Putting your jacket on, walking to work, picking up your coffee at Starbucks – all actions that theoretically can be measured. Some of them already are merely by carrying an iPhone or by also sporting a fitness device.
But what about if that jacket you were wearing was the one doing the actual measurement? And what if that data personally generated could be exchanged for value elsewhere?
That’s the concept being put forward by Loomia, a New York-based technology company bonding intelligence to textiles for apparel, soft goods, consumer and industrial applications. To date, founder Madison Maxey and team have experimented with ideas including heated footwear, a light-up dress in partnership with Google and Zac Posen, and a color-change fabric launching this season at New York Fashion Week.
Other connected clothing in the market has remained fairly in this play space also. What Loomia is now building in its B2B game, however, is a blockchain-backed platform that could essentially form a deep form of loyalty scheme for invested users.
Three components have to work together to make that happen, according to the team. There’s the Loomia Electronic Layer, which is the thin layer of circuitry actually bonded to the item of clothing in question in order to collect data such as frequency of wear, location, level of activity and temperature. That information is then stored on a hardware component called the Loomia Tile, which doubles up as a battery pack for other desired functionality embedded in the garments, and then syncs with a secure and anonymous digital identity on the Loomia Data Exchange, enabled via use of blockchain technology.
The idea is that the three parts operate concurrently in an ecosystem that allows users to collect their own data and sell it on to brands and consumer research firms. The result would be a form of digital asset, or what’s being called Loomia Token, that users earn in return for sharing their data. Those tokens would then be exchangeable in a marketplace for other items – discounts or perks, much like a reward points scheme would operate.
Loomia CEO Janett Liriano said: “Loomia is creating a bridge between digital intelligence and the physical materials that we interact with every day. The Loomia Platform would shift the consumer data paradigm so that individuals, not corporations, own their personal data and profit from it if they choose.”
Rather than being a creepy or big brother-like scenario, as the first two paragraphs of this story might suggest, the idea is to give power back to consumers through a world of increasingly smart fabrics, and importantly to do so in a truly secure environment, she adds.
Solomon Lederer, a former software developer at Morgan Stanley and an advisor to blockchain platform Ethereum, which the Loomia Token will be based on, explains that the resulting app users are able to interact with to manage their data will be entirely peer-to-peer based. This part will be built using Blockstack, a decentralized platform offering exactly that. “The backbone of this is that it’s trustworthy,” he tells me. “It needs to record data to say that this is a real user, and it can do that because the information is being stamped or pegged to the blockchain. It’s giving you a layer, like a data store, that other users can look at and know the authenticity of that information.”
Blockchain by nature not only has security embedded in it, but transparency too. Liriano also sees this initiative from Loomia as an opportunity to bring that technology to mainstream consumers. “We see this revolutionary technology offering a widespread solution to day-to-day inconveniences we all experience. This is an application of the blockchain that can seamlessly and securely connect consumers’ digital identity to their physical counterparts.”
For the brands themselves, the benefit lies in gaining access to more dynamic feedback about garments and their usage. At this point, once a jacket leaves the store with the consumer, there is no data about its performance or usage – no way to track if it’s actually successful. The only metric businesses really use is how much of it sold and how many returns were processed – not how often you wear it, what you wear it with, whether it fell apart after eight months, or otherwise.
Liriano believes having this insight can impact everything from inventory management to marketing campaigns because of the transparency enabled around consumer behaviour. “It’s about closing the feedback loop,” she explains, or informing decisions based on something more reliable than focus groups and survey.
To get to that stage, what we’re really talking about is the Loomia platform operating at scale, of course. In order to make the rewards worthy and valuable to the user, there have to be enough of them actually on board. But that means them both purchasing this sort of connected clothing as well as then engaging with the Loomia Tile itself. Given the current state of the wearable tech market, that’s a fairly large leap from a consumer perspective. Liriano sees the primary push around getting brand buy-in however, so she and team are working hard to build and then prove the value in it.
She estimates a timeline of around 18 months for Tile-enabled products, with the platform ready to support those products within 12 months. Later this year, there will be a Token Generation Event (TGE) for the Loomia Tile on Ethereum, open to investors and partners. At the time of sale, those tokens will have basic utility on the platform, with that increasing as the team continue to grow the full functionality of it. Loomia intends to use the proceeds from the TGE to progress development on all fronts.
This post first appeared on Forbes