Connected Packaging

2018-04-24 –

For Generation Z, born after 1995, ‘mobile first’ is a living reality. With each new consumer being used to obtaining information online, packaging can now carry less information and replace it with direct web links.


Image recognition, barcodes, NFC and RFID tags enable packaging to establish a connection to the shopper and provide additional information automatically via their mobile. Shoppers can learn about product origins, applications and potential allergens; discover new worlds in a playful way; receive discount codes for bulk or link purchases. Connected packaging is a medium that provides a consistent reinforcement between brand and consumer, while having a character and experience all of its own.



The classic barcode is a row of vertical lines and spaces of differing widths, partly supplemented by a row of characters. This row arrangement is called a 1D (one-dimensional) code. 1D codes can be scanned with a smartphone camera as well as by various apps. Target information that shoppers are linked to can vary by scanning method and could be almost anything. Scanning is extremely fast, but only very limited data can be stored.


These are rectangular symbols consisting of dots or small squares called modules Modules in 2D codes are not only arranged side by side but also on top of one another2D codes can be scanned with a smartphone camera and a number of apps. Target information can vary by scanning method and can be freely defined – a landing page, the app store or a discount code, for example.


An invisible Digimarc code is a special feature of a 2D code. While invisible to the human eye, it can be easily identified by mobile devices and POS systems. For example, a classic barcode can be printed as a watermark across the entire surface of packaging. Invisible barcodes promise multiple supply chain benefits, from faster checkout in stores to greater logistical efficiency, as well as a packaging design that requires no white space to be left for a traditional barcode.


These image elements are often provided by social media platforms such as Snapchat and Facebook. Image codes are accessed via the corresponding app with the help of mobile devices, and are linked to the content stored on the platform.


Working well up to a distance of more than ten metres, RFID tags are mainly used by retail staff. They can be used for locating specific products, offering anti-theft protection and, when individualised, can even provide information about product shelf life.


NFC works similarly to RFID, but primarily over a range of around ten centimetres. You can also send messages with small amounts of data to mobile devices, or even tap into the smartphone’s power source to light up packaging elements, for example.


A beacon is a transmitter based on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology: it actively transmits information to Bluetooth-enabled mobiles. Beacons can be used to pinpoint the whereabouts of shoppers in a store and send relevant, location-based offers to their mobile device.

A different code for each target...

The success of a connected packaging solution is determined by the ease in which associated information can be accessed. When using codes for web links, some smartphones just need a camera for recognition and do the rest themselves; others require a specialist app, still others rely on widely-used apps that include built-in detection. All codes are ‘pull’ information: the shopper must actively access the content. NFCs, RFIDs and beacons are different: ‘push’ information can actively be sent to the shopper’s device provided they have enabled the corresponding interfaces.