L.L. Bean cancelled its blockchain and sensor experiment amid layoff announcements

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L.L. Bean

  • L.L. Bean has cancelled an experiment that would put sensors connected to the Ethereum blockchain inside some of its coats and books, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • News of the cancellation came two days before L.L. Bean announced layoffs as the result of flat sales in 2017.
  • The project used Loomia fabrics, which contain sensors that track how an item is used.
  • Users could then send that data to the Ethereum blockchain, where it’s accessed by companies looking for customer insights.

The outdoor clothing retailer L.L. Bean is ending a planned experiment that would put blockchain technology inside its coats and boots, according to The Wall Street Journal.

L.L. Bean first made public in February its plans to use sensors in some of its products which would track information about how people wear and use their products. The sensors would send user data to the Ethereum blockchain, where it could be stored and used by the company for product development and marketing.

L.L. Bean told The Journal that the experiment was limited to a controlled study of just 12 participants, but did not say exactly why it was shut down.

However, on Friday the company announced that it would lay off 100 employees in response to flat sales in 2017, according to the Portland Press Herald. These layoffs, along with 500 employees who accepted early retirement packages in February, represent a 10% decline in staff for the company, which could account for the decision to scale back on experimental projects.

L.L. Bean’s project, which would have been the first of its kind facilitated by a major clothing retailer, would have used technology from Loomia, a Brooklyn-based startup that creates flexible and washable circuity fabric.

One of the core ideas behind Loomia’s data-collecting fabric is that users can sell information about their use to companies in exchange for discounts or cash.

Blockchain is a useful tool in this case because it can encrypt the data while gathering information from multiple sources. Loomia’s fabric lets wearers transfer the data from their garment using an app on their phone.

L.L. Bean would have accessed the data directly from the Ethereum blockchain, rather than directly from the customers.