WestRock Company has announced the launch of a connected packaging solution to track and trace paper-based consumer packages globally.
The paper and packaging solutions provider said its new Connected Packaging solution combines Digimarc’s enabled barcode technology, with EVRYTHNG’s IoT Smart Products Platform, to produce billions of packages, in-store signs and displays with embedded, real time, connected digital intelligence.
WestRock said its Internet of Things (IoT) enabled smart products will bring greater real-time intelligence to billions of paper-based consumer packages globally.
A booming market
According to market researcher, SmithersPira, the intelligent package market is expected to be worth over $2 billion by 2021, with anticipated growth to be at least 18 percent annually, which explains part of the motivation behind the new product launch.
To develop the product, however, WestRock sought out help from both Digimarc and EVRYTHNG. As part of the collaboration, WestRock will print Digimarc Barcodes that can be scanned by smartphones, point of sale scanners, and other machine vision devices.
Digimarc Barcodes are essentially invisible barcodes repeated across the entire surface of packages.
And these ‘digital triggers’ are supposedly integrated with the EVRYTHNG IoT Platform, giving each physical package a unique Active Digital Identity (ADI) and data profile in the cloud.
Benefits on both sides
WestRock suggests that connected packaging offers many advantages over current conventional packaging for both businesses and consumers.
Besides tracking the location of a product during its lifecycle, smart packaging can, the company says, help to reduce counterfeiting, as well as offering real-time product tracking and analytics, a direct digital path to the end consumer for ongoing relationships, easy implementation, extended shelf life, and increased safety coupled with low cost.
Craig Gunckel, president at WestRock’s Enterprise Solutions and Displays business segment, suggested this makes the packages more valuable to companies.
“WestRock’s Connected Packaging Solutions brings new levels of real-time interactivity to paper based consumer packages globally,” he said.
“The combination of smart packaging, powered by smart software in the cloud, makes literally billions of packaged goods more intelligent, more interactive, more trackable and more valuable to CPG companies and their customers.”
World’s biggest ecosystem of connected packaging
Naturally, WestRock’s partners emphasized the value that smart packages will create. And Niall Murphy, founder and CEO of EVRYTHNG went even further, suggesting: “We’re building the world’s biggest ecosystem of strategic packaging and labeling partners across different material types and industries to realize our vision of consumer products that are #BornDigital.”
However, in comments to Packaging News, Lee Henderson, European director at Asia Pulp & Paper Group, suggested that challenges remain regarding the cost of smart packaging.
“Barcodes and QR codes were both cited as the next big thing in smart packaging – and yet, so far, the breakthrough in consumer engagement the industry has been waiting for in smart and interactive packaging has yet to be made,” he said.
“The issue has traditionally been feasibility and cost. The industry needs a breakthrough, both in terms of convincing consumers to use the technology, and in terms of making it cost-effective.”
It will be interesting to see if WestRock’s solution is as cost-effective as the company suggests.
WestRock will demonstrate its latest solution in Digimarc’s booth at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Annual Convention & EXPO, 15-17 January 2017.