Get Ready for Real Smart Packaging

By Edson Perin

It's time for companies to employ the business opportunities that packaging offers when they become truly active and communicative as media.


We have reached the point at which doubts about the need to automate supply chains no longer exist. Internet of Packaging (IoP) technologies, such as RFID, barcodes, QR codes and fingerprinting, have been understood and absorbed by companies as being absolutely necessary, and the first use cases are starting to emerge in competitive differentials. It is this last aspect that I intend to discuss in depth.

There is no doubt that identifying and tracking products in supply chains has become critical, and that it underpins the entire automation process, as companies need to survive the 2020s that are now beginning. The 21st century, however, is not just about identifying and tracking, because this has already become the minimum requirement and is now mandatory. In short, we are entering the stage at which return on investment (ROI) comes not only from optimizing product distribution and control, but from more creative use of available technologies.

For the past eight years, I have devoted myself deeply to radio frequency identification technologies, when I served as the editor of RFID Journal Brazil, and now that I’m the editor of IoP Journal Brasil. I have followed the technology’s maturation inside and outside of Brazil, especially with regard to UHF RFID, for the identification and tracking of goods. I closely followed the evolution in my country of giant and bold success stories, such as those of HP Brasil and Brascol, while variations of UHF RFID and barcodes began to emerge. Digital printing was one of the last stages of this maturation of new technologies, and it brought with it new possibilities regarding use and ROI, as was never expected within such a short span of time.

Logistics professionals have moved from simply understanding that automatically identifying and tracking products is part of today’s business, to realizing other business opportunities with the same technologies, and professionals in other areas are paying more attention to supply chain phenomena. They have begun to discover that there is a lot of power embedded in RFID, barcodes, QR codes and fingerprinting.

One of my 2019 articles on IoP technologies sparked the interest of many professionals—not just in logistics—because it refers to the creative use of packaging as media. After my article was included in China’s smart-packaging coverage, a number of marketers contacted me to understand the view that packaging can become as powerful as TV in the not-too-distant future, thanks to the increasing use of the Internet by the general public.

Product packaging can be equipped with media features, such as broadcasting a soccer game.

The contacts were the result of the efforts of many companies and professionals interested in reclaiming the power to communicate directly with consumers, just as they did when TV was able to generate “audience champion” programs in Brazil. In addition to digital influencers, educational YouTube videos and other guerrilla initiatives, marketers want to reclaim their mass-media tools, which—incredible though this may sound—is in their own packaging. That is, it’s in their own hands.

But the possible ROI doesn’t stop there, nor is it limited to the inputs we find sufficient today. For example, ensuring the authenticity of products—in other words, eliminating criminal competition from gray-market goods or their health, social and environmental harms—is among the capabilities of powerful new smart packaging. Facilitating proper disposal, protecting environmental sustainably, and reusing and recycling all align with the Internet of Packaging.

The year 2020 marks the beginning of a new journey: increasing ROI with technologies already known, tested, mature and in use. This will allow the creative use of packaging as media—an initiative that is already taking its first steps.

Edson Perin is the editor of IoP Journal Brasil and the founder of Netpress Editora.