Thinfilm brings printed electronics to the masses
As printed electronics become more common, the Norwegian company Thinfilm is evolving from a technology to a product company. While all of their products show potential, experts forecast the highest growth in NFC Open Sense tags. Depending on the context, the NFC tags can serve several purposes: One of the most important one is anti-counterfeit protection. When used on expensive wine bottles, the tags can indicate whether a bottle has been opened.
To say that the Norwegian company Thinfilm has been busy recently would be an understatement. In the past few months alone, the company has announced a host of new pilot projects and collaborations. Thinfilm’s partners include major brands, consultants and packaging companies, such as the global drinks giant Diageo, Xerox and a major global FMCG producer. As the results of the pilot studies are coming in, experts expect to see Thinfilm’s printed electronics in a range of products from beverage bottles to pharmaceutical packaging to cosmetics and clothing.
Thinfilm specializes in developing and marketing printed electronics. While Thinfilm may be best known for its near field communication (NFC) labels, it also produces electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags and sensor labels. Its brand protection labels that feature anti-counterfeiting technology will be produced by Xerox under a licensing agreement.
According to a report by Edison, Thinfilm’s vision is to lead the creation of the new semiconductor industry, which uses printing processes rather than lithography to bring low-cost electronics to ultra-high volume applications that traditional electronics cannot reach. The printing presses used by Thinfilm are the same as those used in the printing industry, but are adapted for printing electronics. The low cost of the equipment compared to traditional semiconductor manufacturing is one of the key benefits of printing electronics.
As printed electronics become more common, Thinfilm is evolving from a technology to a product company. While all of their products show potential, experts forecast the highest growth in NFC Open Sense tags like the one Thinfilm and the beverage company Diageo integrated in the Johnny Walker Blue Label bottle last year. In the meantime, there have been more partnerships in the beverage industry, for example the one with the Chinese-owned Australian winemaker Ferngrove. With more than 1.2 billion people estimated to have NFC-enabled phones, there is definitely potential for growth.
Depending on the context, the NFC tags can serve several purposes: One of the most important one is anti-counterfeit protection. When used on expensive wine bottles, the tags can indicate whether a bottle has been opened, which could mean that the wine has been replaced. The World Customs Organization is also planning to form a partnership with Thinfilm, which could result in adoption of the NFC OpenSense solution across a number of global markets.
Thinfilm’s NFC technology is also coming to the pharmaceutical packaging market. The company recently partnered with Jones Packaging, a provider of packaging solutions for healthcare and consumer brands. The companies are integrating NFC OpenSense technology into paperboard pharmaceutical packaging. They are also working on a solution for blister packaging, which is commonly used for cold and flu medications.
Medical manufacturer Ypsomed is currently incorporating NFC OpenSense into its autoinjectables. The combination of the NFC tags and a custom mobile app will allow patients to check if they are using the medication correctly and consistently, it will also provide injection reminders, usage guidelines, refill instructions and authentication. In turn, doctors will be able to track whether or not patients are adhering to daily self-medication requirements.
Consumer product companies are interested in the technology as well. A large global marketing and ad agency is looking to offer the NFC tags to its clients as CRM tools. This would be a big step in closing the gap between digital marketing and real-world buyer behavior. Thinfilm already offers a digital marketing platform for cosmetics packaging allowing users to share beauty tips and photos on social media via the NFC OpenSense tag. With developments accelerating in Thinfilm’s other business areas as well, especially in electronic article surveillance in the retail environment where Thinfilm plans the largest printed electronics roll-out to date, it looks like Thinfilm has a good chance of bringing printed electronics to the masses.