Filling the Blanks
Filling the Blanks But building a store thats innovative, that can project a brand image, and that can still serve as a place of commerce, isnt easy. Vendors that worked on the Prada store said it was among the most complex and demanding projects theyve ever participated in.Technology development was led by three companies; AMO, a Koolhaas company that explores architectural ideas; IDEO, an industrial design firm in the United Kingdom; and the New York office of IconNicholson. IconNicholson had the biggest job. In addition to its role as program manager, IconNicholson was the main software developer and systems integrator. The company built the stores database, wrote the code that linked the wands and other computers to the stores sales and inventory tracking software, and, the code that sits behind the screens in the dressing rooms. IDEO designed the wands and made a point of including a camera in the fitting room, so shoppers can see an "instant replay" of how they look from all sides in their new garments, in a "magic mirror." The rooms also have small closets that read the tags on pieces of clothing and display information on them and similar goods on an interactive touch screen. The radio frequency identification system itself was installed by KTP, a London-based company that specializes in RFID. Each and every vendor was pushing the boundaries of knowledge. IDEOs Martin says, "it became clear, I think, to everyone on the team that even when the store opened, you could not guarantee that everything would work perfectly." Developing the systems presented problems. For instance:
"Its not often you come across a project—and Ive been in the business for 20 years—where there are so many things, so many parts of it, that are new and different," says Josh Weisberg, president of ScharffWeisberg Inc. (SWI), which helped develop the stores audio and video systems. "You really have to throw away the book and look at a blank piece of paper and figure out how to do it."
- Wavelength distortion. The building on the corner of Broadway and Prince contains a lot of metal, from studs in walls to cabling connecting computer and video equipment. KTP found that the metal was distorting or destroying the transmission of radio waves.
- Interference. Each dressing room now contains enough high-tech equipment to power a small office—two computers, two video displays, a camera and RFID equipment. The result: additional havoc with the RFID signals.
- Hand-feel. IDEO went through several prototypes to get the wand to meet the size, shape and aesthetic goals of Prada and Koolhaas.
- Not available. Prada wanted video equipment that was not just interactive, but displayed information in an unusual, edgy way. So ScharffWeisberg developed a system on its own.