to whether IoT in apparel and retail has a promising future, the jury seems to be still out.
In retail in particular, RFID has become an increasingly popular tool for controlling stock levels, but Baird says their customers are still very divided on how much of a priority it is.
“There are evangelists who say we didn’t think there was a business case, but we did the trial and now we can’t go back to the days when we didn’t have the level of visibility that article labeling gives us.
“The biggest barrier is not the cost of the tag, but the cost of the reader, especially where you need it most, which is in the store. Do you need full coverage? having a few hand grips is not enough.
“I thought there was a big business case for the apparel business with RFID, but there’s been a slowdown in terms of it taking off. It is a paradigm shift in your opinion. retailers have not been very good at making that shift.
“We’ll weed out the naysayers and get there. But we’re talking about ten years before the shift really happens.”
Despite this, GlobalData’s report suggests that IoT is a technology trend in retail that is here to stay, especially around M&A.
“There is an opportunity for major players in retail and apparel to acquire key IoT software to strengthen their position in the technology space,” it said.
In March 2019, TokenPay Swiss acquired intimate and swimwear e-commerce group Naked Brand Group, while in February of the same year, KBS Fashion bought Tribe Private for an undisclosed amount.
GlobalData offers a forward-looking timeline of the future of IoT in retail and apparel;
2022 – IoT-related supply chain and chip manufacturing will become more flexible and robust.
2:023: – Industrial IoT connections will surpass consumer by 2023, according to GSMA.
2025 – Ubiquitous connectivity for IoT devices reduces the cost of operation to below 1c per day. The number of IoT devices is expected to reach 25.1 billion, according to the GSMA. IoT will be a driving force for semiconductor companies.
2030 – The use of AR and VR in IoT will be pervasive.
2035 – There will be one trillion IoT devices, Arm predicts.