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New Smart Boxes Provide Alternative to RFID Labels

Domino Integrated Solutions Group and startup HIDE-Pack announced new smart packaging products that feature RFID inlays embedded into cardboard box material. The new packaging material eliminates the need to apply an RFID smart label to the box, and its developers say there are no RFID performance losses.
Oct 22, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

October 22, 2007—Domino Integrated Solutions Group and HIDE-Pack don't think smart labels are the smartest method of RFID tagging, and have developed an alternative. The companies announced the availability of new smart boxes they co-developed that include RFID inlays embedded directly in the packaging material.

"We estimate smart boxes will provide at least a 35 percent cost savings compared to smart labels," HIDE-Pack vice president and general manager Paul de Blois told RFID Update. "That's purely related to the cost of converting inlays into smart labels. There are additional cost savings because users don't have to purchase and maintain printer/encoders."

The RFID inlay is embedded in the cardboard that is made into boxes. The new smart material is compatible with a variety of box-making equipment, and has been successfully tested on manufacturing lines producing 18,000 boxes per hour. Domino ISG CEO Dwain Farley told RFID Update that several multiple successful smart packaging pilots have been conducted, but the customers do not wish to be identified.

"Extensive tests were done that showed the integrated inlays have no significant changes in read rates compared to smart labels," said de Blois. "In some cases, such as for cartons of metal cans, there was improved reading performance. The inlay goes on a corner of a box, which is not where smart labels are usually applied. There is more of an air cushion between the label and the can at the corner, which improves the reading."

The inlays maintain all their memory, read range, and other performance characteristics. The packaging material is available now in production quantities, and Domino and HIDE-Pack are discussing supply agreements with all major inlay providers. Domino and HIDE-Pack currently offer EPCglobal Gen2 products, but the packaging material could support any protocol of RFID inlay, according to du Blois.

The smart packaging category is emerging, with few commercially available product options as yet. But Farley echoes the sentiments of other smart packaging providers who feel the technology will gain market share from traditional smart labels as it matures.

"Putting labels on boxes is not a winning situation," said Farley. "Ultimately, you're going to have smart boxes. One hundred percent of the market could go there, but it's going to take some years."

NanoMarkets, a market research firm that tracks embedded RFID, printable electronics, and other forms of intelligent packaging, has predicted the total smart packaging sales will hit $4.8 billion within five years.
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