L.L. Bean plans to sell coats and boots with Internet of Things sensors embedded in them that will be able to collect data, and send it to an Ethereum blockchain system, allowing the retailer to analyze data related to temperature, movement and how often customers wear and wash the clothing, among other things, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The technology, which includes a small square of fabric containing flexible circuits and a device with near-field communications connectivity, is being provided by Loomia, a self-described smart textile technology start-up.
The coats and boots that include the Loomia technology components are expected to be available for sale later this year, the report stated.
L.L. Bean apparently views this kind of technology as a way of quantifying the kind of information it might otherwise need to solicit from customers through surveys, or gather from product reviews and comment sections.
It's an interesting idea which could help L.L. Bean collect more factual and impartial data about its apparel. The clothing manufacturer could also use this data to inform how future apparel items are manufactured and marketed.
Loomia is a 3-year-old company whose technology may have a number of possible applications, and retailers should be paying attention. A Business Insider story on the company from last September suggested a consumer-focused business model under which manufacturers would put the Loomia fabric tile into their apparel, and resulting consumer usage data could be sold by consumers themselves to interested parties, thereby giving customers some control over how their data is used.
It also sounds like Loomia is interested in contributing to the creation of smart apparel that could leverage something like temperature detection into the ability to control the temperature of a garment — maybe a jacket that becomes warmer as the temperature outside becomes colder. The Business Insider report said Loomia made its own pair of boots that do just that, but they haven't been released for sale.
The L.L. Bean deployment doesn't seem to be proceeding along those lines, though we will probably hear more about this partnership in the months ahead. The retailer's use of the technology, however, is a convergence of IoT and blockchain technologies that we have otherwise yet to truly see in retail.