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The tag has left the building. Or has it?

“Where is my favorite shirt? I can’t find it! If I won’t find it in a minute, I need to reconsider my whole outfit for today! That would take 15 more minutes, so for sure I won’t catch the bus…” Does this sound familiar to you?

I have been thinking about labeling all the items of my wardrobe with RFID tags. This is what I would do: first I would put a small tag in the caring label of each garment I own. Then I would place a solid RFID reader at the door of the room where my wardrobe is located. Another reader would be located at the doorway of my bathroom, where the laundry basket is. And this is how it works: when I wear a garment and leave the room wearing it, the reader notices the tag has left the room. Later, when I get back home, the garment is thrown into the laundry basket. This is a point where the bathroom reader notices the arriving garment. Later, when the garment is returned to the wardrobe as clean, it will be rejoined to the list of available garments.

RFID-price -tag -3

When planning my outfit, I would just touch a tablet computer placed on the corridor close to my wardrobe, and it would show me all the clothes that are in the closet, clean and ready to wear, of course. The ones in the laundry basket would just remain there and be unavailable. Based on the available garments, I would decide to wear the black jeans today. Then the tablet would show me all the shirts, pullovers, jackets and so forth that would fit with the jeans, and -as the best of all this- that I really would find in the wardrobe as clean! In addition, when I know which item I will take out instead of trying on everything and seeing if they match, the wardrobe is always well organized.

I bet it is a very familiar situation to many of us to turn the laundry basket around just to see if a specific item would be there. Now you can just go to check from the tablet where the garment is. The tablet knows if it is in the wardrobe or in the laundry basket, because the readers have provided all that information. This means that you won't have to touch all the worn clothes of your household and the very smelly football socks of your husband as well. The reader does it for you. And, on top of all this: now you can be totally sure about whether your laundry machine really is swallowing socks or if there is another explanation for the constant decrease of the socks, especially of the male ones.

What about the children's clothes? Well, sometimes something is forgotten to the daycare; the blue wool shirt has found a better place under the sofa since "it was so itchy and I don't like the color", or the white shirt needed for Sunday lunch has already been worn on Thursday when eating spaghetti bolognese. With an RFID reader you can easily track all these lost items, and you would be surprised how much more you would find in the search of only one garment…

How easy, nice and comfortable this all sounds! Now, who wants to do the tagging for my clothes?

13 comments on “The tag has left the building. Or has it?”

  1. Posted 28 February 2012 at 12:04:23

    Oh, the situation where I am looking for that lost sock or that certain top to go with my pants or skirt and just cannot find it! Make this happen!!! :D

  2. Posted 28 February 2012 at 14:00:05

    Genius! I've been searching for a SmartWool sock for two weeks. They cost $21 a pair! I agree with Mirva...make this happen!!

  3. Gravatar of Sini SyrjäläSini Syrjälä
    Posted 29 February 2012 at 12:27:49

    I bet finding a person accepting the pilot in his/her wardrobe won't be that hard :)

  4. Posted 29 February 2012 at 14:30:12

    Me me me!!! I volunteer!!!

  5. Gravatar of Hanna ÖstmanHanna Östman
    Posted 05 March 2012 at 15:30:28

    This would be really great. I would also want a database with pictures of all my clothes! And a program should tell my tired morning head, which ones of the clean clothes match together. No unnecessary thinking! It would be like having a personal assistant!

  6. Gravatar of Hanna ÖstmanHanna Östman
    Posted 07 March 2012 at 10:39:21

    Good news! The washing machine with RFID sensors already exist! Read about it at RFID 24-7: http://bit.ly/y1PMZO

  7. Posted 12 March 2012 at 10:57:27

    This might work?
    http://www.lossofprivacy.com/index.php/2012/03/put-rfid-in-your-stuff-find-it-with-your-phone/

    :)

  8. Gravatar of Irena BlazinsekIrena Blazinsek
    Posted 06 April 2012 at 21:24:36

    Easy and nice but just... lazy. In my honest opinion, this kind of RFID usage just encourages not-thinking and dependance of us humans on machines. While I agree it would be infinitely better to get up in the morning, say to the computer 'gimme something comfy', jump in the shower while it computes the outfits in wardrobe, and when I would be finished, the clothes would be waiting for me, probably fresh off the ironing board. This is a waste of electricity and computing. I can just as easily prepare the clothes a day beforehand if needed be, and that would take me five, or ten minutes max, if I have a well organized wardrobe. Not all of us have walk-in closets fit for kings and queens, and some who do have them, will find this possibility of use for RFID intriguing.

    However, think about this - what if you-for some reason- don't have electricity needed to run your RFID clothes mix'n'match system? And you have - oh, the horror! - an important meeting in, say an hour, but you have to choose your clothes you don't know where they are, because you didn't bother with learning where in your big, deep, scary closet they are, and your favourite shoes were sent just last week to be repaired? You can imagine the chaos, despair and waterworks, I am sure. (The boss wouldn't buy the excuse that the electricity was cut for some reason if you are late for important presentation.)

    Star Trek mania with clothes aside (we are just a step from replicating 'em, anyway), we are better off if we don't depend so much on machines to tell us what to wear every day. We don't rely on machines to breath, only when it's inevitable. The machines don't move our legs to walk. Bottom line is - machines are here to HELP us not to DICTATE our way of life, and really, RFID in the closet would be a dictatorship of a worst sort, because it would be supported by our thinking "Hey it's so modern I gotta have it", "It will save me time", "It's the next step to the artifical intelligence" or some such bovine excrement.

    As Descartes said " I think, therefore I am." So, while we are thinking, we a are humans.

    But are you prepared to be changed into some kind of a zombie in human guise, just to follow the technology that is hailed to help you, but instead, it's quietly crippling you, disregarding your process of thinking and making choices for yourself? You are a human and a grown up one at that. Why would you want to regress to a kid, and relegating the choices of what would you like to wear, on some computer system?

    RFID in laundry and daycare is a good idea - in laundry it would be especially useful in public laundries, so we don't have argue which pullover belongs to who, and daycare speaks for itself. But having a system, dedicated entirely to the prolonging the primping time spent in front of mirrors?

    Hell, no.

    Besides, the system installation would not have a good ROI, all things considered. You may think it's a good idea right now, but unless you have a warehouse full of clothes, the buying of the system is not a smart thing to do. You buy it, and you are satisfied with it for a time, but you won't generate any income with the use of it, except for your satisfaction that you were literally dressed up by your cyber nanny slash fashion consultant. And let's not mention the tagging, checking and re-checking the tags. No, thank you. Let's have our standard routine of fifteen minutes in the evening before the Day D to chose the clothes ourselves, like our grandparent and great-granparents have done before. It's no Einstein level math and it can be done without any headaches on our parts, and we also won't have to pay any really expensive machines to do the simple work.

    Are you a game? I know I am.

    Irena Blazinsek



  9. Posted 17 April 2012 at 14:10:12

    Hi Irena,

    I recently visited an Academic seminar, which presented 72 consumer studies from 12 countries. The subject was shopping in the year 2020. The data was collected from consumers approximately at ages 19-25 at this point - so a generation that most definitely will be shoppers in 2020.
    The research showed that future shoppers expect that in the future their fridges will automatically order items from grocery stores, online stores will tailor-make ads based on the consumers' interests and virtual shopping and service will be possible.

    Although the ideas of for example virtual shopping environment feels far fetched, it seems to me that th next generation of shoppers will not only want it, but expect such services. For example the system in Sini's original blog could be enhanced by adding a shopping APP as well: if you do not have anything to fit your new jeans, the system can also browse online catalogs and suggest new purchases to you. OK, I admit, I rather search for my items myself, but this might be something that the future consumer may value, even if we do not.
    I agree with you that today the RFID-based walking closet does not present ROI, but who is to say it won't be a fixed feature in all of our houses in 15 years time. Something that I'll have to have retrofitted to my currently new house if I'm ever to sell it?

    Best Regards,
    Jessica

  10. Posted 17 April 2012 at 14:16:28

    And not to mention that consumers very often want things with no ROI whatsoever. ;)
    I am lazy and not afraid to admit it. And if the searched item is not located due to a power out, no problems, the old fashioned way still works. Dive into the closet! :D

  11. Gravatar of Irena BlazinsekIrena Blazinsek
    Posted 05 September 2012 at 16:55:55

    Hm. Would really love to look at the study myself. Wonder if they managed to factor in the economic crisis. If they didn't, then the starting line for this little project would be five or ten years later.

    Agree my generation is somewhat techie-high - meaning living, breathing, eating and sleeping with technology, however the system you are describing would demand big base of customers in the prefered shops, many employers and then a big car park for the delivery vehicles. The idea in itself is intriguing, because it could save the time of those really busy men and women, but it's also unpredictable while in cost. I imagine it would be the cost of the bought items, and then an additional cost of shipment of the items to the customer. A whole new kettle of fishies: what would be the cost of shipment - would it be similar to the post ones or something entirely different? It would also completely change the consumer culture - would be the shops even needed anymore? Internet and RFID may be valuable things, but they also reduce communicating between people in live situations. Today it's easy to hide behind some nickname and roar about injustices, real or perceived ones. And do we really want our customers to feel like numbers only?

    APP's as future salesmen or saleswomen? Now I am really curious. Do you really think the APP's would bump up the sales? I mean, yeah, the customer will get more articles to choose from, but it also means the customer will go to the rival if she finds out they have the shoes she wants. Competition will become even harsher at this rate. And besides how much information is deemed too much information? Internet offers almost innumerable numbers of choices - let's say our customer searches for sunglasses, and she will find many models - form Gucci, to Ralph Lauren, to Kappa, from elegant to sporty ones, from cheapskate models to those with sky-high prices. Heaven at first sight, but the customer can become grumpy when it confronted with too many choices. Yes, women enjoy the shopping, but I really don't think all of us would be crazy enough to literally shop till we drop.

    On customers wanting things with no ROI whatsoever - I call this "Ooh, Shiny!" effect. Nowadays people are very much more of a compulsive shoppers than before. We shop, we use and then we discard, even if the item in the question is still usable. Case in point: used cars. I don't say we absolutely have to drive one car until it literally decays at it's seams, or for the women to use the past the date lipstick just because it's here and useful and we are in a pinch, or to eat the canned soup that had expired the last month because it's here and we forgot about having it until we actually found it in the fridge. We are simply too used to being customers - buying brings us satisfaction, even a rush; it makes us happy and the industry today banks on those feelings. Thus, the ads on internet and TV, ads on the phones, Facebook also profits with their little [like] squares, and everyone is happy. Technology only exaggerates this, because it acts like a net over which the customers communicate between themselves and the industry. When we buy a new car or a new hard drive, nowadays is customary to power up the computer, log in, type in the browser what we search for, and then decide on the basis of our finances and peer reviews. and if we see something that makes us squeal inside with the shinyness, prettiness or macho-ness... well, all the better for us, isn't it?


    However, the technology today is also very competititve field. The thought of the RFID closed may be too much for me, but it may as well be a common appliance in some ten to fifteen years in the future. Nobody had thought the washing machine would be used when it had been introduced for the first time, but nowadays, our lives - at least in technologically advanced world - wouldn't be complete without it. The question about the closet is, would it manage to weather the changes enough to become one of the ineavitable house appliances, or would it remain as a funny project of some crazy scientist somewhere on the dusty shelves of the past?

    Today, when looking on this closet, we are all "Ooh, Shiny!" Something new, interesting, and only potentially useful. But time will tell if it is a shine of a true gold or only a glitter of the broken glass.

    Thank you and I wish you all the best,

    Irena Blazinsek

    PS: Do you think today's shoppers are more critical or not?

  12. Gravatar of Jessica SäiläJessica Säilä
    Posted 14 September 2012 at 16:35:46

    Hi Irena,

    I agree with you on the "wow shiny" -effect... I too like to select the items in my wardrobe myself. However, this blog post obviously describes the future some 10 years from now perhaps. When Maxwell Smart first had his "Shoe phone" we had no idea one day it would be possible to carry a phone a call anywhere, my nephew (currently in the age I was when I watched Maxwell Smart on the tv) has never known the world without mobile phones.
    About the study I mentioned - the economic crisis factor was not seen as important, because they asked the "future consumers" how they would shop in 2020 - so it wasn't about how we shop today.

    Best regards,
    Jessica Säilä

  13. Posted 20 September 2012 at 09:34:01

    Woohoo!

    Now socks to be found easily. Check out this ingenious video!
    http://vimeo.com/49498254

    :) Mirva

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