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Smart Label with memory strengthens packaging authentication

Smart Label with memory strengthens packaging authentication
Brand-protecting Xerox Printed Memory (circled) can be seen applied to the bottom of these cartons.

The Xerox Printed Memory small flexible label with 36 bits of non-volatile, rewritable memory based on Thinfilm’s printed electronics is a low-cost anti-counterfeiting format for packaging including refillable formats.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a market worth $82 billion that’s seeing double-digit growth like the 13% CAGR of the Anti-Counterfeiting Packaging Market, according to research from MarketsandMarkets, which forecasts this market to reach $154 billion by 2020. The market is driven by the “increasing popularity of the benefits of authentication technologies and the need for track & trace technologies, which are embedded in packaging.”

One of the newest products that looks to strengthen brand protection through anti-counterfeiting technology is Xerox Printed Memory, which adds low-cost intelligence to objects or packaging by printing thin circuitry on a flexible substrate using technology from Thinfilm.

One interesting twist to these smart labels is that they can enable refillable packaging in a safe and secure way. Because the Printed Memory labels can interact with a dispensing device, brands or manufacturers are able to count/record time/calibrate and provide other usage information associated with a refill cartridge or unit. Segments such as pharmaceuticals, healthcare, beauty products, appliances, and food and beverage can benefit by offering consumers more convenience while potentially increasing sustainability.

Responding to our questions about Xerox Printed Memory is Bill Cummings, senior vp of corporate communications, Thinfilm.

What’s the status?
In January of this year, Thinfilm announced a strategic partnership with Xerox. As a core element of the agreement, Xerox licensed Thinfilm’s proprietary technology to manufacture Thinfilm Memory labels and is commercially available today. Also, the technology was demonstrated by Xerox earlier this month during the Drupa tradeshow in Düsseldorf, Germany.

What’s innovative about this application?
Cummings: Xerox Printed Memory labels are an ideal solution for brand protection needs across a range of industries – particularly pharmaceuticals, government, and other verticals concerned with gray market sales, counterfeiting and supply chain integrity. Brands can also add in optional tamper-evident adhesives and a cryptographic feature that includes barcodes or QR codes, making the Xerox Printed Memory offering one of the most tamper-proof, anti-counterfeit solutions on the market.

Another example of what the non-volatile memory label looks like in a close-up.

How is it different/better than an RFID tag or other smart labels?
Cummings: Traditional anti-counterfeiting methods such as invisible ink, holograms and RFID tags can be easily copied and hacked, and are often expensive to implement. By integrating Thinfilm’s technology with advanced security printing and digital cryptography, the solutions are inexpensive and difficult to counterfeit as every stamp is uniquely encrypted and can only be created by authorized personnel. In addition, key features of the solution will work offline, enabling secure validation of an object or process without being bound to the Internet.

Rewritable data within each tag can identify if a medication refill has been authorized, a shipping tax has been paid, or whether a package passed through an authorized distributor. Using a smartphone-based reader, printed memory tax stamps can be used for tracking and tracing the location of packages, authentication and verification of a product’s information.

How is the information written to the label?
Cummings: Xerox Printed Memory are manufactured through a printing process and add low-cost intelligence to objects or packaging by printing thin circuitry on a flexible substrate. The non-volatile memory is delivered in small flexible labels, a form factor that provides a wide range of design freedom not offered in other solutions. The labels can be placed on products at any stage of the manufacturing or supply-chain process.

Xerox Printed Memory labels can store up to up to 36 bits of information, which enables 68 billion distinct data combinations. Everything from lot codes and serial numbers to expiration dates and geographic IDs can be stored on the labels, and the data is preserved until overwritten within a 10-year span.

[see below for more details]

When are the labels applied to packaging?
The Xerox Printed Memory solutions are geared toward supply-chain applications. Manufacturers who are in partnership with Thinfilm would apply the label to the packaging on their packaging lines.

Patrick de Jong, Marketing Manager for Xerox Printed Memory, offers these additional details regarding writing information to the tags: We are focused on selling the memory to fit into the customer’s use case.  It could either be Xerox, who puts the information on the tags, or if preferred by the customer, elements such as the reader manufacturing, converting the memory, data management/analytics, IT integration, integration of the memory on the package could be done by the customer.

And how can that information be read (or rewritten) after that?

de Jong: The reader is powered up and makes contact with the memory. The read command is executed and the memory content is captured and stored in the reader. Information from the memory scan can be displayed on the reader then transmitted to a repository at the user’s discretion. So, the state of the memory can be changed when rewritten.  For example it could show that an event has occurred – such as an audit, tax paid/collected.  In the case of Smart Consumables usage information can be written to the memory.

For more of the technical details of Xerox Printed Memory, see Printed Memory to Secure IoT  from sister publication EE Times.


Visit MinnPack September 21-22 in Minneapolis to see the latest in smart packaging, brand protection, labels and labeling and more.


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