Partnership brings near-field communications closer

By Paul Gander

- Last updated on GMT

Food packaging deal boosts tracking

Related tags: Radio frequency identification, Rfid

Stora Enso says its decision to team up with electronics specialist NXP Semiconductors will allow the paper and board company to be first into the market for integrated ultra-high frequency (UHF) and near-field communication (NFC), offering supply-chain tracking, security and smartphone communication with consumers.

The integration of this type of radio frequency identification (RFID) tag into packaging, together with other elements such as antennae and printed circuits, will allow supply chain operators to track product and determine whether it has been tampered with.

Although potential packaging applications of NFC have been talked about for some time, this is the first partnership of its kind seeking to accelerate development in this area.

Smartphones

Marko Hakovirta, senior vice president of innovation in Stora’s Consumer Board Division, said: “Even five years ago, mobile phones couldn’t do what they can do today. Now we’re told that smartphones will have both UHF and NFC capabilities in less than a year’s time.”

Increasing numbers of phones already have NFC readers. “When the fixed infrastructure for reading and utilising the information from UHF/RFID evolves and expands throughout value chains, demand will start to increase eventually even to item level in food and drink,”​ he said. “As time goes on, the price levels around NFC will decrease, allowing us to enter fast-moving consumer goods markets, including food and drink.”

Demand increase

The current objective is to continue development work with NXP to be ready “when demand starts to increase”​. Significantly, for Stora Enso, it is a question of ‘when’, not ‘if’, demand for RFID in these applications takes off.

Applications could go much wider than the luxury and premium food and drink categories.

“With any food, you can programme the chip in the packaging to hold – for example – all the ingredients,” ​he explained. “When your smartphone is in close proximity, it could launch an app alerting you to any potential allergies.”

Related topics: Packaging materials

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