Electronics manufacturer Thin Film Electronics ASA (Thinfilm) and Dutch logistics solutions provider Prime Vision are teaming up to develop an RFID-enabled smart packaging system. Prime Vision is utilizing Thinfilm's OpenSense and SpeedTap Near Field Communication (NFC) tags as it develops its new solution.
Prime Vision's inspiration stemmed from the fact that the ability for customers to determine whether a package has been tampered with is essentially non-existent in the industry at present, according to Freek Smoes, the company's director of innovation. "Because of the increased popularity of e-shopping," he says, "more parcels are being shipped than ever before, and we therefore see a strong need for a solution that can track parcels as they move from the e-commerce company to the consumer."
Prime Vision anticipates that its solution will enhance shipping security, e-commerce functionality and customer communication. Thinfilm's NFC technology combined with Prime Vision's track-and-trace solutions, Smoes explains, will enable postal, parcel and logistics companies, as well as retailers and consumers, to track the exact route of delivery and instantly confirm—via the tap of an NFC-enabled smartphone—that a package has not been opened and that the product inside is authentic. In addition, the solution could enable consumers to use their smartphones to receive product-related information from that product's producer or shipper.
One aspect of the solution is the use of stamps, bar-coded labels and envelopes that have RFID tags physically incorporated into them. SpeedTap and OpenSense tags were, therefore, a practical choice for Prime Vision, Smoes says. The thin, flexible tags—which operate at 13.56 MHz, comply with the ISO 14443 Type A RFID standard and measure less than 300 micrometers (0.01 inch) in thickness—were originally designed for authenticating the contents of a container and determining whether it has been opened. The tags can be made into a breakable seal that can detect whether or not the container was opened. Furthermore, the tags are able to transmit this information wirelessly via NFC-enabled smartphones, which have become widespread in use as of late.
Prime Vision's clients consist of postal and parcel carriers, logistics companies and airports. The firm is developing the software for the solution on its own; however, since some of its clients have proprietary software that they use, Prime Vision is also integrating its solution so as to be compatible with theirs.
The solution is currently in the early stages of testing. While it has undergone laboratory tests, it has not yet been tried out in real-world situations. The system is tentatively scheduled for commercial release within about a year. Prime Vision does not currently have a name for it, Smoes says, but his company calls it an example of "the Internet of Postal Things," a subcategory of Internet of Things (IoT) technology: everyday objects that have network connectivity.