The Internet of Things is coming for the fashion industry.
Microsoft is partnering with Eon, the New York startup behind the CircularID digital-identity protocol, to bring 400 million products online by 2025, creating an industry-wide “digital foundation” for a connected and circular retail economy where garments can be tracked and validated at every step of the value chain.
The CircularID serves as a product’s “digital birth certificate,” housing data such as the item’s name, brand, color, factory identification and material content. It was designed to be stakeholder agnostic: Brands and retailers can leverage the CircularID to unlock visibility after the point of sale. Consumers might use it to identify or authenticate products for resale, sharing or peer-to-peer renting. Textile collectors might employ it to retrieve garment information such as fiber or chemical content, which can aid recycling.
Eon’s Connected Products platform, which is currently being piloted by CircularID partners such as H&M, PVH Corp. and The Renewal Workshop, will get an extra boost from Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing service, making it possible for brands and retailers to “introduce deeper and more dynamic relationships with their customers, new revenue streams and business models, and a sustainable relationship with our planet,” according to Natasha Franck, founder and CEO of Eon.
“While the fashion and retail industry aspire to a shared vision of a circular and digitally forward future, fundamental challenges to the business models and decades-old digital infrastructure makes systemic shift into scaled customer-centric and circular business seemingly impossible,” Franck said in a statement. “Over the past few years our team at Eon has been working with Microsoft and leadership across the industry to develop the industry-wide digital foundation and shared language for Connected Products—essential to make this shared vision possible across industry and at scale.”
By partnering with Microsoft, Franck said, Eon is solving some of the fashion industry’s biggest data and operational-scale challenges, “enabling Connected Products to operate side by side with existing systems, such that brands and retailers can easily and efficiently digitize products at scale.”
The Connected Products platform also opens up a potential two-way communication between brands and customers that drive loyalty and continued engagement post-transaction. Brands, for instance, can share resale instructions or styling insights, while customers can tap into the platform to provide feedback, share photos or reorder favorite items.
“We’re very excited to announce this new and ongoing partnership with Eon—one that support’s Eon’s mission to reshape the fashion industry with the potential to be adopted by all industries,” said Maruschka Loubser, director of strategic brand partnerships at Microsoft. “The Eon platform is a fantastic example of how innovation driven tech partnerships enables the use of Microsoft tech offerings in new and interesting ways while supporting the creatives that transform industries for a more disruptive and sustainable future.”