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Swedish Men's Shirts Provide Off-the-Cuff Info

Four Levent has begun manufacturing and marketing men's dress shirts with sewn-in NFC RFID tags, enabling users to write data such as business card information that others can retrieve via a smartphone.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 18, 2014

Four Levent, a Swedish men's clothing startup, has begun marketing what it calls wearable technology, consisting of a shirt with a Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID tag embedded in each cuff. The tags are intended to transmit data—such as information about the shirt itself, or the wearer's contact information, company URL or full business card—to an NFC-enabled mobile phone. The company offers four versions of the dress shirt for sale at its website, says Hans Gunnarsson, one of Four Levent's cofounders, and customers in Europe and the United States have purchased the garments since their release in May 2014.

Four Levent is a spinoff of management company The Synthetic Family, operated by Gunnarsson and his two brothers. That firm provides project- and change-management consultant services to such businesses as Skanska and the Swedish Armed Forces. According to Gunnarsson, the brothers recently launched a very different product offering through Four Levent (named after the district in Istanbul, Turkey, where they lived for several years as children), after considering ways to make the conducting of business more interesting through technology. He recalls sitting in management meetings musing about how plain business shirts could be made more interesting. The Four Levent men's dress shirt was the result.

Four Levent cofounder Hans Gunnarsson, wearing his company's Butterscotch Hip shirt
"There are two things that make our shirts more interesting," Gunnarsson explains: the design of the shirt itself (with a distinct stripe on the collar or other part of the garment, and the use of high-quality fabric), as well as something no other shirt currently offers—an NFC tag sewn into each sleeve cuff.

At present, businessmen who wish to share their personal data automatically via NFC can carry an NFC tag embedded in a business card, or use their smartphone. There are shortcomings with both options, Gunnarsson reports, since a business card would still need to be taken from a pocket or bag and be presented to an individual, while a phone would require a downloaded app to enable the transfer of data between two phones via NFC.

Four Levent's solution would be fairly simply, Gunnarsson says. An RFID tag made with NXP Semiconductors' NTAG203 RFID chip is sewn into each cuff. The chip has enough memory (a total of 168 bytes) to store a unique ID number, as well as some basic information, such as would be printed on a business card.

When a person taps a smartphone against the cuff's tag, the phone automatically accesses Four Levent's website (no app is required for the phone user), thereby providing the user with details regarding the shirt. Therefore, if someone compliments a Four Levent shirt that a man is wearing, he can simply reply, "Tap your phone here," and the other person can learn how to buy the shirt, and obtain details about it. If that individual then makes a purchase after reading the NFC tag of that garment, the man wearing it man will earn a $45 discount off the $230 purchase price for an additional shirt.

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