N O R T H B R O O K, Ill., March 30, 2001 -- Every morning, most of us face the same question: What to wear? Someday soon, your closet may help you.
Take an outfit from the closet and a computer will scan your calendar. "Good morning," it might say. "Don't forget you have a client meeting today. What you've picked is a bit too casual." A screen on the closet door would then go on to suggest clothes that might be more appropriate.
Fashion faux pas averted.
It would even check the weather forecast. "By the way, it's supposed to rain today," the computer might warn. "Don't forget your umbrella."
Traveling? The computer could read your itinerary from your schedule, check the weather forecasts for those cities and advise you on what to pack.
Engineers at Accenture, a consulting firm, are developing the world's first Internet-connected "smart" closet. It's a marriage of the Web and the latest in smart sensors.
"Technology is leading us to a point where everyday objects have both intelligence and the ability to communicate," says Glover Ferguson, Accenture's Chief Scientist. "So the objects around us aren't just dead anymore. They are alive and they're talking."
Here's how it works: Smart tags are embedded in the clothes, hidden in a label or even a button. Scanners in the closet keep track of everything in your wardrobe on the Internet — updating new clothes when you add them to your wardrobe and helping you coordinate them.
Come home with a new purchase and put it in the closet. "Great jacket," the computer might say. "Would you like to see what goes with it?" It would then go through the entire inventory of your clothes — even those at the dry cleaners — and display good matches with your new jacket.
Bring Your Virtual Closet Shopping
Developers say it would also help at the store. This technology will let you take your virtual closet with you when you go shopping, so you can match items in the store with what you have at home.
Just swipe a smart card at a kiosk, and the computer reaches out to the Internet to display your entire wardrobe. Pass a shirt through the same scanner, and the computer can tell you if it goes with anything you already own.
Some shoppers say a device like this would be a big help for the fashion-challenged. "I'd probably avoid having eight shades of navy blue suits that way," marketing executive Stephen Fisher said as he shopped for shirts at Marshall Field's at the Northbrook Court.
Nursing student Lana Krupnik said it would make forays to the mall more efficient. "You just forget what is in your closet," she said while trying on clothes at the same store. "If I go somewhere, I can spend two hours looking for stuff. It would be great if you could swipe a card and you know what you need to buy, you know what kind of pants you don't have in your closet, you know what color you need."
But other mall warriors said it would take the fun out of shopping. "I just want to look and find it myself," said Esther Kim.
And Kim, a sales clerk in a clothing store in the Northbrook Court, said it could cut down on sales, too. "You actually sell a lot more when they don't have an idea of what they want, because then you give them ideas and they're like, 'Oh, yeah, that would work.'"
Accenture engineers say smart closets could be in homes within five years.
Now, if it could just do something about cleaning up clutter.