Thinfilm’s tiny printed NFC labels enable brands to connect with consumers via smart packaging

BUSINESS
Distinctive
Thinfilm’s tiny printed NFC labels permit producers to connect with clients by means of good packaging

Tags: Davor Sutija, mobile marketing, NFC, NFC tags, Thinfilm

Davor Sutija, CEO of Thin Film Electronics.

Above: Davor Sutija, CEO of Skinny Film Electronics.

Image Credit score rating: Dean Takahashi

Norwegian tech company Thinfilm found a strategy to print tiny electronics chips on plastic surfaces, creating tiny good labels to positioned on the Net of Points, or good and linked regularly objects. Whereas others are making terribly extremely efficient chips, Thinfilm is in its place going big: It is together with a little bit of little little bit of intelligence to quite a few points.

As soon as I remaining caught up with Thinfilm (whose formal establish is Skinny Film Electronics, traded on the Norwegian Stock Change), its people have been engaged on a novel product. That that they had a super-thin, rewritable printed memory, which was a storage product that was printed onto a flexible plastic ground. The company licensed this technology to Xerox, which began printing the memory devices in a producing facility in Rochester, New York. Then Skinny Film Electronics pivoted right into a model new kind of printed electronics.

Now the company prints near-field communications (NFC) chips onto plastic, which can be pasted onto one factor like a liquor bottle as a wise label. You can scan the label alongside together with your smartphone just by shifting the phone close to the label. That initiates a radio signal, learning the data throughout the NFC chip and transferring it to the internet-connected cloud.

Thinfilm can put smart NFC labels on just about any product.

Above: Thinfilm can put good NFC labels on practically any product.

Image Credit score rating: Thinfilm

“We saw that smartphones with NFC communication would be ubiquitous and provide a way for consumers to share personal information and exchange it in payment systems and get information about products,” talked about Davor Sutija, CEO of Thinfilm, in an interview with VentureBeat. “Thinfilm has pivoted from a widget company to a marketing technology company.”

Reasonably than manufacture chips in an ordinary silicon chip manufacturing facility (which could value $three billion to $5 billion to assemble), Thinfilm found how one can print circuits on prime of versatile substrates, as if it have been printing designs on a piece of paper. And it has carried out so for cheaper — it has solely raised $105 million so far all through all of its existence. That’s the company’s “hardware differentiator,” and it is enabling some very attention-grabbing communication between producers and clients, by way of the packaging.

Consider the challenges that producers face proper this second, Sutija talked about. They have been disintermediated by Fb, Google, and Amazon. These firms reap quite a few earnings from selling or selling mannequin merchandise. The value isn’t so much throughout the mannequin anymore. It’s throughout the platform, like Amazon Prime, which delivers that branded product to you.

Nonetheless Thinfilm gives a way for these producers to battle once more. That’s because of the nice label that Thinfilm prints and locations on a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label scotch is a strategy to converse with the patron. The great label authenticates Diageo’s bottle, exhibiting it isn’t counterfeit. And using NFC, it may well additionally make the patron’s smartphone go to a webpage with personalized promotions or a direct hyperlink to the liquor agency. That decision is now in topic trials.

“I think it is an important platform that allows companies of all types to innovate on in the Internet of Everything,” talked about Tim Bajarin, analyst at promoting consultancy Ingenious Strategies, referring to the idea all of the issues will most likely be linked to the Net in the end. “The overall role of printed circuits being applied to physical objects to deliver information contact points is important, and over time I believe it will enhance the overall IOE ecosystem of devices and services. Thinfilm has one of the best platforms for delivering this solution, and as they make their software development kit even more robust, I could see it being used to deliver many new and innovative NFC connected products and solutions in the future.”

Smart label on Johnnie Walker Blue Label smart bottle.

Above: Good label on Johnnie Walker Blue Label good bottle.

Image Credit score rating: Thinfilm

“Our platform is an intermediary between the brand and consumers,” Sutija talked about. “We now have a complete marketing solution.”

Take into consideration what Thinfilm is doing with Hopsy, an web web site that sells beer from 60 native micro breweries throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. Thinfilm locations a wise label on the beer bottle. The patron taps an NFC smartphone on the label, and it takes you to a video that describes the beer in a video. The patron can reorder additional craft beer by way of that site, or take advantage of promotions. And the beer agency will get to work along with a purchaser with out spending some big money on adverts.

“You can get engagement with consumers for a dime,” the worth of a label, Sutija talked about.

The NFC chips are turning out to be a larger decision than older radio frequency identification (RFID) chips, as NFC is getting constructed into practically every smartphone now. And in addition you don’t desire a explicit reader, as with RFID, to study the data throughout the chip. There are larger than a billion smartphones with NFC inside.

There are other ways wherein Thinfilm connects firms with clients. Just a few clients ever fill out a warranty registration and ship it once more to the producer. Nonetheless while you put a wise label on the registration kind, the patron can faucet the label with a smartphone and mechanically register. That may present the patron knowledge on any recollects or updates on the product. Thinfilm has not solely created the chips to make this doable; it moreover has the cloud-based software program program portal, dubbed Thinfilm Cnect, to make it happen. On this implies, Thinfilm gives producers a strategy to disintermediate the social networks and on-line marketplaces. And there are completely different makes use of.

“How can brands innovate if they don’t get good data back from the consumers?” Sutija talked about. “You have to create a digital as well as a physical identity for brands.”

Thinfilm's older factory could do 1 million chips in a month. Soon it will do 100 million in a month.

Above: Thinfilm’s older manufacturing facility would possibly do 1 million chips in a month. Rapidly it ought to do 100 million in a month.

Image Credit score rating: Dean Takahashi

The anti-counterfeiting part of the experience can be an enormous deal. Millennials usually tend to be additional inclined to purchase an engagement ring using smartphone authentication. Sarine, a diamond agency, is using Thinfilm to authenticate its diamonds. You faucet a certificates on a wise label for a diamond. Then you can go to an web web site that certifies that the packaged merchandise is real — and by no means supporting wrestle.

“This is the single biggest threat to blood diamonds this century,” Sutija talked about, referring to the diamonds mined in wrestle zones and acquired to finance insurgencies. “It gives you the sense that what you bought is really worth it.”

Complete, the company is in 10 completely completely different vertical markets, from pharmaceutical capsule authentication to pattern verification. And it needs to maneuver into additional. In Would possibly, Thinfilm is publishing a e-book, NFC Cell Promoting for Dummies.

The one issue that has been limiting Thinfilm so far is its manufacturing functionality, Sutija talked about. It has been setting up its chips on in a setting up in San Jose, California. Nonetheless now it is shifting to a fair larger setting up with a so much elevated manufacturing functionality. That facility, a former Qualcomm Mirasol present manufacturing facility, will formally open on June 15. A model new manufacturing plant like it’s a rarity in Silicon Valley proper this second.

“Moving to that site is a natural consequence of the traction we are getting in the market,” Sutija talked about.

Thinfilm's tech lab.

Above: Thinfilm’s tech lab.

Image Credit score rating: Thinfilm

Whereas Intel is lucky to get 100 chips on a 12-inch silicon wafer, Thinfilm can pack reasonably extra on its sheets of plastic. It might effectively put 13,000 NFC chips on a single 12-inch by 12-inch sheet, with each chip taking about 1,500 transistors (decrease than Intel’s distinctive 4004 microprocessor in 1971). Throughout the older setting up, the company would possibly make possibly 1 million gadgets a month. That was good for topic trials, nonetheless Sutija talked about, “Now companies are asking us to quote 60 million units.”

Thinfilm will start making its anti-counterfeiting tags first. Then the company will start making transistors for the NFC tags in early third quarter of 2018. So the company will go from 1 million chips a month to 100 million a month about 15 months from now. By 2019, the company could have the flexibility to make 5 billion NFC chips a 12 months and 1.5 billion anti-counterfeiting tags. It might effectively make that many because of it is printing the circuits on plastic sheets that could be unrolled by way of an assembly line. That’s known as roll-to-roll manufacturing, and this may be very surroundings pleasant. Totally different points made with roll-to-roll manufacturing embody radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and picture voltaic cells.

“We increase our batch size by 600 times, our labor costs go away, our capital expenditures get amortized, and the die becomes very inexpensive,” Sutija talked about.

This will often sound like masses. Nonetheless there are quite a few typical labels — presumably a trillion of them — that should be modified with good labels. And as quickly as Thinfilm accomplishes its course of, it’ll possible be a key participant throughout the Net of Each half. Not unhealthy for an organization with merely 130 employees.

“We’re going to scale from millions to billions,” Sutija talked about.