The potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) has been examined extensively for commercial, industrial and even home applications. It’s time to consider more possibilities for packaging than what we’ve already seen.
So far, smart packaging has been thought of mostly in terms of connection to “passive” online information, like recipes or discount offers. But it has the capability to unlock the full interactive potential of the internet. SharpEnd—a London-based branding agency whose clients include Pernod Ricard, PepsiCo and Nestlé—specializes in using the IoT to connect with consumers. Founder Cameron Worth talks about the potential for smart packaging to integrate with the IoT.
Worth: SharpEnd is the global internet of things agency supporting the Pernod Ricard group and associated brand companies and brands. We have a particular focus on realizing the connected bottle’s opportunity at a global scale. As well as this, we focus on retail innovation in the on-trade and off-trade, and implement rapid prototyping processes to help brands understand and pilot opportunities to use connectivity to deliver valuable services and experiences to consumers.
What do you see as the major potential benefits of plugging smart packaging into the IoT?
Worth: With a particular focus on FMCG/CPG [fast-moving consumer goods/consumer packaged goods], we are creating billions of new data points for brands and brand owners. Traditionally, there has been no way to close the gap between the brand and consumer via the product, but now with the IoT, we can use smart packaging to bring brands directly into contact with individual consumers and use this opportunity to build brands post-purchase.
How would the IoT operate with respect to smart packaging? Would a smartphone interacting with a chip or tag on the package be the most common way?
Worth: There’s a variety of ways to define smart packaging (and depending on who you talk to it can be quite confusing), but I think about it fairly simply—smart packaging is the interaction between a smartphone with a passive code/tag to access digital content or services. These can be personalized based on variables such as location, loyalty, time of day and weather. Common SP technologies include NFC [near-field communication], QR [quick response] codes, augmented reality and image recognition.
If interactive hardware for smart packaging were to be installed in the home—perhaps through “smart shelves” or “smart fridges”—who would design and operate the software? Brand owners? Or is it possible, perhaps in the far future, that some sort of standardization could take place, allowing multiple products across multiple brands, sitting on the same shelf or in the same fridge, to be processed through the same IoT platform?
Worth: Right now there are about 10 million platforms all fighting for the right to be the definitive IoT platform, but I think it will go the same way as mobile payments. Everyone tried to build their own walled gardens, but then no one got the traction they needed, and everyone realized at the same time that for there to be significant scale everyone needed to start playing together.
In terms of the software design, I am always focused on the brand applications of the IoT and am generally of the opinion that the clever, fun, interesting stuff should come from brands.
Production efficiencies, ecommerce challenges, sustainability trends, new bioplastic technologies and more are among the topics on the agenda at the new Packaging Education Hub at EastPack 2018 (June 12-14; NYC). This free educational program will have more than 15 hours of can’t-miss presentations, demonstrations and hands-on activities. Register to attend for free today!