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RFID to Help Consumers Know if Olive Oil Is Really Extra-Virgin

Several Italian producers are integrating Thinfilm NFC tags into their bottles' labels, enabling purchasers to verify the products' authenticity, as well as access other information.
By Nathaniel Prince
Nov 15, 2016

Olive oil producers in the Italian region of Tuscany are adopting an RFID-enabled service designed to better inform customers about the finer details of their products. Brands such as Buonamici, La Ranocchiaia, SPO and Il Cavallino are already integrating SpeedTap passive RFID tags created by Thin Film Electronics (Thinfilm) into the labels of their olive oil bottles. The tags utilize Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID technology; smartphones with the ability to read NFC RFID tags can access the cloud and pull up information about the olive oil from the database of a service known as iOlive.

For the iOlive initiative, each bottle's SpeedTap RFID tag is permanently encoded with a unique ID number and a URL. When an NFC-enabled smartphone or tablet is tapped to the bottle's label, the device's internet browser is directed to a special interactive web page related to that bottle of olive oil, thereby causing the browser to display a message verifying the product's authenticity, while also providing tasting notes and other relevant information.

Buonamici, Il Cavallino and La Ranocchiaia are three of the olive oil producers that are embedding Thinfilm NFC RFID tags into their bottles' labels, enabling consumers to use a smartphone to view product information via iOlive's database.
According to the company, consumers should be able to purchase the RFID-tagged bottles by the end next month.

The olive oil industry, much like the wine industry, has a rich heritage in Italy that dates back hundreds of years, says Pietro Barachini, a professional olive oil taster and iOlive's founder. But while the wine industry has taken many steps to educate customers regarding how to evaluate, buy and enjoy wine, Thinfilm notes, the olive oil sector has been wracked with scandals that damaged consumer trust. A recent segment on the news program 60 Minutes alleged that some of Italy's top brands sold inferior oil that had been labeled as extra-virgin.

Barachini created iOlive in the hope that it would help inform olive oil customers in the same way that wine apps have informed wine customers. The service, which includes an app for Apple iPhones and iPads, was launched in 2014 at Agrietour, an annual agriculture exhibition held in Tuscany. The winner of a 2015 "Green Oscar", iOlive catalogues information regarding more than 150 of Tuscany's extra-virgin olive oils. The iOlive database digitizes the International Olive Council's profile sheet—which is used in 44 countries to certify extra-virgin products—and allows professional tasters to make their evaluations accessible to users.

SpeedTap tags are thin and flexible, measuring less than 300 micrometers (0.01 inch) in thickness—which, according to Thinfilm, makes them a suitable choice to be incorporated into labels. They are uniquely identifiable and almost impossible to clone, the firm reports, which should help to reduce the chances of fraudulent usage. The tag's electronic components, including its chip, are manufactured using a printing process, making the SpeedTap less expensive to produce than tags produced by conventional methods.

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