Laurence Chandler and Joshua Cooper founded their upscale men’s fashion house, Rochambeau, as an outlet for creative expression and artistic collaboration. Their most recent creation, the limited edition BRIGHT BMBR smart jacket, brings their vision of modern-day “elegance” to life by letting owners access a set of exclusive, curated experiences in dining, art, clubbing, retail and fashion that brings together the best of New York City’s vibrant creativity and culture. With smart clothes, it turns out that we can certainly have a few tricks up our sleeves.
Imagine a tapas dinner for two at Toro Toro, or guaranteed entry to Never Never lounge, complements of an invisible layer of unique digital content and cultural experiences stitched into the very fabric of the physical product. How it works: the left sleeve has a hidden zipper pocket that contains a pull-out label containing an NFC chip and individually numbered QR code. Using a smartphone to connect with these smart tags instantly unlocks the exclusive experiences and gifts that come with the jacket providing ‘in-the-moment’ content and access based on contextual triggers like time, place, product, past interaction and purchase history, or lifestyle data pulled in real-time from social networks.
Silicon Alley stars, or anyone else who can put down $630 to put their hands on one of the only 15 jackets that will go on sale in December exclusively at the The New Stand in NYC, will find that they can collect gifts by scanning their jacket within 500 yards of any of three outlets in New York. The New Stand–a brand at the forefront of reinventing urban retail–is known for its highly innovative and experiential stores that blend physical and digital products, brands, content, and commerce.
The Scalability Of Status
Depending on personal taste, the Rochambeau jacket could be considered dandy, but there’s obviously more to it than just eye appeal. As with many technologies in the smart clothing space, the play rests between personalization and personal information. “The BRIGHT BMBR jacket is a great proof point for products that come with a layer of personalized digital value to create differentiation, better brand experiences, and entirely new data insights,” said Andy Hobsbawm, co-founder & CMO of EVRYTHNG (the IoT Smart Products Platform enabling the sleeve scanning).
“It helps that this isn’t just a one-off prototype,” Andy continued, “but a real product you can buy in stores. Even though the run is limited, the concept itself is highly scalable. For example, travel bags or clothing that comes with useful destination content and cultural experiences? How about basketball shoes that come with personalized coaching programs and get access to college games? Or kids school clothing that unlocks museum passes, or educational content for that stage in learning?”
Millennials love experimentation and demand personalization, and brands need to offer this to stay relevant. As Andy put it, “Modern brands need intelligent data platforms to personalize the experience of buying and owning their smart products.” He recalls a quote from Under Armour’s CEO, Kevin Plank: “Our belief is data is the new oil. You think it’s a coincidence Google or Amazon is who you’d bet on? 40% of their revenue is attributed to purchase history… The companies who will win are those using math.”
“The serialized smart tags in each #BornDigital™ garment provided by Avery Dennison connect to EVRYTHNG’s intelligent, software brain in the cloud,” Andy says, describing the details of the functionality. “This lets brands turn their products into an owned digital media platform for direct consumer relationships and valuable new insights…For consumers, the Rochambeau BRIGHT BMBR means effortlessly elegant digital experiences and personalized content that come with every physical product.”
Products Born Digital
Per Andy, EVRYTHNG and Avery Dennison’s vision is the idea of products #BornDigital™, meaning that products are manufactured with a digital software capability in the cloud that makes them more intelligent, more interactive, more characterful, and more valuable to companies and their customers. The company’s partnership with Avery Dennison, via their Janela™ Smart Products Platform, will allow them to digitize ten billion apparel and footwear products in the cloud over the next 3 years.
“The Rochambeau BRIGHT BMBR smart jacket is a manifestation of how this will come to life,” Andy tells me. “EVRYTHNG just today announced a partnership with one of the world’s largest metal packaging companies, to extend this concept to billions of new everyday consumer packaged goods like beverage and food products. Coca-Cola is an important customer of ours for instance.”
In Andy’s eyes, the value of smart products such as these is not just to provide standalone experiences, but to build a bridge to the other products, applications and services in their digital lives. “You should be able to ask Alexa or Google Home or Siri what you should wear today and the service knows what’s in your closet because of the smart tags on the individual items,” says Andy. “Or your ready meal should tell the microwave what setting to configure itself to. Or your recycling bin should be able to count and track what gets thrown away responsibly to be able to feedback into reward programs to incentivize sustainable behavior.”
The Future Is Now
While this may very well be the future of fashion, that doesn’t mean the technology is on hold. “It’s here right now!” Andy says enthusiastically. “That’s the point. As many as 100 billion connected devices will be online by 2020–but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Over three trillion consumer products are made and sold each year. The most obvious IoT candidates–products with native, embedded connectivity, like consumer electronic devices, home appliances and cars–represent a tiny fraction of this total volume.”
“With smartphones, almost all consumers are carrying around the communications infrastructure for the Internet of Things in their pockets,” Andy continues. “Sensors, connectivity, and the mobile Web. The ‘Internet of Everything,’ including everyday non-electronic products that can also be given dynamic digital intelligence via smart packaging, smartphones and smart software in the cloud, represents the bigger IoT opportunity for marketers.”
Here are some eye-opening stats regarding the size of the IoT pie, per Andy and Avery Dennison:
- 89% of brands believe customer experience will be their primary basis for competition (Gartner, 2015).
- Digitally influenced sales are 5X larger than e-commerce sales (Deloitte, 2015).
- By 2020, 90% of the world’s population over six years old will have a mobile phone (Ericsson 2014).
- 77% of consumers are particularly interested in expiry notifications for food products (Group M panel, UK, 2016).
- According to Nike, digital is a vital accelerator in reaching $50B (USD) in revenues by the end of fiscal 2020, including new ways of engaging consumers with the brand, through to the manufacturing and delivery of products (Just Style, 2016).
According to Andy, though, this goes well beyond data and marketing. At a more fundamental layer, technology like this is designed to enhance lifestyle, and ultimately, life. “When you wear a Rochambeau smart jacket, the real world just got better,” says Andy. As anyone who experienced the tumultuous events of the US election week would attest, it’s a good time for the real world to get better. Why not start with a few jackets to do the trick.
Gail is a Chicago-based food scientist who writes for leading US and European food and technology publications. A devotee of all things shiny, electronic and buzzing, with a passion for building on-line communities and conservation, she is an entrepreneur and founder of a sustainability and social media startup who moonlights on weekends as DJ Moongirl on Moonalice Radio. Clients range from rock bands and media companies to high-tech startups.