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Expanding the Digital Value Chain With Digital Printing

HP Brazil is linking packaging to interactive online experiences.
By Lyndsay Toll and Reinaldo Villar
Dec 09, 2018

HP Brazil began developing a digital value chain back in 2004, when we implemented radio frequency identification (RFID) technology on our manufacturing line. RFID labels were applied to each product at the beginning of the product's life, making it possible to track them throughout the supply chain.

Now, HP is taking the next step and connecting RFID with digital packaging. We are inventing our own product. By linking paper to valuable interactive online experiences, HP is creating a new channel of communication. We are increasing the availability and speed of relevant information, while transforming the supply chain with the same solution.

Lyndsay Toll
The Technology
Using a digitally printed package and label with Link from HP, each HP product and primary packaging can now have its own identity (overt or covert). The covert identity is called a watermark. It's embedded into the artwork to provide a unique, trackable, scannable "fingerprint." This fingerprint can be applied to each level of packaging (primary, secondary and tertiary). Each watermark fingerprint is then associated with the RFID Electronic Product Code (EPC) and the product's serial number, creating an interconnected product identity.

Reinaldo Villar
Link from HP provides more than just serialized marks. The powerful platform provides visualization software and analytics, identifies counterfeits and diversion, and delivers digital content for consumers. The accompanying application programming interfaces (APIs) and software tools make it easy to integrate into the pre-press workflow and supply chain enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. The APIs can store this information in any database (whether Link, the brand or a third-party provider) to be integrated into current systems, comply with privacy policies or support data transparency (with blockchain, for example).

The HP manufacturing process occurs in the following way: products receive a serial number and an RFID tag. A serialized digital watermarked label is placed on the item. A simple scan of the mark establishes a relationship between it and the other two IDs (the serial number and the RFID tag). The primary packaging is also digitally printed with a covert identity, and is then associated with the product ID. Any important product, tracking or authentication information is associated through Link APIs and Link-enabled red-light/image scanners stationed at specific nodes in the supply chain. HP aggregates the data from the RFID readers and Link to increase each individual product's visibility.

Since the active and intelligent packaging is always online, HP gains value throughout the product lifecycle, from brand protection to traceability to consumer engagement. By monitoring scanning behavior and tracking data, the Link platform automatically identifies any suspicious behavior or mis-guided packages. Cloud-based product and tracking information can be applied throughout the supply chain, not only in the manufacturing line—as it used to be—but now through to the end consumer as well.

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