“Near-field communication (NFC) technology can create a smart” package with an unprecedented level of communication between consumer and product or brand. The opportunities seem endless with Thinfilm’s labels – from crucial use cases such as pharmaceutical companies tracking temperature-sensitive medications, to fun gimmicks such as Johnnie Walker hosting a giveaway the lucky customer who purchased a specific bottle of Blue Label. This means, says PragmatIC, that the labels can be both flexible and thin, at around 50 micrometers — thinner than an average human hair.
PragmatIC Printing and security printing giant De La Rue have developed a prototype NFC smart tag that includes a display which is powered up when it is read by an NFC phone or RFID reader. A range of concepts have been developed around the idea that a visual feature such as a light or logo is triggered when a consumer interacts with a label via their NFC phone. Since the labels are powered up by the phone or reader, no battery is required.
The labels are also compatible with conventional hot lamination printing processes. As a radio frequency identification technology (RFID), an NFC tag can carry more data than a barcode or QR code and provide access to a virtually unlimited realm of additional information. As a result, the currently small market for NFC technology is growing rapidly with a compound annual growth rate of 37% projected between 2015 and 2020, according to a report from IDTechEx. The challenge to adopting NFC technology is that the supporting readers are Android-based. In addition, not all Android-based phones can read all NFC tags, according to AndyTags, a website about NFC technology.
“Until Apple opens up its NFC platform to read NFC smart tag (as opposed to just Apple Pay payments), brands face the issue of paying for NFC tags on packaging when only a minority can read them,” says Das. Several firms provide NFC-equipped labels or packaging including MPI Label Systems, NXP, Jones Packaging, Avery Dennison, and PPi Technologies. MPI, which has been producing RFID labels since the early 2000s, introduced NFC labels in 2011. Other NFC technologies generally are not usable after the package is opened,” he explains.
Its RFID/NFC division in Alliance, OH, not far from its headquarters in Sebring, OH, can encode NFC labels to direct the user to a website or set the smartphone to perform a specific task. Jones Packaging is collaborating with Thin Film Electronics ASA (Thinfilm) to integrate the latter’s OpenSense NFC labels on prescription and over-the-counter product packaging. After opening the packaging, we found the labels glued to the packaging using a very strong glue. But like QR codes, NFC is used as a trigger for mobile engagement with audiences.