Perhaps you have heard about smart homes and smart light bulbs. Meet the smart bottle.
Yes, one of our most interesting new technologies is going to ensure that we can drink a bottle of scotch with the utmost confidence that it’s authentic. It will also give the scotch maker a way to engage more deeply with a consumer who might otherwise just toss that bottle away and never be heard from again. The smart bottle is part of the Internet of Things (IoT), or everyday objects that are connected to the Internet and have electronic brains.
Thinfilm Electronics is revealing its smart bottle in a deal with Diageo, the maker of the Johnnie Walker Blue Label brand of scotch. The smart bottle can verify for you that your 12-year-old bottle of scotch has never been opened before, and it can also connect via near-field communications to your smartphone.
With a smartphone app, you can learn some new things about your Johnnie Walker Blue Label, get personalized promotions, and communicate with the liquor company.
“The manufacturer can engage in a conversation with a consumer that is more meaningful,” said Davor Sutija, Thinfilm’s chief executive, in an interview with VentureBeat. “We’re anticipating an amazing response to this.”
Thinfilm, based in Oslo, Norway, is showing off the smart bottle and the printed electronics that it developed for the bottle at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona, Spain. The company recently announced a deal with Xerox that will enable Thinfilm to print billions of chips per year on tiny labels as part of its plan to track IoT devices.
Thinfilm has figured out how to print chips such as sensors on tags that can be attached to bottles. Using Thinfilm’s OpenSense technology, a smart bottle can detect both the sealed and open state of the bottle. The tags and sensor information they contain will allow Diageo to send personalized communications to consumers who read the tags with their smartphones.
The project came from Diageo Technology Ventures, an experimental tech and investment arm of Diageo. The goal is to enable Diageo to send consumers targeted and timely marketing messages, whether at retail or after purchase. It can, for instance, send you cocktail recipes after you open the bottle.
Thinfilm’s NFC-based tags can be read by readers all across the supply chain, allowing retailers and manufacturers to track inventory to the point of purchase. The tech provides a new layer of security in ensuring the authenticity of the scotch. Sutija said the tag adds tens of cents to the cost of a bottle.
Thinfilm said these NFC tags compete with conventional static QR codes that are often difficult to read, easy to copy, and do not support sensor integration. The OpenSense tags can dynamically detect if a bottle is sealed or open with the tap of an NFC-enabled smartphone. To ensure authenticity, the tags are completely and permanently encoded at the point of manufacture. They can’t be copied or electrically modified. If a seal is broken, it gives off one kind of signal. If it is unbroken, it sends another.
Since the tag uses radio-frequency communication, it doesn’t need a battery. The radio signal itself provides the power that completes the connection between a reader and that tag.
Helen Michels, global innovation director at the Futures Team at Diageo, said in a statement, “Mobile technology is changing the way we live, and as a consumer brands company we want to embrace its power to deliver amazing new consumer experiences in the future.”
She added, “It sets the bar for technology innovation in the drinks industry.”
Diageo Technology Ventures was set up in September to help solve the company’s business challenges and unlock growth opportunities. The project takes advantage of advancements in sensors, electronic printing, material sciences, and mobile technologies. Diageo owns brands such as Crown Royal and Tanqueray, and it is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
The tags will go into production later this year.