How can a garment's origin be derived in a safe and credible way? How can the producer guarantee that it has been produced in a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable way? A new, secure traceability system developed in a research project at the University of Borås is to ensure all that.
Borås/Sweden — Information asymmetry, counterfeits, and lack of transparency — in one word lack of traceability — is a major challenge in the global textiles and clothing supply chain. QR codes and RFID chips are currently used as traceability tools. However, these are easy to copy. Tarun Kumar AgrawalTarun Kumar Agrawal, during his doctoral studies in Textile Management at the Swedish School of Textiles, University of Borås, has developed a new traceability system to solve this.
In his project, Tarun Kumar Agrawal has looked at traceability at the information and product levels, and how it can be ensured that the information passing the systems is reliable. He has also developed a unique cryptotag that is printed on the finished garment. The tag contains tiny particles, which randomly form a unique pattern. By image reading it is possible to identify these patterns, similar as when indentifying a fingerprint. The new traceability system then connects data to the tag.
The tag has been developed and tested at the lab scale and shows promising results on durability, for example washability, abrasion resistance and stretchability.
The traceability system has been developed to be completely open, so that the stakeholders, who are connected to it, can follow what is happening, from production of raw material to finished garment, and further out to the customer, through the entire supply chain. The system lacks central authority, which means that there is no individual party that owns and verifies the information transfer. Instead, so-called block chain technology has been used, which is the same technology behind virtual currency transactions, such as bitcoin, to make the information transfer secure.
According to Agrawal, this reduces the risk of the information being manipulated by one single party. Since the system is open to all connected stakeholders, they can follow the production process all the way. The technology helps to develop a technology-based trust among the stakeholders. And, the customer can further know the history of the garment using the system. The next step is to scale the system up, and to improve the algorithm that has been used.