Last week, Dutch furniture brand Moooi debuted the Button—a new technology that verifies authenticity—to a small group of press and leaders of Be Original Americas member companies like Design Within Reach, Ligne Roset, Kartell and Magis. The presentation explained how the device works, and explored how other member brands might be able to collaborate to incorporate the technology into their own products and strategies.
The Button is a small white disc with a raised pattern that contains a microchip, which transfers data between two electronic devices using near-field communication. After downloading an app, users can scan the Button with a smartphone or tablet, not unlike scanning a QR code, to receive product information—including where the design comes from.
“By adding a digital authenticity certificate [to the shopping process], we connect digital with physical products with added value for the future,” Moooi CXO Paul Molenschot, who created the Button, tells Business of Home. (The X stands for “xploration, xperience and xceleration.”) “The Button will protect your investment, and therefore protect the creativity of the designer. It brings faith and trust to investing in creative designs.” This is a fitting belief for a brand founded by leading product and interior designer Marcel Wanders and named for the Dutch word for beautiful, mooi. (The extra o indicates that it is extra beautiful.)
For now, Moooi has incorporated the Button onto all of its new lighting offerings—the category where the brand faces the most copycat products—and is only programmed to reveal the product’s provenance. But the opportunities for future features on the app are boundless, Moooi CEO Robin Bevers explained in his presentation to the group. (The Button’s design could also be customized for each brand.)
There’s no proof yet that using the Button will reduce the number of counterfeits, which cost the U.S. between $29 billion and $41 billion annually, according to Inc. Moooi decided that focusing on positive reinforcement (celebrating and sharing the authenticity of products) was a better use of energy than trying to eliminate or fight against the thousands of counterfeits that are out there. “We ask our designers, ‘What is it you would like to make? We want to make your dreams come true,’” says Bevers. “Because they entrust us with their brainchild, we have the responsibility to take care of them.”
The company wants to make its Button production an independent entity, potentially setting standards and sharing the technology with other brands. “It would be a dream if the Button could become an industry label for authenticity,” says Molenschot, whose team worked with Belgian technology brand Selinko to develop the technology. The Button could also add value for partnering brands by offering more data points throughout the production and distribution process, allowing companies to track the product at each point of arrival or departure with a quick scan. Bevers estimates that the Button will cost other brands between $1.50 to $2 to install on each piece.
At Design Within Reach, company CEO (and Be Original Americas president) John Edelman was already dreaming of the possibilities: “Can you imagine if [U.S. Customs] could scan a container of products randomly?” he asked. “We can’t just lay around and watch people kill our businesses and lose these wonderful designs. Technology can help, and this is the best I’ve seen so far.”