Burberry partners with IBM interns to develop prototype system to improve product traceability

Burberry has partnered with interns at computer hardware company IBM to develop a prototype system to improve product traceability.

For the past three months, the luxury label’s digital and technology experts have been coaching participants of IBM’s Extreme Blue internship programme.

Partaking students were tasked with designing, developing, and testing an innovative new prototype system for an IBM client.

Titled Voyage, the prototype uses IBM Public Cloud and the IBM Blockchain platform to gather data that might in future allow consumers to trace a garment’s production journey and lifecycle, while learning more about the processes involved in its creation. It was designed by the interns to be trialled for functionality in Burberry’s mobile app.

The new prototype works by identifying a product through scanning a near-field communication tag or entering a product ID.

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

“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.”

Consumers can also configure their own sustainability preferences and receive tailored product recommendations when using Voyage. Users might also add information about a product’s journey to include additional stages in its lifecycle such as recycling and upcycling.

An engineering student at the University of Oxford who worked on the prototype, Tara Mulcahy-Murray 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.”

The partnership follows as sustainability becomes a growing priority for the fashion industry and retailers are doing more to promote ethical supplier practices and responsible consumption.

Consumers, policy makers, and NGOs alike are concerned about the environmental and social impacts of retailers and their products. Financial institutions are also demanding more accountability from the companies they invest in.