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Author's profile photo Mark Darbyshire

Wearing Complexity Well

It seems just about all of us are hungry for data these days, even in our clothing – whether we’re professional athletes or weekend golfers, we want to know our speed, distance, altitude, heart rate, progress, and what the weather’s going to do. As sport, IoT and Big Data continue their relentless march of convergence, I think we’ll continue to see even greater innovation in this area.

Take my trainers for example. They already have sensors built into them to tell me my speed, distance and running route, but what if they could tell me even more things about how I use them and perhaps even about their own performance? What if they could tell me how much pressure I put on my knees when I run based on my current weight, and how this is affecting their tread?  What if they could analyse my stride, and alert me when I am at risk of an injury by the way I’m running or am developing a slight limp in my knee? This longer term predictive maintenance on both the product and the body that’s using it is the art of the invisible.

Much of this technology already exists today. It just needs to come together. Whether it’s conductive threads in laces, sensors in shoes or heart monitors in vests, wearables are yet another example of the ever increasing levels of complexity in retail – as if there weren’t enough for manufacturers to deal with already.


Omnichannel has always been one of the big obstacles for the retail industry, and the very nature of smart clothing is likely to put even more pressure on eCommerce channels for retailers. But technology and innovation are tackling these areas too. Adidas Group is using SAP HANA to find out more about what its customers want. They launched the world’s first intelligent shoe back in 2005.

Today, with its My Adidas service, you can customise the size of your insole, your outer sole, the colour schemes of your trainers, get your name stitched into them and have them delivered to your door in just two weeks. Anticipating what customers want is one challenge. Removing the levels of complexity associated with it is another. Yet Adidas has unified.its manufacturing, wholesale and retail business units with even simpler, more standardised IT systems, reducing system complexity across its entire business, and achieving global consistency at every touch point. 

Whether it’s an intelligent running shirt or a customised sports bag, gaining complete visibility – from the factory floor to the retail shops and across e-commerce channels – means better insight to replenish best-selling products, and increase cross-sell and upsell opportunities. Their savings on nightly stock replenishment alone is fifty per cent. With improved forecasting, Adidas is able to better anticipate what consumers like me will want tomorrow, in a week, or even a month down the road. Maybe they’re already working on those trainers to warn me about my knee…

Find out more at Run Simple

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