L.L. Bean is no longer pursuing a "data collections analytics project" meant to test a blockchain ledger and sensors for its coats and boots, The Wall Street Journal reports. The announcement of the Internet of Things project led to public backlash, with critics saying the project was "creepy." However, the reason for the cancellation is unknown.
In early February, the outdoors retailer announced plans to ship "a line of coats and boots with sewn-in sensors," which would transmit customer data to a "public Ethereum blockchain platform," reports the Journal. L.L. Bean planned to build its own data tracking and analytics system to leverage customer data hosted on Ethereum.
- In addition to announcing canceled blockchain plans and in response to declining sales, L.L. Bean is cutting 400 jobs. L.L. Bean CEO Steve Smith said about 500 workers "took advantage of a voluntary early-retirement program," and the company plans to layoff an additional 100 workers in April, but some positions will be refilled, CNBC reports.
Embracing new technology is difficult, especially when there is a public misunderstanding of what the technology does.
The sensors were meant to track how often the product was in use, but speculative media reports over-amplified the implications of the sensors. Tracking the customer was not part of the project, but it was not hard for some critics to leap to that conclusion.
Regardless of the reason to cancel the project, L.L. Bean is among many retailers trying to take advantage of Big Data and advanced analytics to better understand its customers. The idea of "smart apparel" is contributing to the global connected retail market. The IoT is set to help the market expand to $82.31 billion by the end of 2025.
Still, companies need to remain cautious in how they choose to introduce blockchain technologies to their technical infrastructure. The "winning" blockchain platform has not yet been introduced in the market, partly because 90% of current blockchain projects work on centralized designs, which limits compatibility.
Only about one-third of blockchain proof of concepts have enough of a foundation for future development. But other problems arise in the technology's ability to limit endpoint access and other cybersecurity concerns.