Take your hat to the next level

In a first for the printwear industry, Atlantis has released a collection of caps that integrate NFC technology. Here P&P editor Melanie Attlesey speaks with Nadine Poletto, Atlantis’ marketing manager, to find out more about the breakthrough that transforms a hat into a real interactive object.

If you’re stuck a little bit in the dark ages when it comes to technology, then you may not be familiar with NFC and the role it plays.

The term stands for near-field communication and the technology is typically found in smart phones and used as a way to pay contactlessly. The contactless technology transmits information between tag-equipped tools and can be embedded in everyday items, like clothing or any wearable devices.

Now Atlantis has released three caps (Green Cap, Rapper Recycled and Recycled Cap), which integrate this technology. All three caps are constructed from organic or recycled material. Underneath the peak of each hat is a chip which can be programmed to link to any website and when scanned will take wearers directly to said website. Atlantis also allows for custom orders which can include an NFC chip in a bespoke style, silhouette or colourway of your choice.

As Nadine explains: “End-users can read the tag in their cap with their smart phone and discover a whole new world of exclusive content. Currently Atlantis’ NFC hats and caps are made from recycled or organic fabrics, so the caps are initially loaded with information about sustainability and certification.”

To use the hats, the end-user will firstly need to download the Atlantis Connect app, which is available from Google Play for Android Devices and the App Store for Apple devices (some Apple devices do not currently support NFC overwriting).

The NFC can be easily reprogrammed and overwritten by a novice – assuming they are comfortable enough with IT to download the Atlantis Connect app to their phone, then it’s pretty straight forward with the instructions presented on a step by step basis. Simply by tapping the visor of the cap (which is where the chip is located) with your phone or tablet, the app will bring up whichever website is programmed. The app will then allow you to select your own website, which will overwrite the NFC chip upon the next scan.

On its marketing collateral, Atlantis provides a few suggestions on how to utilise the NFC technology. Firstly, Atlantis suggests uploading and updating exclusive multimedia content to share what’s new in your business. Secondly, you can transform the hat into a game, which adds extra value to the item. Atlantis says games can include challenges that unlock prizes such as discounts or access to exclusive events. Lastly, Atlantis says NFC can be used to educate customers on what makes a product special and why they should buy it.

Nadine sees the NFC caps working well at music festivals, international fairs and sporting events. “The NFC caps have a strong power of entertaining people,” she says. “It allows a brand to connect and engage with their audience in a memorable way. Whether for sharing information for awareness of a brand or to promote sustainability, this technology has truly endless possibilities for the decorator and for the end customer.”

For those worried about decorating the cap, fear not. They are suitable for any decoration that would usually be used for headwear items. The NFC chip is built into the visor of the cap and can withstand a heat press of up to 200⁰C.

If you visited Printwear & Promotion LIVE! earlier in the year, you may have been one of the lucky visitors that managed to pick up a free sample of the hat. Absolute Apparel, the exclusive UK stockist, preloaded the hats with its full catalogue and handed them out to visitors to test the water.

Going forward 2020 will see NFC technology integrated into all of Atlantis’ caps. Nadine concludes: “NFC technology will definitely be the future and we expect to see it become an integral part of branding for high ticket items such as outerwear jackets or technical garments.”

Intergrating NFC technology into printwear is a big step forward for the industry, as the technology elevates everyday promotional items into something beyond average. It will be interesting to see what else this technology will be integrated into and how it will be utilised in the promotional industry in the coming months and years.

Far from generic

Fred Craze, owner and founder of London-based Master Stitch has firsthand, experience of decorating Atlantis’ NFC-integrated caps.

Here P&P editor Melanie Attlesey finds out if these hats are going to be the next big thing in printwear. Fred describes Master Stitch as a facilitator for brands, doing everything from start to finish, including design, production and fulfilment.

Despite Master Stitch being a relatively new business, having been formed in December last year, Fred himself comes from garment decoration pedigree stock, having grown up in and around one of the biggest T shirt printers in London. Already in this short time, Fred has worked with grime artists such as Giggs, P Money and Stormzy, sourcing and branding their merchandise.

As an urban company, Fred is always on the lookout for something new and different that sets Master Stitch apart from other garment decorators. It was during a conversation with Sanjay Jheinga, commercial director at Absolute Apparel, that the prospect of Atlantis’ NFC caps was raised.

“I was looking for something different and I had not seen anything like these hats on the market before. When I saw them my jaw dropped, I was like wow,” exclaims Fred. Fred explains that the hat itself is a good, solid hat, but it’s the NFC chip that really sets it apart. “You can set the chip to link to a website, Instagram picture, anything really. They are great to hand out at events or festivals, for gig-goers to find out more about the band or artist,” Fred explains.

As the vast majority of hats that Master Stitch decorates are embroidered to give a premium finish, it was essential that these hats were just as easy to embroider as other hats on the market. As the chip is inserted in the underneath of the peak, there have been no issues so far. “Some brands do like to decorate underneath the peak, so we just have to be careful in that area. These hats hold themselves really well in the frame,” explains Fred.

But as for NFC and wearable technology in general, Fred says that other suppliers are starting to cotton on, but the cost of these garments is not at a point yet that interests him. So he’ll stick with the hats for now. “By offering these hats to our clients, it gives us the upper edge. In our industry it’s all about not being generic,” concludes Fred.

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