Emerging concepts in soft computing methods for the textile sector

Emerging concepts in soft computing methods for the textile sector


Cloud computing looks promising in the textile and apparel industries considering its simplification of various business operations, but it needs more clarification with regard to the services it provides, says Dr N Gokarneshan and V Srimathi.

A number of new soft computing techniques have found application in textile and fashion industries during the past few years. Cloud computing is the next big trend which seems vague, but when it is valued from the point of services it provides; it’s the next fashionable and prominent computing system offered through internet. This computing system is providing various useful services in textile and apparel industries. There are some special management systems to simplify various business operations in the apparel and textile industry. Leg Before Wicket (LBW), decision for an Umpire to make, when the ball in fraction of a second, depends on trajectory of the ball and the object ball touches in its first trajectory.

A technology “Hawk Eye” plots the trajectory of ball and predicts whether the ball would have hit the stumps if allowed on the path without deviation. Augmented Reality (AR) is the extreme science behind the above mentioned technology. Textile industry is a major industry. It provides employment to billions of people around the world. It satisfies the basic need for clothing in a human being. One cannot imagine the world without this industry. The entire structure of the world may change if the textile retail shops and manufacturing industries were to vanish from the surface of the Earth. There are billions of textile mills and manufacturing plants in the world.

There is no doubt that the manner in which textile mills function has changed considerably in the recent years. Modernisation has touched every industry in the world. Textile manufacturing plants are no exception! Machinery and software has come to be used in a large quantity. Techniques for spinning, weaving, dyeing and printing, and garment manufacture have evolved immensely in the recent years.

Application of Robotic automation in the textile industry provides so many benefits like labour savings, reduced cycle times, improved part quality, improved safety, increase productivity and efficiency. The application of such Robotic automation has resulted in significant benefits to textile industry. High levels of consistency and precision in work pieces and high levels of repeatability and accuracy in manufacturing equipment have been required. Economic Justification can be shown only for large quantities of production. To achieve this, we need adaptive manipulation systems having some “Artificial Intelligence”. This article shows a wide range of automation in textile process by using robots which ultimately increase the both basic requirement of textile industry i.e. productivity and efficiency.

Robots are being used in textiles today with substantial developments already being made and the future use of this new technology will develop as the economics of each area of manufacturing dictates. These are machine systems that can be conveniently directed to change their mode and sequence of operations by means of software instruction. Ideal examples are numerical controlled machine tools and industrial robot arms. These programmable systems still require high levels of consistency, precision, repeatability and more importantly, adaptability. Automation in the textile industry is defined as the equipment and machinery used to make production more efficient. Some of the advantages to automation include fewer work hours for the same production, safer working conditions, and higher quality product. The concept of big data includes analysing capacious data to extract valuable information. In the textile world, big data is increasingly playing a part in trend estimating, analysing consumer performance, preference.

Cloud computing in textiles

Cloud computing is in a stage of progress wherein applications, business course of action, computing infrastructure can be delivered as a service to the end user whenever and wherever it is needed. Cloud computing is not a new thing in the IT world. It has existed since 2005 but it has been recognised and widely used for over last three years. For a layman, the term cloud computing can be termed as delivering applications or business infrastructure as a service through the internet. It is an internet based computing technology wherein the user does not need any software, server or infrastructure to use them. Just an internet connection is all that one needs to access this service and it can be operated from any corner of the world.

     With the arrival of this new pattern of computing system, people believe that textile firms, apparel industry or any organisations will no longer need to invest in maintaining assets like servers, internal software and storage systems. These can be readily availed as and when required on rent. This would considerably reduce the IT investments cost and save valuable business time.

       There are specially designed computing systems that would make the business working simple and easy in the garment industry. There are many functions like production planning, raw material management, costing, processing the orders, sampling, monitoring the preparation of order and final delivery of the product. All this is made available through this internet based technology. It can be accessed from anywhere, at anytime, easy to install, flexible applications which promotes the efficiency of the company and is the right tool to survive in this competitive industry. Augmented Reality (AR) can be regarded as one such computing system which is widely used in the apparel and fashion industry. It gives the user a virtual view of actual environment through computer generated applications. AR application can be acquired with the help of camera and internet. Many such applications can be introduced by Cloud computing in the future.

Today, it is a challenge for retailers and brands to continuously satisfy the dynamic needs of the consumers. Along with it they need to keep their profit margin intact. For this, they need a global level supply chain to provide high quality service. At present, the pace of life is so fast that supply chain needs universal channels which harmoniously coordinate all the multiple parties to manage production, capital and delivery of finished goods. Continuous collaboration is necessary to make supply meet the demand of goods. This would require that all the parties in the supply chain has a clear view of the goal and work together in one direction to ensure that commodities are manufactured at reduced cost and sold to maintain high profit margin. Sadly, the tools that were used in the past for communication between the brands, trading partners, manufacturers and retailers have become obsolete.

Even today many companies still stick to the traditional methods for communication and other procedures. Cloud computing is the perfect choice for such firms in the apparel industry. As many brands and retailers are using the cloud technology, slowly it is getting accepted as a perfect solution for managing global supply chain in apparel business. It makes each process so simple for example if there is a change in an order, the organisation does not have to inform all the 10 or 20 trading parties in the supply chain about the changes. Instead a shared platform is available on which everyone can post the message or any required details which can be viewed by all the trading partners in the supply chain network.

Now it is possible to apply cloud computing to everyday business. Connecting all the parties of the supply chain in the cloud saves time and money, increase efficiency, gives more visibility and operations are carried out smoothly and quickly. There are many benefits of cloud computing in the textile and apparel industry. Like a brand is always informed about any delays happening in any process. It can be delay in procuring raw materials or at the production level, transportation delay etc. Using cloud technology the brand is immediately informed and they have ample time to take the right decision to deliver the entire order at the best possible time. Cloud computing also enables quick payments. With this technology a leading footwear company makes payment approval within 48 hours without any paperwork. An international apparel brand uses cloud applications to inform the customers about the discount obtained for early payments to decrease the duty on payments. In return the brand gets discount from their suppliers for receiving payment within 5 days from delivery. The brand also pays less duty on the invoice value. Hence it is a win-win situation for both the parties.

It is not an easy job to coordinate with all the parties at all times. If traditional methods are used it would result into to inefficiency and also is time consuming. Moreover, a usual sourcing business deal involves 5-15 different parties. Additionally, they are located in different countries, have different time zones and languages. However, using cloud technology it allows communicating and collaborating with all the parties at the same time. Hence, cloud computing can be a real saviour if proper planning, technology and operations are carried out. Textile and apparel industry is unpredictable with unusual consumer demands, multiple trading partners etc. As the service standards are already high, the partners in the apparel and manufacturing supply chain need to embrace other strategies apart from reducing labour cost and maintaining profits. Cloud computing applications are a perfect solution for apparel manufacturers for achieving coordination among the supply chain parties.

Virtual reality

Reality means “having verifiable existence”. “Reality in a Virtual World?” seems an oxymoron statement. Today world is watching reality TV shows assuming that it is true. Viewer is in a virtual world assuming it real and they return back at the end of the show with their own perception of reality. “Augmented Reality” a buzz word in simpler meaning is “Enhanced Reality”. Detailing it, it is adding more information to your existing view of world. It is a view of world which would not be possible otherwise. Understanding the above mentioned statement with an example, unknowingly you are at a beautiful but lonely place; people are rarely talking to each other. The first view of that place would be fuzzy but once you use your smart phone and through Google map you come to know that the place is a meditation centre , then the same place looks beautiful with calm and peace in air rather than lonely, and you feel relaxed.

Augmented reality is different from virtual reality. Virtual reality is a reality which is imaginary. Virtual means to be at a place which actually does not exist. “Temple Run” game connected with your 42 inch screen is an example of virtual reality. It’s a set up which must be immersive, not necessarily to be at the place, not necessarily to be at a place that actually exist. Virtual reality is all about experience, augmented reality is all about adding information to the real world.

Initial concept of augmented reality dates back to 1950’s when Morton Heilig, father of virtual reality invented “Sensorama Simulator” which is more precisely the 5D movie that we see today. Since 1950’s invention to 2009, Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry’s Ted conference presentation on their augmented reality gadget “Sixth Sense”, the overall change in terms of gadget size, experience and multiple use of augmented reality has improved in exponential form, with the basic concept been same. Google’s project glass is just like a spectacle which could overlay information on eyes view and could interact with internet via natural voice command. Microsoft and Apple too had patented product on AR. The fascinating the technology is, more fascinating is the usage of this technology.AR technology got its potential usage at Military, Automobile, Medical Sciences, Tourism, Architecture, Sports, Arts, Education, Entertainment and shopping.

Following are some of the interesting retail examples to look along with the types of augmented realities presently used

Projection based AR as by the name suggests is projection on objects. It got wide array of possibilities. Tech companies are using laser plasma technology to create 3D image in thin air. A 3D image can be created in virtual air.

Recognition based AR is when we use mobile phone or any device to scan a bar code to get more information. The mobile phone has become one of the most personal devices people own. It is something they always have with them, twenty four hours a day, seven days per week. There are many choices of mobile devices available, allowing people to choose the device that meets their needs. Today, these devices have so much more computing power, more memory, and greater flexibility, and the network is increasing its bandwidth and availability. Modern mobile augmented reality systems use one or more of the following tracking technologies: digital cameras and/or other optical sensors, accelerometers, GPS, gyroscopes, solid state compasses, RFID, wireless sensors.

Over the past year, the Mobile AR technology has reached the mainstream, with applications released for cell phones equipped with sophisticated positioning sensors. Application of this type of AR technology is a printed 2D version (augmented reality marker) and then with the help of application on mobile phone or the device detects the picture, it replace the 2D picture with a 3D image for a better understanding.

During shopping if a tag is seen by the rear camera of mobile phone and recognises it with optical character recognition technology then it can replace the word on the screen with any preferred language. It will translate the entire content than can be of great use for tourist coming from various other countries. Projectors can be made interactive with the help of recognition based AR. Projector can automatically detect object and automatically adjust according to size, distance and colour of surface. Using this, imagination of possibilities is limitless.

Location based AR is most widely used in AR technology. It helps in locating various places with using various devices like Mobile, GPS or digital compass. Outlining AR technology can help designers to put technical data of apparel and provide a mesh framework of the apparel which may help designers to make any further modification very easily.

As for various application of AR technology, augmented reality and virtual fitting rooms has the potential to help the online retailer reduce returns, increase turnover and provide the customer with an enhanced online experience. Currently, online eye wear retailers websites such as Ray-Ban and GlassesDirect.com are employing augmented reality to try on glasses in real time using video images through a webcam. The application uses advanced facial recognition technology and face mapping to ensure the virtual eye wear frames can be viewed at every angle as the face rotates. Online shopping is increasing day by day but among its drawback specially with respect to apparel shopping is that the person do not have actual visualization or feel before it gets the physical delivery of product.AR Technology can be used by taking an image or multiple image of shopper and superimpose the clothing item/accessories on the ideal size of shopper body instead of just the picture on the screen. “GoldRun” augmented reality platform lives on an app, optimized for iOS and Android phones and tablets. GoldRun can customize memorable AR-based experiences that users want to share on Facebook and Twitter. Clients, from international clothing stores to movie studios, are flocking to use the GoldRun platform and reach socially connected customers.

Holition is a combination luxury marketing firm and AR laboratory. The company serves a huge list of luxury clients, including Tissot, De Beers, Boucheron and Tacori. And in its East London offices, Holition’s marketers, luxury experts, developers, 3D designers and “2D artists and futurists” sit and work side-by-side, creating innovative augmented reality technology.

When envisioning the future of shopping, the company sees consumers virtually entering a shopping centre or store and trying on products that fit perfectly. Holition is conceptualising plans for a “smart store” that reads faces upon entry. Computers will pull up individual’s past shopping histories and recommend products that way.

A company like IntraXon is even working on brain sensing headbands that can tune brainwaves with AR. The bands monitor and register the level of distress, liking throughout day and adjust the present information accordingly.

There are some technical problems with AR technology too. One of the most basic problems currently limiting Augmented Reality applications is the registration problem. The objects in the real and virtual worlds must be properly aligned with respect to each other, or the illusion that the two worlds coexist will be compromised. More seriously, many applications demand accurate registration. For example, recall the needle biopsy application. If the virtual object is not where the real tumor is, the surgeon will miss the tumor and the biopsy will fail. Without accurate registration, Augmented Reality will not be accepted in many applications. Registration errors are difficult to adequately control because of the high accuracy requirements and the numerous sources of error. These sources of error can be divided into two types: static and dynamic. Static errors are the ones that cause registration errors even when the user’s viewpoint and the objects in the environment remain completely still. Dynamic errors are the ones that have no effect until either the viewpoint or the objects begin moving. But with the increasing usage and technological advancement these will also exponentially improve.

Although AR is a cool implementable concept, retailers approach it from 2 key angles a) Can this be a competitive differentiator that create a buzz among the customers?  b) Will this be economically viable and does it have an acceptable ROI factor associated with it? Augmented reality needs to be integrated to web in order to yield great results. As more consumers turn to the web, need for social content is climbing up. This includes product reviews, prior to making to a purchase. Recent surveys in the retail industry confirm that social content plays primary role in customer’s buying decision. Accessing or adding to this valuable Web-based social content repository is mostly limited to computers far removed from the site of the shopping experience itself. Research has found that consumers are more likely to buy a product after engaging with an augmented reality experience, and would be happier to pay more for it. The audience was so engaged that they were willing to spend more to obtain the item after viewing the AR experience. Being aware of this, many retailers and product manufacturers has already started developing and implementing solutions in the AR space (as an experiment).

Juniper Research is predicting that the market for Augmented Reality (AR) services will reach $732 million by 2014. AR applications revenues will be generated by initial fees like paid for downloads, incremental fees including subscriptions and advertising. At present most mobile devices do not have all the necessary features for AR, such as camera, GPS, digital compass, tilt sensors and broadband connectivity, but with the launch of more and more handsets that include such functions, AR is expected to become more common. Experts strongly believe that it will change the entire definition of digital media advertising and marketing.

Disclaimer: This is the first part of the article, the other half will be published in our upcoming edition.

About the author: Dr N Gokarneshan and V Srimathi are from the Department of Fashion Design and Arts Hindustan Institute of Technology and Science, Chennai.