Smart Packaging is Seamlessly Powered by Humans

A novel technology lets brand owners print on packaging to connect consumers to digital content, securely, easily, and sustainably via their own natural conductivity.

Kate Bertrand Connolly, Freelance Writer

November 10, 2021

International Paper is bridging the gap between old tech and new with a coding approach for paper-based packaging that uses the human body’s natural conductivity to open portals into exclusive digital brand and product information.

Called Ohmega Powered by Touchcode, the technology offers benefits beyond quick-response (QR) codes, including ease of use and digital privacy protection.

It’s also environmentally friendly.

Using International Paper’s conductive Ohmega Ink, the brand owner prints a unique code on fiber-based packaging, typically on an inner flap. The ink is invisible or hidden, to maintain the integrity of the package graphics.

To engage with the brand digitally, consumers first detach a coded card from the package and then visit the brand owner’s website or app. Then they touch the code, positioned face down, to their phone screen.

Touching the code to the phone unlocks exclusive content such as coupons, loyalty programs, contests and sweepstakes, and product-assembly directions, all via the phone’s browser. No camera is required.

Brand owners can use the platform’s dashboard to monitor and measure consumer engagement and edit content on the fly, depending on what a particular consumer is interested in. Business benefits include enhanced brand loyalty and consumer relationships, with insight into consumer interests and behavior.

In addition, Ohmega Powered by Touchcode is a safe, secure platform that prevents counterfeiting, spoofing, and phishing. And the ink does not interfere with the package’s inherent recyclability.

Katie Diley, innovation marketing manager at International Paper, answers questions from Packaging Digest about this new technology.


If the ink is printed and hidden by graphics, is a label required? How does the consumer know to use the code to unlock content?

Diley: This is printed directly on the corrugated material; it is not a label. It is most often found on the inside minor flap of the corrugated box and is printed with instructions to remove the card — it is perforated for easy removal — along with the instructions for use. Remove from box, enter URL, place card face-down on touch-screen device.


How does the human body’s energy play a role in this solution? Are we talking about body heat?

Diley: No, not heat. It uses the electricity that is stored naturally in our bodies to conduct the ink and unlock the exclusive content. That is what provides the added security. Unlike a QR code, or other technologies, you cannot unlock the experience without the physical card in your hand.


How does the brand owner adjust content based on the end user’s engagement?

Diley: Typically, this is done by the brand owner’s web developer or its marketing team. Since we integrate the data into the brand owner’s existing API (application programming interface) — unless its preference is a stand-alone dashboard or scheduled reports — the brand owner has total access to watch the end-user engagement and respond and react to what is driving the most activity.

Brand owners use this data to determine what type of offer or message to send to the consumers, and they can do this based on geography or demographic gathered through the interaction.


How have you made this an environmentally friendly ink? Is it water-based? Soy-based?

Diley: It is a solvent-free ink and 100% recyclable.


Can the ink be printed on plastic packaging as well as paper-based packaging?

Diley: IP does not manufacture anything but fiber-based packaging, so Ohmega was designed for all fiber/paper-based packaging. We cannot speak to the plastic-packaging application.


What more can you tell us about the conductive ink?

Diley: It provides a safe, secure platform to end users. With the rise in QR code scams and identity theft — as seen on “GMA” — Ohmega removes this threat.


Are any companies using this technology commercially yet?

Diley: Brands are in the process of testing this technology, and it is safe to say that it is ready to commercialize. 

About the Author(s)

Kate Bertrand Connolly

Freelance Writer

Kate Bertrand Connolly has been covering innovations, trends, and technologies in packaging, branding, and business since 1981.

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