Smart packaging with IoT goes beyond better tracking

Data is the heartbeat of every connected product. Cars, machines, smartphones, and IoT devices generate more data than ever, feeding into the endless stream of bits and bytes connecting consumers and companies.

A new research report from Accenture and AIPIA (Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Association) shows the rise of a new, unconventional data source: smart connected packaging. These digital-enabled containers and labels drive information to customers to enrich the product experience and pull data back to inform a company’s product development and manufacturing teams. Digital technologies used in smart packaging are expanding the tasks of packaging to new roles. Packaging is no longer just securing and labeling items.  

Using IoT technologies in smarter boxes enables not just better tracking of packages, but also new opportunities such as identifying counterfeiting, learning from user patterns, and creating new digital IDs to engage with consumers. Consider the following examples:

  • Thaddeus is a US-based startup that develops smart packaging solutions for temperature-sensitive products. Their patented platform, iQ-ler, offers a range of software and hardware features for temperature-controlled packaging. The platform has a built-in IoT system that enables real-time tracking, active temperature control, and a lid security sensor for strengthened product safety. iQ-ler transports medical specimens, such as vaccines, drugs, blood, tissues and organs.
  • Vestapack is a UK-based startup that leverages IoT to monitor, manage, and arrange the transportation and refill of supplies. The company’s biodegradable containers set off alarms when the contents of a container are low. Vestapack’s platform learns from user patterns and provides full tracking of the packages in use or in transit.
  • Slovenian startup TrackLegit builds an IoT-based smart packaging solution for product tracking. It combines near-field communication (NFC) tags on product packaging, blockchain, and a cloud software platform to track products throughout the supply chain. This allows brands to identify counterfeiting activities, detect deviations, and verify product authenticity. The startup provides a mobile app for customers to verify this supply chain data, enabling a new communication channel for customer engagement in the food, pharma, and textile industries.
  • PragmatIC creates modular electronics for smart packaging applications. Their modular integrated circuits (FlexICs) can be integrated into everyday items, creating the possibility for thousands of smart objects to engage people and their surrounding environment.
  • EVRYTHNG transforms packaging into functional and intelligent digital ID cards, opening new opportunities for consumer contact and serving as a massive data source for products and manufacturing processes. Customers’ input is collected through post-purchase services, allowing producers to control their goods at all stages of logistics and gather consumer feedback.

Companies using a data-driven approach will help transform packaging into a source of new value. However, deeper analysis of the Accenture research revealed only 16% of companies surveyed adopted a comprehensive, data-driven approach to smart packaging. These companies were able to increase their revenues by 3.6% over three years, equaling an additional $300 million. We call these pioneers “value threaders.”

Companies not using this data-driven approach, called “value evaders,” are leaving value and money on the table. In order to capture the benefits of smart packaging, companies should follow these key steps.

  1. Build data-driven feedback loops across entire product lifecycles. This involves harnessing the insights from data for better decision-making across all areas, ranging from product development and production efficiency to more effective marketing.
  2. Capture, analyze, and govern your data. Nearly every executive Accenture surveyed (97%) agreed that data from smart, connected packaging could improve the evidence-based culture in their organization. However, only 29% of them said that their businesses are extensively applying analytics to that data. In contrast, 63% of value threaders apply analytics intensively to packaging data, with 83% of them having a clear governance structure in place for the packaging data they use for analytics and decision-making.
  3. Dissolve data silos. Breaking down silos and sharing the insights and outcomes of packaging data will increase the value of smart packaging in the digital thread of companies. This can be enabled through the use of cloud, AI, and advanced analytics.

Following these steps and adopting IoT technologies can turn boxes into value creators. Companies can realize significant improvements across the organization, from product development and manufacturing to sales and customer service—and of course, the supply chain.

Vikrant Viniak is senior managing director at Accenture.

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