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The Internet of Things – Transforming Fashion

The Internet of Things – Transforming Fashion


IoT overlay

The Internet of Things is already 19 years old and is all around us every day – it’s time we take a closer look at how the IoT will support Fashion Design, Development and procurement…   

The WhichERP team has been following the ‘hype versus reality’ of the IoT for the last few years and more deeply over the last 18 months. There’s been increasing noise coming from many of the global technology giants – the likes of Cisco, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, and Samsung and a host of other leading technology businesses -who have been making predictions around the IoT. Although many of these predictions have fallen short of their target delivery times, we still believe that the Fashion industry has arrived at a point in time where smart sensors, software apps, ERP software, and a multitude of hardware systems are now ready to interconnect, helping to generate the automation and collection of smart data required to digitally transform our businesses. All in the not too distant future.

All industries around the globe, including Fashion, are waiting for the IoT to make real quantifiable impact that can be quickly translated into positive ROI (Return On Investment) for the business, and equally a positive return for consumers.

As previously stated, the IoT is already here and all around us; there are already billions of connected smart tags (RFID), tracking products and relaying data feedback that can typically track and record a wealth of information from these sensors, RFID tags, smart chips and that measures a multitude of things. These ‘things’ can include acceleration, rotation, orientation, pressure, angular velocity, altitude, temperature, gyroscopes, barometers, high precision temperature sensors, people counters, material and component stock, products SKUs and so on. As individuals we are already using apps within the IoT; we use health apps for training workouts or to listen and measure the health of our bodies. These apps can wirelessly send information on health data to our phones/devices that can warn us of potential issues to our heath. We use apps that monitor the security of our homes, sending potential intruder warnings to our mobile devices or allowing us to turn on the lights or the heating remotely.

Today, in Fashion, the IoT is already in use within many new businesses that are developing smart sensors and devices used in the growing market of Fashion wearables. These sensors and smart chips are making it almost effortless to track just about anything a business needs to know from their consumers, or wearers. These are things to which connectivity has been added as a way of improving the end user experience or, for industries like fashion, to facilitate the maintenance contract between customer and supplier of both software and hardware. Although this connectivity will soon bridge the physical and digital worlds in a variety of different markets, this was not necessarily its original purpose. Coupled with the global migration to IPv6 (the revision of the internet protocol that opened up a gigantic range of IP address spaces) technological advancements in the size and scope of embedded systems and sensors create the ability for a large array of fashion ‘things’ to be connected to one another and to monitor or interpret systems, but it does not pre-suppose anything beyond that point.

So by now I hope that you would agree when I say the IoT has already arrived and it’s all around us. The challenge for the fashion industry is to start thinking of ‘use cases’ that will help to transform the way that we design and bring products to market.

In many ways ‘newness’ (like the IoT) reminds me when computers first became available to the fashion and manufacturing industry in the mid 1980s – a time when trying to convince people to move away from paper-based processes onto digital ones better communicate management data (Design, Bill of Materials, Bill of Labour and Costing Systems) was like pushing a huge snowball up a hill. As computers started to mature into graphical drawing applications, I would often suggest to designers that they might want to consider using drawing applications instead of paper and pencil, only to be told, “come back in five years Star Trek!” PDM (Product Data Management) went through a similar resistance in the late ‘90s, as did PLM at the turn of the millennium. But people do eventually see the light. And I, for one, believe that the IoT is our next industrial revolution that is taking place right now. Yes, it will take time to really see and touch it’s value but it is here and it is as important a change as the commercialisation of the Internet was in the ‘90s.

“The beauty of the Internet of Things is the Internet.”

WhichPLM, our sister publication, recently had the opportunity to interview Kevin Ashton, the inventor of the IoT. A British technology pioneer and co-founder of what was the Auto-ID Centre at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Ashton stated that “there are some 3 billion more RFID tags in the world than there are smartphones.” He coined the term the “Internet of Things” in 1997 whilst managing the supply chain at Procter and Gamble. It was then that he decided to start exploring the use of radio-frequency identification, widely known as RFID, to better track every aspect of manufacturing. Ashton made the simple point that, “that the beauty of the IoT is the Internet”.

IoT is all around us every minute of every day. Enterprises like Apple and Samsung are just two of the companies that are leading the charge in embracing the technology enabling the IoT, with smartphones and wearables that we all use and wear every day of the week. The challenge now is to extend this ubiquitous use into our everyday businesses via the Internet, local networks, smart sensors, M2M (machines to machines), smart apps, business intelligence, analytics and algorithms that can all talk to one another and make sense of Big Data.

Next steps for the Internet of Things in Fashion.

We expect that there will be more than 1,900 fashion businesses that already have, or are in the process of implementing, a modern ERP solution.

These are the companies, in my opinion, that will continue to take the lead and push their ERP vendors to adopt the Internet of Things and, in the course of doing so, will derive many ROI benefits not only for the companies concerned but also for their consumers. There are a myriad of benefits that will come from “joining the dots” of the IoT.

You can read the full article here.

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