Smart packaging has the ability to enhance user engagement, product quality, and supply chain efficiency in many industries.
Think of the humble box. Most likely, the only time packaging captures your attention is when that box is sitting on your front porch, waiting for you to open it. But packaging is undergoing a revolution, moving far beyond simply protecting items and identifying where they should go. Today, smart packaging is the latest iteration, utilizing technology like sensors and wireless communication to create more robust user engagement, monitor product quality, and optimize the supply chain.
IDTechEx’s latest survey, “Smart Packaging: 2023-2033,” predicts that the smart packaging market has incredible potential to grow to US$2.6 billion by 2033. Let’s explore the drivers, applications, and technological developments in smart packaging.
The massive growth of eCommerce, combined with the consequences of enormous disruption thanks to COVID-19, has raised the demand for packaging and changed the priorities of packaging design. Thanks to better data, it offers companies many potential benefits that weren’t available before. Two major categories of use cases include:
- Consumer support and engagement: Companies can monitor usage data thanks to smart consumer packaging. One example is that smart packaging can assist in delivering healthcare to an aging population by monitoring medicine intake compliance through smart blister packaging. In another, a business can interact with consumers on landing sites they access with QR codes and NFC. This can help increase consumer engagement and provide valuable insights into consumer behavior and preferences.
- Inventory and supply chain management: Smart labels can also streamline inventory management, assist in sustainability, and optimize delivery thanks to a wide range of current and emerging technologies, including RFID, electronic articles surveillance, data loggers, interactive smart labels, printed, flexible and organic electronics, and chemical indicators. These technologies have different purposes, including wireless item identification, anti-theft, temperature, and location monitoring, and even light-up and measuring.
The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated the adoption of wireless ID, including QR codes and NFC for track and trace schemes and wireless payments. All these opportunities will translate to market growth over the next ten years.
Smart packaging comprises a wide range of current and emerging technologies. We’ve mentioned some in the previous section already, but here are some exciting options:
- RFID: Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is one of the most widely adopted technologies in smart packaging. It enables wireless item identification and is often invisible to consumers.
- Capacitive ink: This conductive ink is a versatile technology that can be used in smart packaging to create interactive surfaces that can detect touch, proximity, and pressure. For example, it can create a touch-sensitive button to activate a feature or provide additional information about the product.
- QR: QR codes can be printed onto the surface of a smart package and can be used to provide consumers with additional information about the product or to access interactive features. For example, consumers can scan a QR code on a food package using a smartphone camera to access nutritional information, recipes, or other product details.
- Data loggers and chemical indicators: Technology used for temperature, shock, vibration, and time/location monitoring. These technologies are particularly useful in the food and beverage industry, where temperature monitoring is critical for maintaining the quality and safety of products.
- Interactive smart packaging: This tech, including light-up and measuring, can help increase consumer engagement and provide valuable insights into consumer behavior and preferences—for example, the smart medical packaging mentioned in the previous section.
- Electronic Articles Surveillence (EAS): Another invisible tracker, this can help eCommerce in particular build better inventory strategies and reduce loss.
And one significant advancement is the introduction of printed, flexible and organic electronics, including displays, sensors, and batteries. These technologies enable solutions to be more flexible and lightweight, making them easier to integrate into existing packaging solutions—a plus for companies that need to upgrade more quickly.
Smart packaging has several implications for businesses, consumers, and society as a whole. The study notes many use cases that could change the way we think about packaging altogether. Here are some of the key implications we’ll see over the prediction period:
- Enhanced Consumer Experience: Solutions provide consumers with a more connected and personalized experience. By providing access to valuable information and personalized recommendations, smart packaging solutions can increase engagement and customer loyalty.
- Improved Product Quality: Solutions can monitor the temperature, humidity, and other environmental factors that can affect the quality of the product. This can help ensure that the product is delivered in the best possible condition, increasing customer satisfaction and reducing waste.
- More Efficient Supply Chain: Solutions can enable real-time tracking of products along the supply chain, reducing the risk of loss or damage and improving inventory management. This can help companies optimize their supply chain and reduce costs.
- Increased Sustainability: Solutions can assist in sustainability efforts by reducing waste, optimizing delivery, and promoting eco-friendly practices. For example, smart packaging solutions can provide information about recycling or encourage consumers to reuse the packaging.
- Better Healthcare Delivery: Solutions can assist in delivering healthcare to an aging population by monitoring medicine intake compliance through smart blister packaging. This can help reduce the risk of medication errors and improve patient outcomes.
- Greater Data Collection and Analysis: Solutions provide valuable data companies can use to analyze consumer behavior and preferences, optimize the supply chain, and improve product quality. This data can be used to inform business decisions and improve operations.
Massive market growth potential
The survey covers just the hardware involved in smart packaging—which already shows huge potential. When companies consider infrastructure, software, and services as well, it’s a can’t-miss market.
Smart packaging is revolutionizing the way we think about packaging, with its ability to enhance user engagement, product quality, and supply chain efficiency. Thanks to technological developments and changes in the medical and eCommerce industries, smart packaging can deliver massive value over the next decade. It’s a promising technology both for business and society as a whole.