Packaging Matters

Smart Packaging: Intelligent Packaging Part II

Smart Packaging: Intelligent Packaging Part II

In the first post about Intelligent Packaging, I made a quick review about the technologies involved (smart codes and digital watermarks, RFID, NFC, and BLE). I also showed a popular example of some of these technologies working together.

Just a reminder of what  Intelligent Packaging is packaging “that which incorporates features that indicate status or communicate product changes and other information.”

And in this post I’ll focus on these areas:

  • Authentication/ Tracking /Brand protection /Anti-counterfeiting
  • Internet of Things (for instance for product replenishment)

Authentication/ Tracking /Brand protection /Anti-counterfeiting

Anti-counterfeiting continues to be an important issue for all companies., and the anti-Counterfeit Packaging maket has exceeded $208.4 billion (P&S Market Research).

However, global trade in fake goods worth nearly half a trillion (1012) dollars a year (OECD & EUIPO). There are of course additional issues derived from counterfeiting such as brand image, especially for pharmaceutical companies where consumer’s health may be threatened.

Most of the technologies seen in part one are used in anticounterfeiting, such as smartcodes.


Just a quick reminder of Data Matrices and quick response codes (QR codes):


For instance, the GS1 DataMatrix of a prescription drug can be scanned at the pharmacy to verify if the serial number of the product being sold and dispensed to the patient is an authenticate serial number.

Conductive ink

In March 2014, Sun Chemical announced it partnered with T+Ink to form T+Sun, which provides conductive ink solutions to make packages and objects communicate, engage customers and manage inventory systems,  through such products as smart labels and T+Sun Touchcode – a highly secure printed conductive ink signature embedded in packaging and labels that a smartphone or other sensing device can detect through capacitive touch:

T+Ink Touchcode Commercial from T+Ink, Inc. on Vimeo.

DNA Markers

It is possible to inset DNA markers in packaging materials that can be scanned using UV light.

Applied DNA Sciences Inc. (ADNAS) SigNature DNA markers. Source:

Due to lack of sapce, I refer you to this article.


To further ensure anti-counterfeiting, a physical protective element can be  added. Many major drug companies use holograms  in the form of labels, seals, hot-stamped patches, and blister-foils. Holograms can be combiened with QR codes, renadomized codes and encrypted codes, such us  Prooftag’s Variogram™ seals

Prooftag‘s Variogram. Source:

Smart labels

In the first post I also mentioned ThinFilnm‘ s  OpenSense™  NFC labels, here’s an example of their application for pharmaceutical products:

Track and Trace

Another option is to combine authentication with traceability. So-called track-and-trace systems link on-pack security devices with database management and field-tracking services.

In this way, it is possible  to know where a product has been, where it is now and where it is heading.

Tracking  is the process of monitoring products, by means of a secure marker (identifier), as they make their way to the consumer. In this way, a time and location history is built for each product.

Tracing  is the concept of being able to intercept and authenticate products and trace their route back to the manufacturer. In this way, the time and location history of a specific product is retrieved.

Serialization is the unique identification of a medical product to avoid drug counterfeiting via printing a unique serialization number on packaging units e.g. 2D barcode, RFID tag.

Again, smart codes are used, combined with software tools. Here’s an example:


TruTag Technologies has developed  microtags, dust-sized silica particles that can be incorporated into packaging or labels and even into the devices and drugs themselves. These microparticles can carry a digital information that could be used for product identification, authentication, and traceability.

Sensors. Beyond tarcking.

RFID technology in the packaging would keep a track on the movement of goods, but the uses of smart sensors go way beyond this:


Smart sensors include both simple chemical sensors and more complex electronic ones.  They can have multiple applications in Intelligent and Active Packaging (the one that provides some functionality and the subject of next post(s)) :

Smart sensors aid significantly in the control and monitoring of various aspects, such as moisture, temperature and oxygen or other chemical substances.

Sensors readable by smartphones can detect food spoilage. Source:

Sensors don’t need to  be electronic in nature; in the case of food packaging they can be chemicals that react with substances created during product degradation (such as ethylene in fruit or amines in fish).

Some similar type of sensors can be used to monitor the quality of pharmaceutical products,


Packaging that helps prevent prodyuct spoilage tinteracting with the contetnts  (such as ethylene absorbers to increase the shel-life of fruit products) will be commented on next posts.

Internet of Things (IoT)

Justa  quick glance to the smart packaging uses related to the IoT.

IoT is the interconnection via the Internet of computing devices embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. basically it allows devices to “talk ” to each other.

This video will explain it quite clearly:

Brands could use smart packaging and the IoT to interact with consulers after the purchase, butas the number of interconneted devices in household increases  so do the possibilities.


As the technology develops, we could see smart fridges that can detect the consumer’s buying habits or plan a week’s worth of recipes around those products and quantities.

For instance Amazon Dash Replenishment Service (DRS) is now able to support smart packaging and devices with embedded technology that senses when new supplies are needed, helping consumers automatically reorder product before it runs out.



The technologies used are the mentiones in the previous post and include  RFID, NFC and even BLE. Further details here and here.

Next post: Active Packaging

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