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Burberry teams up with IBM interns for garment traceability prototype

By Huw Hughes

8 Oct 2020


Burberry has teamed up with interns at tech company IBM to develop a prototype system to improve product traceability.

The luxury label revealed Thursday that for the past three months its technology experts have been coaching participants of IBM’s Extreme Blue internship programme who were tasked with designing, developing, and testing an innovative new product to track a garment’s traceability.

Named Voyage, the new prototype works by identifying a product through scanning a near-field communication tag or entering a product ID. Consumers can then trace a garment’s production journey and lifecycle.

The Voyage prototype was trialled for functionality in Burberry’s mobile app.

It comes as traceability becomes an increasingly important factor in the fashion industry, with consumers demanding more and more that products are sustainably and ethically sourced and manufactured.

IBM interns develop garment traceability prototype

“The passion and creativity that IBM’s Extreme Blue interns showed in developing a prototype solution for a longstanding industry challenge was exceptional,” Mark McClennon, chief information officer at Burberry, said in a statement.

“We are delighted to have supported the interns in tackling this challenge, as cross-functional collaboration across industries is crucial to building a more sustainable future and inspiring the next generation of sustainably-minded innovators.”

Voyage also allows consumers to configure their own sustainability preferences and receive tailored product recommendations based on their selections. Consumers can even add additional stages to a garment’s logged lifecycle, for example if it has been upcycled.

Tara Mulcahy-Murray, an engineering student at the University of Oxford who worked on the prototype, said: “We thought about what consumers might want to know about their clothes and how we could address their concerns. Our aim was to give consumers more information about each product before it reaches the store, so they can make more informed purchasing decisions.”

Photo credit: Burberry