Fashionably Connected

By Catherine
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By Catherine Bolgar

cutecircuit_the_nieves_dress_and_handbag_2

What if you could have a different dress to wear every day, without having a closet full of clothes? It’s already possible, thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Everything around us is digital. Why shouldn’t our clothes be digital as well?” asks Francesca Rosella, creative director and co-founder of CuteCircuit, a London-based digital fashion house. “In the near future, we predict that many devices will disappear and their functionality will be integrated in our clothes. Everything will be on the body.”

CuteCircuit started in 2004 with the “Hug Shirt.” A person wearing a Hug Shirt gives herself a squeeze. Sensors in the fabric detect the position, strength and duration of the touch. The data goes to the person’s phone to be sent to a friend. When the friend accepts the message, actuators in her own Hug Shirt will warm up and create the sensation that the sender’s arms are wrapped around the recipient.

Over the years, CuteCircuit has designed many collections: specialty products, haute couture and ready-to-wear. Several celebrities have worn the haute couture on the red carpet and onstage, including a skirt that displays a video of a tiger roaring.

The clothes use “Magic Fabric, developed by CuteCircuit, that can change color,” Ms. Rosella says.

The fabric can display anything as if it were your TV screen, but a soft fabric TV screen.”

cutecircuit_handbag_2Fabric—mostly silk because of its durability, but also cotton and cotton elastane—is fused with a layer of sensors or micro LEDs, and textile-conductive connectors that eliminate the need for wires. “They’re little nylon ribbons woven with gold and silver fibers,” she explains. “We don’t want anything dangerous in contact with the skin, so we coat it all with gold.”

Another layer of fabric is fused on top of the electronics layer, so the wearer feels only the soft fabric like a normal piece of clothing. The garments can be dry-cleaned or machine-washed at 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) and hung to dry. All the garments can be recharged via USB, and the small batteries snap directly into the garment with buttons.

cutecircuit_the_nieves_dress_2Ms. Rosella hopes CuteCircuit can lead a revolution against fast fashion. “Fashion shouldn’t be overconsumption of resources,” she says. “We only manufacture a certain amount, but with beautiful fabrics that last a long time. So you have one garment but can download many animations. You can have the same garment for a long time, but it feels like new.”

For example, a T-shirt allows the wearer to change the message on its front as often as desired, via an application. “You can display messages from friends,” Ms. Rosella says. “Everybody loved the idea of tweeting to your clothes. Digital fashion is a new form of self-expresslon.”

Apparel brands are also using the Internet of Things in order to communicate with their customers as traditional lines of communication are being disrupted by subscription services, online marketplaces and new retail outfits. And many of these are not owned by the brand, says Julie Vargas, director, global market development, technology solutions, of the Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS) business of Avery Dennison Corp., a Glendale, California, maker of labeling and packaging solutions. The RBIS business is a global leader in apparel and footwear branding, packaging, labeling and RFID solutions.

“In the future, the one component that stays at the center of attention is the product,” Ms. Vargas says.

A special tag on clothes gives each item a unique digital fingerprint. The consumer can connect to the cloud-based Janela Smart Products Platform to upload the clothes. “Today, the mobile device is how people are interacting, but we expect it to evolve,” Ms. Vargas says. “The core is the platform that can integrate with sensors today and those of tomorrow.”

The platform, launched in April, gives apparel brands the ability to connect directly with consumers, regardless of where the item was purchased. It can provide information about the product; the story behind it, such as which celebrities have worn it; or information from other consumers, such as product reviews or suggestions for styling the garment with other items. The brand also can send out messages if the consumer wants (the consumer maintains the ability to refuse). “When you’re in or near the store, you can connect to find out what content is unlocked, like digital artwork or videos,” Ms. Vargas says.

At the same time, the Janela platform gives consumers an opportunity to talk to the brand.

A consumer can provide a product review for other users, but could also offer one-to-one communication with the designers,” Ms. Vargas says. “You could say, ‘I love this garment, but it wish it had pockets,’ or something like that.”

Sensors with near-field communication technology often aren’t washable, so sensors need to be removed before washing. However, QR codes, fabric labels and heat-transfer labels launder well. “There are a lot of different places to put the connector and ways the connector can look,” she says.

Avery Dennison and CuteCircuit both have incorporated ways to encourage consumers to recycle garments, to offer more transparency about where materials are sourced from and to expand the story of each item as consumers seek meaning in their purchases.

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, now working as a freelance writer and editor with WSJ. Custom Studios in EMEA. For more from Catherine Bolgar, along with other industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion on LinkedIn.

Photos courtesy of CuteCircuit

 

 

Left brain, meet right brain

By Catherine
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By Catherine Bolgar

Three Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces on Table

When Louis Henry Sullivan said, “Form ever follows function,” he was talking about architecture of buildings. But today his 19th-century credo is cited in many other spheres where engineering and design interact, including technology and software.

The lines are blurring, though, so that in the future, engineering and design will be seamlessly integrated.

Good designers are engineers,” says Blade Kotelly, senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and vice president of design and consumer experience at Jibo Inc., which makes a social robot for the home. At the same time, customers are no longer as wowed by raw technology and they expect an easy, and aesthetic, user experience.

Design runs to the core of things,” he adds. “Large companies realize they’re being outdone by smaller companies that are putting design at the center of their thinking.”

Brainstorming Brainstorm Business People Design ConceptsThis design-thinking approach can be hard for engineers to understand, Mr. Kotelly says: “The beginning of the design process looks like very little is happening, because the designers are trying to get their brains around the problem fully. Before that, they ask whether the problem is even a good one to solve. Then they figure out what’s going to make the solution successful, then they begin the typical design process of research, prototyping, testing, iterating.”

Modular structures or open-source components that can be swapped in or out in a modular way reduce the risk of change, so “you can iterate faster,” he says.

“It’s important to think architecturally about the system—how it breaks out at the top level and the smaller and smaller components—to be able to observe technology as the landscape is changing,” Mr. Kotelly says.

The Internet of Things is making it possible to create systems as never before. However, we’re likely to soon stop talking about the IoT as it becomes the norm.

“It’s like plastics in the 1960s,” says Dirk Knemeyer, a founder of Involution Studios, a Boston-area software design studio. “The distinction of things being plastic was super-important. A couple of decades passed, and plastic things are just things.”

In the same way, “in the future, everything that is digital and many things that are not will be in the Internet of Things,” he says.

Systems require holistic thinking. And that requires integrated teams. “Getting to a successful integrated model that puts design in an appropriate strategic place can be challenging,” Mr. Knemeyer says. “It requires overcoming the biases and preconceptions of stakeholders who are already in place and who often have a skeptical view of design and creative expression as part of business. They also have existing fiefdoms they control, and fear that order might be upset by redesign of people and processes.”

Tearing down management silos provides a new problem-solving methodology and mindset that can augment the traditional perspectives, whether financial, operational or technological.

The engineering perspective is raw capability: what is the range of possibilities technology can do,” Mr. Knemeyer says. “Design says, ‘from these technologies, here are the things that can be done specific to the needs of customers.’”

Addressing customer needs is at the core of high-impact design, or design that brings a meaningful change in increasing revenues and reducing costs, he adds.

Business People Team Teamwork Working Meeting ConceptAt the same time, design thinking doesn’t just create efficiencies, but new ideas, says Mathias Kirchmer, managing director of BPM-D, a West Chester, Pennsylvania, consultancy that helps companies increase performance through cross-functional business and information-technology initiatives.

In the classic approach, a company starts mapping the processes it needs to accomplish, then optimizing so the processes will be carried out efficiently, then writing the actual software, then implementing or installing it. “It’s very inside-out driven,” Dr. Kirchmer says. “In today’s world, that’s a huge problem. First, it’s too slow. We need a faster approach. Second, the inside-out view doesn’t deliver results to drive profitable growth. It doesn’t improve the customer experience sufficiently. It’s good to be more efficient, but that doesn’t make enough of a difference for the client and move the organization to the next performance level.”

Companies compete in just 15% of their processes, he says. The rest is commodity—that is, matching competitors rather than differentiating beyond them. That high-impact 15% requires innovation enabled through design thinking.

Dr. Kirchmer sees four aspects of design thinking:

• empathy to look at high-impact processes from a customer point of view;
• transfer of ideas from unrelated fields to introduce innovation;
• storytelling to communicate the customer journey and intended innovations in a way that will resonate with all the involved teams;
• rapid prototyping to quickly get to the visual design of user interfaces and software development.

The melding of disciplines means that in the future, designers will need to be more knowledgeable about core science or core engineering. “The way science is moving is going to pull all of us into a more quantified scientific environment,” Mr. Knemeyer says.

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, now working as a freelance writer and editor with WSJ. Custom Studios in EMEA. For more from Catherine Bolgar, along with other industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion on LinkedIn.

Photos courtesy of iStock

The Internet of Experience

By Olivier R.
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In an age where connectivity and the internet of things are enabling new business processes, Dassault Systèmes is looking to move a step further and help deliver compelling and connected experiences

Olivier Ribet Dassault Systemes

by Olivier Ribet, Vice President High Tech Industry

At Dassault Systèmes, we’re no longer talking about ‘internet of things’, but rather about the ‘internet of experiences’. Why? Because we believe that the business of every industry is rapidly transforming from ‘delivering compelling experiences’ – which defines the age of experience we have spoken of for three years – to ‘delivering compelling and connected experiences’, capable of enhancing people’s lives.

Although the objects or ‘things’ we own have ears (recording devices), eyes (cameras), voices (speakers), and some even have touch, this silicon nervous system does not send all of its information to a single brain, but rather to far too many brains: company platforms, city platforms, government platforms and individuals’ platforms, which in the end makes my experience cumbersome rather than enjoyable. Applications (both business and consumer-facing) that are single-device, single-purpose, and run on closed systems do not enhance our lives. They can even be gimmicky.

The real challenge will be to ‘connect’ those brains. This is why Dassault Systèmes is developing powerful solutions for the internet of experiences that permit manufacturers, communication providers and users to see, analyse, dashboard, program and optimise their ‘things’ from within one simple, visual environment. Our solutions enable companies to track and understand customers specific behaviours in order to offer meaningful and personalised experiences.

The internet of things, as it is being built today, is an internet of smart things that don’t always live up to their name. When companies that build the ‘things’ fail to meet customer experience demands, the internet of things is destined to stumble and fall. On the other hand, businesses that take an ‘experience thinking’ approach genuinely enhance people’s lives. They are reaping the rewards of the internet of experiences.

In the high tech industry, our customers work with us on enabling what we call High-Tech 3C Experiences: the ‘Connected’, ‘Contextual’ and ‘Continuous’ experiences:

  • Connected: it becomes common practice for companies to embed sensors, actuators and network connectivity in their products, thus realising the potential of connecting products, nature and life.
  • Contextual: as a result of this constant connectivity, the product can dynamically adapt its behaviour, the content it exposes, the services it offers, and realises the promise of an individualised and highly customisable experience.
  • Continuous: companies want to keep a constant contact with their customers to grow loyalty and repurchase, in order to deliver the promise of evergreen delightful experiences.

Beyond the Internet of Things

Ultimately, this is all about connecting, contextualising and continuously delivering the necessary software, applications, content and services that make the overall experience of the end user delightful and efficient. This covers everyone from designers, machine operators in manufacturing plants to individual consumers in their car or in their kitchen.

The internet of experience continuously enriches and improves an evergreen experience, in which products learn from its environment and from its usage and adapt accordingly. It enables the simple and seamless connection of smart objects – be it large industrial equipment or small smart medical devices – to other objects. This makes it possible to create a swarm of connected objects and to develop a true ecosystem in which the value of services delivered constantly improves.

Furthermore, the internet of experience is also enabling the rapid evolution of an economy in which people own products and objects to an economy where they use them, based on their needs, on-demand. It allows the development of new value added services, and a larger footprint for brands and companies who can then reach out to new audiences and markets, while also ensuring a very strong traceability of product usage. Companies can continuously learn, adapt, enrich and develop new content, services and a next generation of products. This is achieved by tapping into the intelligence gained from the large set of data coming from real time usages.

Working with our customers and partners, Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform truly bridges the world of ‘digital/virtual’ and the world of ‘physical/real’. It allows continuous experience value creation, leveraging the power of the model-based systems engineering capabilities. It is also the only multi-scale, internet of things-aware environment that enables the system modeling and the simulation of connected experiences concurrently and seamlessly.

A notable example is Miele, who are aiming to change the experience of owning a home appliance through connectivity. As part of the KogniHome project, Miele – in collaboration with universities and other companies – is investigating how intelligent applications can be of benefit in the kitchen. The aim is to create an ecosystem that helps create a greater level of comfort and spontaneity for consumers.

Dassault Systèmes’ uniqueness is to provide virtually-enriched experiences and reality-enriched design. On the one hand, we provide access to 3D data and bill of material in the context of product usage; on the other hand we allow better product design based on insights gained from real usage. With sharing one platform, companies can invent (virtually validate ‘internet of experience ready’ design), run (digitally augmented operations), learn (real time experience optimisation) and improve (accurate data enriched simulation).


To find out more, visit our High Tech website or read the Compass Mag article ‘Beyond the IoT‘.



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