Photo: AP

Despite massive blood-letting in the cryptocurrency markets over the past few weeks, the pace of brands just announcing some kind of ambiguous “blockchain” venture in hopes they can send their stock prices skyrocketing has barely slowed down. Photo company Kodak is now selling crypto miners, while other bit players like iced tea companies and Hooters franchises have all announced weird blockchain tie-ins with the hope of cashing in before investors wake up sober the next day and realize what they’ve done.

Now venerable clothing and outdoor equipment chain L.L. Bean has decided to get in on the blockchain action, per the Wall Street Journal. The company will start testing a “line of coats and boots with sewn-in sensors that send data to the public Ethereum blockchain platform” via an app, with the ultimate purpose of customers sharing data about how and when they use the clothes in exchange for potential discounts:

Chad Leeder, innovation specialist at the outdoors gear provider, says the information, likely to include temperature, frequency of wear and number of washes, could show whether customers use the products as intended and whether new products live up to supplier promises. Insights could be funneled into product development, marketing and supplier negotiations, he says.

Although L.L. Bean has collected customer comments for years, the data from this system would be more quantified, Mr. Leeder says. “Digital, quantifiable data about how customers are actually using a product — we’ve never had that data before.”

Leeder told the Journal that using blockchain will allow the data to be encrypted and updated continuously. But it’s not clear why it’s a particularly good choice to pull this off other than at the time the “blockchain product integrations” were announced, cryptocurrency was still soaring. Blockchain applications can have long processing times and consumer data leaks typically involve point of sale or database breaches, while the company could anonymize customer data using any other number of methods.

L.L. Bean didn’t mention any intent to actually keep track of users’ locations as they move about in the brand’s clothes, though it would probably be advisable to wait and see exactly what permissions the app asks for on launch before biting on that discount.

[Wall Street Journal]

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