Author(s): Martin Garner
This week, Evrythng, which offers a cloud platform for the Internet of things, and packaging materials company, Avery Dennison Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS), announced that they are working together. Over the next three years they will give a minimum of 10 billion clothing and footwear products a digital identity during the manufacturing process. This is the largest ever Internet of things deal by volume. I caught up with Evrythng CEO, Niall Murphy, to hear more about it.
As we move into the Internet of things, physical products will have a digital identity – a presence on the Web, which can hold data from and about the individual products in question. Although Evrythng is a start-up with just 50 people, it aims to provide that identity for enormous numbers of products, and to enable secure access to the data through APIs so that a broader range of players can use it in their processes and apps.
Evrythng has worked on several projects with various brands as they experiment with connecting their products, and scale up the programmes. These projects have been as diverse as Johnnie Walker whisky bottles, whose labels change once the bottle is opened; software development kits for chipset manufacturers so they can build digital identities into electronics and appliances; integration with Google's Nest cloud, Samsung's SmartThings smart home system, and Aurora's Gooee smart lighting ecosystem.
When it comes to clothing and footwear, Evrythng and Avery Dennison RBIS describe the benefits of having a digital identity and easy ways of connecting to it as giving consumers better data about the product, its history and how to recycle it; an easy way to link to loyalty schemes and to reorder the product; protection against counterfeiting and fraudulent returns by users; and the ability to link the product to more personalised recommendations from the retailer or manufacturer.
As the concept of connected products grows it's clear that a digital identity will need to be created as part of the manufacturing process, rather than retro-fitted in the supply chain, to make it more economical. That's one of the main purposes of the deal between Evrythng and Avery Dennison RBIS.
Avery Dennison RBIS is one of the largest suppliers of labels, tags and packaging – making tens of billions of labels per year, for example. Working with Evrythng in clothing and footwear, it will now have the digital identity of each item as a default option in the labels. This will appear in the form of a QR code, an RFID tag or an NFC tag.
Initially QR codes will dominate because of their lower cost, but the economics of NFC are improving rapidly thanks to printed electronics, and we expect the number of NFC labels to rise substantially over the next few years. There are benefits to using a radio system (either NFC or RFID) for better inventory management in stores — a key area other companies are working on, including Telefonica and Intel, which has been collaborating with Levi Strauss.
Avery Dennison RBIS may also run some of its services for manufacturers on top of Evrythng's cloud platform to provide tracking and certification, for example. These will run in a special service layer, branded the Janela Smart Products Platform. In addition to these services, manufacturers can access the full product identity in Evrythng's cloud service and could offer secure APIs to other parties such as retailers and marketing companies.
One of the big issues in the Internet of things is privacy, given the large volume of data becoming available from a wide range of connected things. In the case of the deal between Evrythng and Avery Dennison RBIS the data being held on the platform is all about the products rather than their users, whose data lives on manufacturers' or retailers' other systems.
This deal is a big step for Evrythng. Not so much for the cloud platform itself — which is already running hundreds of millions of product identities and was designed to scale up quickly — but more for the need to work with a much broader range of players in the clothing and footwear industries. This will mean expanding the number of people who run the engagement with those players, and also the number of engineers to integrate the Janela platform with manufacturers' in-house systems.