The Shoe Lab Project, a collaboration between Cisco, Cranfield University and brand consultancy The Clearing, has been nominated for an edie Sustainability Product Innovation: Resources award.

The 'smart shoe' combines big data and digital technology to drive a new, circular model for production. The modular design of the shoe gives customers the chance to engage with the product along the supply chain, while minimising waste and reducing costs.

During the summer, four students from the Design Programme worked with partners on the development of a proof of concept. The shoe represents a new way of shopping: customers would 3D scan their feet at home with an app and then use virtual reality technology to customise their design online. The shoe is embedded with sensors that can track location, performance data and shoe condition, with customers selecting how this information is shared. Shoes are then 3D printed, likely close to where the customer lives, then delivered at the desired location and time. In this way brands can forge data-driven, emotional relationships with users, utilising new business models such as pay-by-performance, and subscription and take-back schemes.

Dr Mariale Moreno, Academic Fellow in Data Driven Innovation, said: "We predict that traditional ‘chain’ stores will become the thing of the past, with customers demanding a more tailored shopping experience, fuelled by advances in Big Data. The team used re-distributed manufacturing (RdM) and circular economy principles to create a customisable shoe that can quickly respond to moving fashion trends."

RdM is the term used to describe the shift from centralised to decentralised (usually smaller-scale) manufacturing, powered by digital technologies. At its core is a production system that can rapidly and flexibly deliver partly or fully customised products on demand.

The circular economy is the term used to describe sustainable production – a direct contrast to today's linear (or 'take, make, dispose') economy. Circular innovation involves designing sustainability and waste out of the value chain, for example incorporating reuse and repair into the product lifecycle.

The winner of the award will be announced 25th January, 2017.

3D printing of a 'smart shoe'
A 3D printer building the 'smart shoe'

About Cranfield University

Cranfield University is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.