Apparel Maker Tags RFID For Kids' Pajamas

Sleepwear is designed to protect children from abductors

Laurie Sullivan, Contributor

July 15, 2005

3 Min Read

Children's sleepwear with radio-frequency identification tags sewn into the seams is expected to hit stores in early 2006. Made by Lauren Scott California, the nightgowns and pajamas will be one of the first commercial RFID-tagged clothing lines sold in the United States.

The PJs are designed to keep kids safe from abductions, says proprietor Lauren Scott, who licensed the RFID technology from SmartWear Technologies Inc., a maker of personal-security systems. "You look at these kids and think, 'I would do everything to protect them,'" Scott says. Readers positioned in doorways and windows throughout a house will be able to scan the tags within a 30-foot radius, and an alarm will be triggered when boundaries are breached.

The entire line made by Lauren Scott California eventually will have RFID tags.

Lauren Scott, a $2 million-a-year apparel division of DST Media Inc., will introduce the sleepwear in its spring 2006 collection. An estimated 250,000 tagged pieces will begin shipping to retail stores in December. Target Corp. has placed an order for the sleepwear and is expected to begin carrying the children's nightgowns in select stores early next year, Scott says. Target would not confirm.

Slight changes to manufacturing techniques and design have been made to accommodate the electronics. Hems and seams, for example, had to be made a little deeper to accommodate the tags. The tags can withstand multiple washings.

A pamphlet attached to the garment will inform customers that the sleepwear is designed to help prevent child abductions. It will direct parents to a Web site that explains how to activate and encode the RFID tag with a unique digital identification number. The site also provides information on a $500 home-installed system that consists of RFID readers and a low-frequency encoder that connects through a USB port to a computer, which are required to make use of the technology. Parents can sign up to include data about their children, including photos, in the SmartWear database.

If a child goes missing, that information can be shared with law-enforcement agencies or the Amber Alert system through an interface SmartWear plans to develop with Microsoft, SmartWear senior VP Bob Reed says.

Some say the $500 price tag for the SmartWear system might be more than the average family wants to spend. "It's an interesting use of RFID tagging, but this application could end up like the global-positioning-system watches advertised six to eight months ago that were supposed to allow you to track your kid, and they just didn't catch on at all," says Michael Overly, a privacy expert and attorney at Foley & Lardner LLP. "It would make more sense to license the technology to a security company that would offer the service."

SmartWear is looking to license its technology to home-security companies, including ADT Security Services, Reed says. "It will make the system more affordable," he says, adding that the standalone setup could cost about $199 within three years.

SmartWear also has several other RFID projects under way. It's working with Symbol Technologies Inc. to develop an extended-range tag that would contain a passive semiconductor chip and antenna sealed in a soft and flexible Mylar inlay similar to the ones SmartWear currently uses. It's also working to develop an active tag that can transmit signals up to 600 feet. The tag could be inserted into law-enforcement and military uniforms or outerwear, such as ski jackets, and used to find a missing or lost person or to recover and identify a body.

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