H&M CTO needs clothing to contend with wearables
H&M’s Chief Technology Officer seeks to popularize smart apparel at a time when apparel manufacturers are struggling with complex supply chains and environmental pressures. Alan Böhme investigates how H&M clothing can monitor heart rate or fluid balance and how artificial intelligence can shorten H&M’s supply chain and potentially reduce the company’s carbon footprint. In September, H&M was unable to meet demand due to delays and disruptions in product flow.
The Swedish company’s focus on technology comes at a crucial time for the apparel industry as people increasingly move from brick-and-mortar to online shopping. and fast fashion brands have been criticized for their frequent negative impact on the environment.
Clothing companies are experimenting with incorporating technology into apparel that has previously struggled to generate significant sales. Levi’s has partnered with Google to produce jackets that use Bluetooth on the cuff to communicate with your smartphone, while Nadi X makes yoga gear that uses vibrations to improve your technique.
H&M partnered with fashion tech company Boltware during the pandemic to create a denim jacket that mimics a hug. Consumers were allowed to choose whether designs would be developed, but demand was not strong enough to sell jackets.
In comparison, device carriers from giants like Apple Inc. growing rapidly. Apple’s smartwatch is one of the fastest growing products Böhme realized that his vision of the future would run into obstacles. Creating clothes that can sync to 5G will be difficult in countries with low network penetration.
“All the components are there,” Boehme said in an interview. “It’s the ability to model things in unique ways that we haven’t done as individuals or as a society Böhme, who worked as a Technology Innovation Officer at Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola before being hired by H&M in 2020, insists the technology is not far off.
To make clothing more sustainable, H&M teamed up with the Hong Kong Textile and Apparel Research Institute to build a machine that can separate unwanted garments and turn them into new products.
The fashion industry faces a tough battle for its climate claims. According to the Global Non-Profit Fashion Agenda, it was responsible for about 4% of all greenhouse gases produced by humans in 2018. If the industry were a country, it would be the fourth largest source of emissions in the world after China, the United States, and India…