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Thinfilm Launches OpenSense Printed NFC Sensor Label for Bottles

The Norwegian firm's product comes at the same time that the company prepares the release of an NFC temperature label, and has signed a partnership with Xerox, which is planning to mass-produce contact memory labels using Thinfilm's platform, and is researching an NFC version of the labels.
By Claire Swedberg

Last month, Xerox and Thinfilm announced that Xerox had licensed printable Thinfilm Memory technology and would begin manufacturing labels (or other printed products) with Thinfilm's contact memory, known as Thinfilm Memory labels, with a potential to manufacture billions of the labels annually at its printing facility in Webster, N.Y.

Both Thinfilm and Xerox say they expect Xerox will eventually begin mass-producing printed NFC RFID versions of the labels, though there is no scheduled plan to do so at this time. The relationship between Thinfilm and Xerox began about 18 months ago, through Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center Inc. (PARC) subsidiary, which focuses on laser printing, as well as developments in Ethernet and graphical user interface (GUI) technologies. According to Steve Simpson, Xerox's VP of non-Xerox supplies business, PARC brought Thinfilm together with Xerox, noting that the latter's facility in Webster, N.Y., could mass-produce Thinfilm's printable memory products. Simpson says he could not identify the exact number of products that might be printed initially, but that the quantity would be significant. "It will be large-volume," he states, "but we don't have specifics" of the exact number to be printed initially.

OpenSense tags can dynamically detect if a bottle is sealed or open with the simple tap of an NFC smartphone. To ensure authenticity, the tags are permanently encoded at the point of manufacture and cannot be copied or electrically modified.
The labels printed by Xerox will require a Thinfilm proprietary contact reading device, or technology to encode and read any data stored on a labels' printed memory. The most common use case, the company reports, will be brand protection and smart consumables. The printed memory will allow users to make their devices interactive. One example is as a dispensing product—with a memory label attached to a liquid refill that can be read through direct contact by a device's onboard intelligence, such as a programmable logic controller (PLC). Once the refill has been used a specified number of times, the PLC would shut the system down. It can also monitor time, such as the number of days that a water filter or other item has been used. A notification can then be triggered on the dispenser to alert a user that the filter needs to be changed.

For brand protection, the label could be built into the filter that would trigger a light on a dispenser to indicate whether or not it is authentic. The label could be integrated into the product in such a way that it would break if anyone tried to tamper with the product or the tag, thereby making the product unusable, and leaving distinctive markings behind if removed.

Xerox is interested in NFC technology, Simpson says, and in potentially including the technology in the printed labels it will be producing. NFC could, for example, make it possible for an individual to learn about a particular product or device and its usage by tapping an NFC phone near the label. "We're definitely interested in NFC," he says. "How and when we get there is part of our strategic discussion" with Thinfilm, which he says is still underway.


John Bishop 2015-03-02 03:30:12 AM
Looks like a nice solution. From an anti-counterfeiting perspective, what's preventing someone to copy the URL coming out of a scan of a closed bottle, and copy it on another tag to make a genuine fake?

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