Evrythng signs 10bn ID deal with Avery Dennison for connected retail

IoT identity specialist Evrythng has announced a deal with packaging and labelling giant Avery Dennison to manage the unique identities of at least 10bn products. Avery Dennison’s Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS) division will use Evrythng to give online identities to 10bn items in the clothing industry, over the next three years.

In what seems to be the largest IoT deal, by total thing-unit-volume, Evrythng will be providing the behind-the-scenes identity management that will let individual products have individual identities within consumer applications and commercial logistics chains.

Evrythng has had previous similar wins with the likes of Thinfilm, a printed electronics manufacturer that develops RFID tags used on a number of alcohol brands owned by Diageo. In those cases, the tag and identity are accessed via a smartphone app, which allows a consumer to see if the product is genuine and access an after-sales experience that might help the brand ensure repeat business.

Avery Dennison is launching its new Janela Smart Products Platform on the back of the Evrythng tech, which will allow the Avery Denison customers to give their products a digital identity that can be tied to a customer or managed through the logistics chains on its way to those customers.

The pair say that this will allow products to trigger applications and services that will connect more intelligently with consumers, with brands becoming more interactive – able to provide personalized experiences, improved supply chain efficiency, and better protection from counterfeiting.

Essentially, this is a means to persuade a customer to make a repeat purchase, as well as a means of erecting another obstacle to dissuade counterfeiters from ripping off a brand and potential buyers. On a more practical level, it would also be a way of allowing customers to see the washing instructions or safe-usage guide for the garments or accessories they purchase, and potentially a way of tying possessions to an online identity as a means of proving ownership, in case of theft or loss.

For Avery Dennison, the tech could be readily expanded into its other core markets, which include food, beverages, and pharmaceuticals. When additional hardware is required, only the products with high margins are going to see these new capabilities added. But when the ID can be added simply via a packaging design or barcode, there is an enormous upside to applications like this.

While many continuously scoff at the idea of a connected refrigerator, a simple camera, some cloud computation, and a barcode scanner could create a service that recommends recipes, warns about food allergies and product recalls, and that feeds into biometric health trackers – all without significantly increasing the BOM cost, and at a cost level that will be shrunk through the passing of time and eventually included as a standard feature.

With clothing, those consumers that enjoy the experience of shopping are sure to find a value in being able to upload a wardrobe and receive recommendations, or alerts for when items are on sale. The retailers themselves will greatly appreciate access to that data, especially if it provides insight into what garments from rivals are being purchased alongside their own products.

Niall Murphy, CEO and Co-Founder at EVRYTHNG, said, “The fact that at least 10 billion Avery Dennison RBIS products will be digitized at the point of manufacture is both a milestone in making the Internet of Things mainstream and a huge enabler for the apparel and footwear industry in particular. Avery Dennison works with some of the world’s largest and most respected consumer brands. We are enabling products for these brands to be ‘born digital’ and create new value with IoT applications, which is a huge opportunity for the industry as a whole.”

In terms of operations, the cost of maintaining the necessary databases should not be too exorbitant – as they would likely be run on general purpose cloud computing instances that can be spooled up and down as needed, and are currently run inside Everythng’s PaaS offering. The physical cost of printing some extra ink on packaging or inside a label should also be easily absorbable, meaning that there’s a very low threshold for ROI in systems like this.

The issue for the products themselves is going to over who “owns” the physical thing that they are selling to consumers. For fashion outlets, it’s a simpler model, as they tend to control the sales channel – direct to consumer where needed, and through other retailers where viable.

For brands with strong consumer loyalty, the consumer would likely opt for the brand’s post-sales app, but they will also face competition from the retailers themselves – who would want to use the identity to push promotions and offers for return business inside an application.

This raises the question of who owns the digital identity of a product, which is a question the industry hasn’t had to ask before. Would third-party apps have access to the identity, and if the brand wanted to protect the barcode, how exactly would it prevent other applications from correctly scanning the code?

This sounds like an application that could very quickly turn into a market full of vendor lock-in, where consumers are saddled with dozens of fairly useless apps unless brands and retailers can find a common ground on which to cooperate. Depending on overlapping sales channels, this could be an application with mutual benefits, or one that only fuels a bitter rivalry as one or both parties try to gain an advantage through the applications. But that reality is still a hypothetical one, for now.

Currently, the brands will own the ADIs managed by Evrythng, which promises that no one will have access to the data involved unless approved by the brand.

“Avery Dennison is bringing powerful new value to customers through our partnership with EVRYTHNG,” said Mitch Butier, Avery Dennison President and Chief Operating Officer. We can make apparel and footwear products smarter and enable them to participate in digital applications and services, helping to drive new consumer experiences, protect brands’ value, and provide supply chains with real-time analytics.”