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Appsolutely fab way to stop you wearing same old clothes

Database even sends unloved wardrobe items to charity shop

By Staff Reporter

Published 08/10/2016

Clothing conundrum: much of our wardrobe hardly sees the light of day as we keep returning to the same items
Clothing conundrum: much of our wardrobe hardly sees the light of day as we keep returning to the same items

There's no shortage of statistics about the amount of unworn clothing hanging in our wardrobes - Oxfam reckons there are 350 million garments in total in the UK, says we've got £72 worth each, while CollectPlus thinks it's more like £93 - but then you probably don't need me to tell you that you've been wearing the same half-dozen shirts and two pairs of jeans for the last three years, do you?

Charities encourage us to donate our duds on a regular basis, but how often do we actually have a clear-out? Once a year at best, or when we move house?

A new project wants to change that, thereby reducing the effects the overconsumption of clothes is wreaking on the environment.

Currently in development at Birmingham City University, the Connected Wardrobe will see garments tagged using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology.

Whenever an item passes by an RFID reader on the bedroom door (ie you wear it), it's logged in a database, then, using weather data, the wardrobe "learns" when to suggest certain clothes, by sending a text message through an app.

If you haven't worn something for a while, you'll get a reminder of that neglected jacket or pair of boots.

And if you haven't worn something for a really long time, the app can automatically contact a charity to send a collection bag, or set up a listing on eBay, or Asos Marketplace (after a specified time period), so you can make money from your forgotten fashions.

It all adds up to the "Internet of Clothes", the idea being that we "move away from the idea of 'ownership' of clothing, to simply using them as long as we need them", as senior lecturer and project lead Mark Brill puts it. "When we've worn them enough, the items will pass themselves on to their next keeper to wear."

The project was shortlisted for a Network for Innovations in Culture and Creativity in Europe award (Nice) earlier this year and, while it didn't take home a top prize, the working wardrobe isn't far off.

"The initial prototypes for beta testing will be ready early next year," Brill explains. "Since the award shortlist, we've developed a lot of new partnerships, in particular in the sustainable and ethical fashion business. The level of interest from the ethical fashion community in the project has been amazing."

And if this complex system sounds prohibitively expensive - a bit like Cher's computerised wardrobe in the film Clueless - it's not.

"The wardrobe is certainly not a luxury product and we are interested in getting as broad a base as possible. The business itself will operate as a social enterprise and we are aiming to use low-cost readily available tech to drive the wardrobe," Brill says.

While other "Internet of Things" technologies have suffered slow take-up because they involve shelling out for pricey devices like cookers and smart meters, an inexpensive tag system that has the potential to actually make money for users appeals.

Belfast Telegraph

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