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YKK Makes Inroads in Wearable Technology with a Smart Zipper

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Like watches and phones before it, are zippers the next every day item to receive a digital upgrade?

YKK is working on it. The global trims manufacturer teamed with wearable technology company Lifekey to develop an interactive zipper called Touchlink.

Through Near Field Communication (NFC), the same technology that powers “tap to pay” capabilities on smartphones, the Touchlink zipper serves as a new tool in brands’ arsenal to communicate with end consumers. Consumers simply tap the zipper to their smartphone to view information about the garment on their screens—eliminating the need for hangtags and allowing more interaction between brand and buyer.

Jason Kintzler, Lifekey’s founder and CEO, outlined the significance of this capability for brands, noting that it can provide specific product information and unlock barriers to maintaining an ongoing relationship with the consumer.

The platform can also become an innovative advertising space. Brands can push exclusive content tailored specifically to existing customers.

“For the brand, it’s really the first time they’re able to truly ‘activate’ a product,” Kintzler told Rivet. “Not only is the brand able to share important product details, but it can also be useful for providing wash and care instructions, product warranty or safety information and so much more.”

Consumers can find unique uses for the zipper as well. As a product geared toward outdoor and active lifestyle brands, Kintzler said the smart zipper can be used to check in with family or friends before and after a hike and even dispatch first responders in an emergency.

The zipper launches in January and can be integrated with brands’ existing operating systems. Once brands have purchased a YKK TouchLink zipper, they work with Lifekey to add their brand and functionality to the company’s Tap O operating system—much like adding an app to an iPhone or Android device.

Lifekey has been used in other apparel products such as fabric wristbands it calls “smart straps,” which can execute the same safety actions as the smart zipper. The technology is also featured in machine-washable connected T-shirts, helmet patches and pet tags.

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