There is an increasing focus on authenticity and traceability in fashion. Futurescape has been speaking to innovative companies with solutions that seek to address the various sustainability related requirements. Recently I spoke to Eshna Gogia, Global Ecosystem Developer, Helixworks Technologies. The discussion focused on understanding the company’s approach to traceability and how best to begin this journey. The following encapsulates the key points of the conversations.
We have developed an innovative technology that uses molecular tags called HelixID for the supply chain. One can encode information like barcodes or essential data from ‘source to shelf’ on to these HelixIDs. The information in the case of the textile industry gets embedded into the fibre. This process cuts across sectors, for instance it can be used by the pharma industry to prevent counterfeits from falling into the hands of public.
As you know, two strands of DNA stores massive amounts of information and that it passes information from generation to generations. Using the same principle, we are storing everything about a product, it’s identification number, where it was manufactured, the company which produced it, the batch numbers on these HelixIDs. All this information can be locked on to blockchain as well.
So, essentially, our solution is a combination of biotechnology and blockchain recording real time data! Whenever you want, you can go on to the database and check any bit of information.
Where would a company start on their traceability journey
Putting in solutions like ours can be the beginning of a company’s traceability journey. For instance, a textile company can incorporate this molecular tag from the time they start making fibres, or any other point which they may feel is vulnerable to tampering or counterfeiting. So if our customer wants it on the raw material base, such as textile fibres, it can be added there. Alternatively, it can be added on packaging or even the outer coatings on medicine in the case of the pharma industry.
Once incorporated, any sample of the fibre product will have this information and this can be read by a handheld device. The device reveals a special code in the fibre which (when looked up in the database) reveals the entire supply chain.
The process for adding Molecular Tags
The process of adding these molecular tags is easy. For instance, if you want to add them to the raw materials, we send vials containing trillions of HelixIDs that can be added to fabric or dyes or anything else.
This process is more about going back to the origin and tracing it from scratch. There is no duplication here, which is possible in older technologies such as barcodes and holograms which can easily be duplicated. In sustainability, people want to interact with the products they purchase and trace back things right to the origin, fabric, food, songs, and now even text.
But, sectoral knowledge is very important in this space. The buyer needs to understand what molecular tags are and what is DNA data encoding. Similarly, on our side, we apply sectoral knowledge into delivering solutions for different industries. In pharma, the composition of what you’re adding into a coating is what matters to them.
Although, requirements keep changing from industry to industry we also have our own quality standards. We also make it fairly easy for companies to integrate this technology with the existing solutions that they have.
Does adding traceability enhance the design and circular economy?
People look at traceability as something that they want to connect with. For example, when you say this is a bottle of a sustainable palm oil, I really don’t know what is happening in Indonesia! As a consumer I have nothing more than a certificate to prove it. But then if I can scan the label and see If they cut five or 10 trees to extract oil and then they planted something more I would have more trust in the brand!
Similarly, for a fashion brand, if I can log into a website and check if all that they promise in sustainable actions has been done throughout. That would make me trust them much more.
Sustainability should be an inherent part of the DNA of every company, every little sector, everything that you do in your daily life. Traceability is what will enhance sustainability and create the circular economy we all seek.
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